Trip: Vinales Cuba - Various
So this trip all started because my girlfriend has always wanted to go to Cuba. Whether you like their politics or not it's a wonderful place with some really great people. So for her birthday I surprised her with the trip and let her pick out the areas she wanted to go. My only stipulation was that I get to spend a couple of days climbing while we were there. Climbing in Cuba is not very well known although it started in the early 90s. Cubans are very practical people and climbing is a rather esoteric thing to do so it took some foreign involvement to get things going. The place to go in Cuba is Vinales.
It's about 180km West of Havana with mostly perfect roads leading there. The walls aren't huge by any means but they are vast. The limestone mogotes make up the valley and provide so many walls for climbing you could spend months there. It's referred to as a mini Yosemite... If you're looking to put up some FAs this is somewhere you might want to go. Vinales is a small town of farmers and they are no stranger to tourists. There are literally a couple hundred casa particulars to stay in there along with a couple of hotels. I had heard of one casa that catered to climbers and was highly recommended everywhere I could find info so I set my sites on that. We arrived at Oscars door step and got no answer so we dropped our gear and expected to have a bit of a wait but within a few minutes Oscars wife found us and brought us in. Our room was on the 2nd floor and had a great view of the mogotes.
We unpacked our gear and went downstairs to find some food.
There were a couple of guys from Denmark there so we talked about climbs and they had just been out to an area that morning and really recommended it. So after a nice home cooked meal at the casa and a few cervasas we hit the sack.
Day one we got up at 6:30 ate and set out for the cliffs.
It was only a 2km walk but we managed to get lost and eventually had to come back to the casa and get more directions.
On our second attempt we found our crag, Esenada De Raul. Named after the farmer Raul who owned particular area and had a small private tobacco field at the base of the crags. We solicited a local kid to show us the way through the farm.
There we met Raul, he was super nice and offered us pinas, cigars, honey and many more things he grew on his farm.
We assured him we'd come back after climbing and set off for the wall. We bush whacked up the hillside to a small hanging valley that made up Ensenada De Raul.
The climbs were all 5.8-10a and all within 5 minutes of each other. I started out on a long single pitch 5.8. Never having climbed limestone it was an interesting experience. So many fragile features I was constantly expecting things to snap off and send me on a whipper. Interestingly enough it's very difficult for Cubans to get climbing gear and it's way too expensive for them to buy anyway so almost everything they have is donated. Most everything is bolted, even cracks because they simply do not have trad racks and the folks putting up the routes wanted the locals to be able to climb after they left so it's all bolted. I was expecting run outs and sketchy gear but the bolts are almost always very closely spaced and 3/8ths or better. The only issue I noticed were the anchors. Very few were equalized and almost none have rap rings or rap hangers. Bring leaver biners or webbing and rings! The other things I expected were the climbs to be a little stiff for the ratings since it's mostly pro climbers going there to put these up. It's not exactly a on the way to anywhere so not many wankers like me go there. I felt the climbs were a little softer than rated. But then again they've seen so few ascents all the little nubs and features are still there. We moved over to a shorter wall with 3 5.8s on it and blasted up the right hand route climbing up roots, flakes pockets etc.. On the rappel I pendulum'd over two routes to the left and clipped the 2nd bolt since the first hanger was missing. The middle route was missing the 2nd and 3rdd hanger but shared the anchor with the left route. I had contacted Metolious trying to get them to donate some hangers for us to take but things didn't work out. It's a shame because they could have used them! By this point we were out of water and drenched in sweat so we bailed. On the way out we stopped and bought a couple pinas and Raul chopped one up for us to eat there. That really hit the spot and we headed back to the casa and gave our hosts the pinas.
It's very hot and humid!!
Day two we got up at 6:30 and my girlfriend was sick. So after determining that she would survive I talked one of the Danish guys into going climbing with me. We hiked up there said hi to Raul and warmed up on the 5.8 wall then went into the jungle to try a new wall with some 5.8s and 5.9s. The wall was slightly overhung but the features so numerous the climbing was fun. On the second route it started pouring. The rock stayed dry though and I topped out set the anchor and rapped off. Morten zoomed up it and then we moved over to a 5.9. The rain was really coming down and towards the top the rock was getting wet. I hung for a minute shook off the pump and tackled the last of the climb. Rapped off in the pouring rain cleaned the route and packed up the gear. By the time we were back in the valley the sun had returned.
We were shipping off to a small island for some R&R that afternoon so that wrapped up the climbing portion of the trip.
10-15 draws and a 60m rope. There are a few trad climbs but I don't think it warrants hauling the gear for how few there are. Some of the multi-pitch overhung will leave you dangling in space if you don't have a tag line. So you may want a second rope..
See Oscar, he has maps of the area with climbs listed.
www.cubaclimbing.com has a lot of info on the area and further local contact info.
Best place to stay in Vinales:
Oscar Jaime Rodriguez
Calle Adela Azcuy #43
Pinar Del Rio
email@example.com (this is his daughters email in Havana but she can relay and requests to Oscar)
It's $20 CUCs per night, meals are $3 and beers are $1.
If you need any first hand info on the climbing or just traveling to Cuba feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org