Bolts 4 Cuba

Drilling on the first ascent of Cimarron, one of Viñales’ new multi-pitch routes

“Yarobys Garcia and I were climbing a 2-pitch route on Mogote del Valle in Viñales. The route was near Guajiro Ecológico wall, one of my favorite areas skirting farms with campesinos yelling, “buey” to coax more effort from their oxen. I’ve always loved climbing while listening to the campesinos’ mantra.
“Yaro lead the first, harder pitch, checking in at mid 5.11. As I was coming up to the belay, I noticed to my horror a giant bee hive. Seeing that I was more than a bit nervous, Yaro reassured me with a chuckle that they were not African Killer bees. The hive looked like a 55-gallon drum, just 5 feet to the side of the belay anchor. and the bees were buzzing like a trendy Greenwich Village restaurant.
“I came up to the belay on the side away from the nest, and very cautiously clipped into one of the anchor bolts. I shifted to clip the other anchor bolt, and I was airborne. I jerked to a stop after a fifteen foot fall. The only bolt I had clipped failed under body weight. Yaro and I were hanging off one bolt. Truly a hanging belay, The coffee trees below looked far away.
“Yarobys remained as cool as a Swiss mountain guide. I managed to clip into a bolt nearby. We managed to rig a rappel, lowering from the single anchor point, backed up with the lower bolt.
“Yaro was correct about the bees. They didn’t give chase.
“We headed straight for the closest bar. Thank goodness for Cuban Rum. We drank a bunch of it that evening. Instead of climbing, I went to the beach the next day.

This is near-miss is one no climber wants to experience. The story is by Mike Bronson, a Denver climber, who is a tested veteran Cuba’s overhanging walls.

Cuba’s oldest routes are approaching 20 years old. Some of the earliest and longest routes are only 10 km from Cuba’s north coast. Classic routes on La Costanera that face toward the ocean have had bolts pulled by hand.

The hardware to establish and maintain routes is climbers’ responsibility. We should not expect others to do it for us.

Bolts 4 Cuba is a new crowdfunding campaign to raise money to replace anchors and develop new routes and climbing areas in Cuba. It is the initiative of Olga Mirkina and Scott Patrick, American climbers who saw the desperate need for the most essential equipment to climb – hardware for anchors and protection – and decided to do something about it.

The goal of Bots 4 Cuba is to provide the climbers with the hardware they need to keep Cuba’s existing routes safe and exploit Cuba’s almost limitless potential for great climbing. At the door step of North American climbers.

Visionary ideas often stand on the shoulders of others. On the first exploration of climbing in Cuba, American Craig Luebben brought gear for the Cuban climbers he hoped to find. There was a nascent Cuban group attempting to climb with caving hardware. From the very first routes established in their country, Cubans were part of the development.

A tradition was established. Visiting climbers leave their gear in Cuba. A dozen climbing and outdoor companies donate gear, shoes, and clothing. The website recruits climbers to take the donations to Cuba. From the being, some climbers have gone a step further, and bought and taken bolts, drills, and hardware.

The result is that the overwhelming majority of the routes in Cuba were put up by Cuban climbers, not foreign climbers, as is the case in most major climbing and mountaineering destinations.

Still, it hasn’t been enough. The Cubans must slowly accumulate bolts for each new project. The development of new areas, and there is now climbing across most of Cuba, is sporadic at best. Anchor replacement is last in line.

We ask climbers to support campaign’s Fundly site. You maybe be contributing to your own future climbing trip, and there are bonuses. Donors of $50 receive an 8 x 10 replica of the hand-draw topo the Boveda de las Españoles, the site of Cuba’s first multi-pitch sport routes – and thus those in dire need of anchor replacement.

For climbers who are planning a trip to Cuba and are U.S. citizens or residents, Bolts 4 Cuba offers a unique bonus. An itinerary for climbers that should pass legal muster with the U.S. government.

For Americans travel to Cuba has opened up enormously, but there are still legal pitfalls. As the U.S. government repeats with every relaxation of the rules, “tourism is not allowed.”

A little protection may save your butt when years from now you receive a U.S. government notice demanding that you provide legal justification for your trip to Cuba. The Feds have up to five years after your trip to come after you.

Compliance isn’t hard and doesn’t preclude a full slate of climbing – if you know and follow a few simple rules. It could be that crux third piece that saves an anchor. And for a cause that creates more climbing, safer routes, and you feel real good.