Bolts 4 Cuba is a new crowdfunding campaign to replace anchors and develop new routes and climbing areas in Cuba. The goal of Bolts 4 Cuba is to raise $5,000 to provide the local climbers with the hardware they need to keep existing routes safe and exploit Cuba’s almost limitless potential for great climbing. At the door step of North American climbers. Donors can create more and safer climbing and receive premiums that include something special for U.S. climbers—a climber’s itinerary that passes legal muster with the U.S. government. Compliance isn’t hard and doesn’t preclude a full slate of climbing – if you know and follow a few simple rules.
The latest issue of Rock and Ice has published spectacular photos by Cameron Maier and story by Sasha DiGiulian of the exploration of an enormous to the cave called Salon de los Gigantes. Sasha writes, “Besides finding the Salon de los Gigantes, we visited established crags that still have potential for amazing new climbs, and saw untold areas and crags without a single route. In fact, the potential is so vast it could become a major destination. Just add bolts.” The cover photo alone is worth the price of the issue. Read and see article here.
“Nobody had been able to take aerial pictures of the country because of the secretive political regime and technical difficulties,” explained Lithuanian aerial photographer Marius Jovaiša. He received government permission to fly over the country and photograph it from above and create spectacular images, including Valle de Viñales.
If you are bringing bolts to Cuba, either to place yourself or to donate for route exploration by the Cuban climbers, please don’t bring or place bolts and hangers that will corrode and break. Don’t let the bullet-proof rock fool you, Cuba is the potential perfect storm for bad bolts. Bring only the most corrosion resistant bolts and hangers possible. Right now, that metal is titanium. Titanium anchors are expensive, but are becoming the standard at tropical climbing areas, and a UIAA-certified titanium anchor is now on the market. In the long run, for bolts in Cuba to be safe for more than a few years will require complete titanium anchors – one-piece glue-ins or complete bolt/hanger combinations. This will be the requirement for Class 1 anchors being developed by the UIAA safety commission for places such as Cuba and Thailand. For more information on bolts for Cuba, go to our Gear Donation page.
A photo of farmer Raúl Reyes and Cuban climber Maikel Rosabal in front of Raúl’s fruit kiosk. 15 years ago, Raúl was the first Cuban farmer to befriend visiting climbers. He freely gave us permission to cross his land to the immense cliffs that today are the most popular climbs in Viñales Valley, such as Cueva Cabeza la Vaca, Milenio, Ensenada de Raúl, and even my namesake Torre Menoco. Raúl welcomed us and gave us fruit every day. More important, Raúl gave the Cuban climbers vital vegetables. The first Cubans, such as Vity, Anibal, Mederos, were from Havana and thus on-the-road like us, but without the cash to buy food. As more climbers and hikers came, Raúl built a kiosk to sell fruit. Later Raúl added a charming hostel. In 2012 the government closed all access to the backcountry and tried to put a checkpoint on Raúl’s farm, since it was the crossroads to the entire Mogote del Valle for visitors, locals and even other farmers. Raúl ran the guards off his land. He has even denied access to the park’s official guides. Raúl was never permitted to rent the rooms in his hostel to visitors. He still works his farm daily and sells fruit to the many who cross the token blockade. That is real-life cojones.
In February, 2013, a group from Solid Rock-Climbers for Christ visited Cuba to climb and help support the climbing comp that the Cuban climbers put on every year. These climbers from the USA and Mexico also carried a HUGE amount of donated gear, shoes, power drill, and bolts. They included Paige Claassen and filmmaker Adam Ermatinger. Their film has just gone public and is available on vimeo. Go to our Facebook page for links.
Climbers in Viñales have complained of being awaked by ancient biplanes circling early every Sunday mornings. The sharp-eyed would have noticed that the biplane would make a very low pass over the baseball field. Inquiring ones might have discovered that the biplane dropped a bundle as it passed low over the field. No, not a drug drop. It was the Sunday newspaper. And not the New York Times, but the 16 or so pages of the daily edition of Granma, the Communist Party polemic broadside. It sells for 4 cents, but the government delivers it by air to Viñales every Sunday. This quaint, bizarre exercise says a lot about how Cuba works – or doesn’t work. So, while the leaders talk of change and efficiencies, and the media spreads their message, the government bureaucrats simply carry on. The fleet of single-engine biplanes bought from the USSR between 40 and 50 years ago, and based on a 1947 design, will get a make-over, even new engines and props. When in Viñales, don’t plan on sleeping in Sunday mornings.