To sustain the local climbers, please pack extra climbing gear for the Cubans. The Cuban climbers need climbing equipment, as it’s impossible to get it locally. The majority of visitors now follow the tradition initiated by the first visiting climbers, who left their rack, ropes, shoes and harnesses in Cuba. Try it – you will feel very gratified.
Also you can help by taking gear donated to the Cuban climbers by the outdoor industry. Since 1999, more than a dozen companies, such as Madrock, Petzl, and PrAna, have donated gear. Getting the donations to the Cubans, however, is the crux. We depend entirely on visiting climbers offering to carry the donations with to Cuba. To help, simply write to us.
You can climb in Viñales for days with just a dozen or so draws, and a 60m rope. A couple of Ts and shorts, insect repellant, sun-screen, and you are packed. Any casa particular will wash your clothes as soon as the dirties hit the floor. Staying longer? Bring a 2nd 60m rope to rappel from the big wall sport climbs, such as Mucho Pumpito or Mr. Mogote.
Sport climbing in the tropics does not require much. That leaves stowage space to bring extra gear for the Cuban climbers. Take advantage, and fill up what you can bring with gear to sustain the local climbers. It is a horrible waste to bring equipment to Cuba, and then take it away.
Despite the so-called closure of all access to climbs in Viñales, the Cubans and visitors continue to climb, even put up new routes, and still need gear. Traveling to Cuba with climbing equipment is not restricted. After all, the curb on access has been limited to Viñales, and there are emerging groups of Cubans in other provinces who are climbing, despite a lack of gear. And making or taking donations to Cuban climbers maybe one of the few things that Americans can do that does not violate the outdated, idiotic U.S. embargo!
Also, we can provide donated gear that you can take. The swift introduction of climbing in Cuba was made possible by a dozen outdoor industry companies. These companies donate thousands of dollars worth of equipment for the Cuban climbers – the inverse to customary “expeditionary” sponsorships. Instead of providing gear and funding to climb in undeveloped countries, the companies donate for the Cubans, to bring them to the point where they are a self-sustained climbing community and now lead in the exploration of Cuba’s climbing potential.
A few suggestions. Most useful are the basics: shoes, harnesses, ropes, chalk, pads, and packs. Cubans in many provinces must wait for a visit by one of the Cubans from Havana or Viñales to have shoes and a rope to climb. No doubt, however, the single biggest need is bolts and hangers. In Cuba, route exploration and development takes power drills and bolts. One bolt and hanger, even if available for purchase, which they are not, would cost a Cuban climber a month’s salary; an entire route, a year’s pay. A Bosch or Hilt drill could take a lifetime.
Like the rest of us, the Cubans really love the accessories of climbing: climbing shorts, Ts, hats, and climbing magazines and posters. The history of climbing in Cuba has been traced in photos of the same PrAna headband worn by succeeding generations of Cubans over a decade.
In clothes, shoes, harnesses, small sizes are best. We don’t know a single Cuban who uses a large harness. There is a great need for shoes or harnesses for kids.
Almost all good gear is welcomed and needed. Please, no worn out gear or old clothes. It’s so hard to get gear to the Cubans, that it’s a shame to carry old hexes, faded slings, and ripped shoes.
You may donate your gear as you please. We recommend that you leave it with one of the locals who will see that it gets to good candidates. It’s a role that has been accepted by leading locals. We can also get your donation to Cubans in remote areas which are not visited by foreign climbers and in greatest need. Write to us here for the name and contact info on where to leave gear.
If you are bringing bolts to Cuba, either to place yourself or to donate for route exploration by the Cuban climbers, PLEASE READ THESE RECOMMENDATIONS. For the long-term safety of all who climb in Cuba, visitors and Cubans alike, please don’t bring or place bolts and hangers that will corrode and break. A special thanks to Jeff Achey and Sam Lightner for the following information.
A bolt that is rusty or pulls out when clipped is easy to spot. The most dangerous kinds of corrosion, however, are less obvious. Climbers and manufacturers now know that certain factors determine the likelihood of anchor failure. High heat accelerates the rate of corrosion many fold. Moisture, especially water that contains salts, acids from decaying vegetation and in limestone will rust bolts faster, sometimes much faster. Cuba is very hot and very wet, especially in the summer when few climbers visit. Almost all the crags have significant runoff from surrounding vegetation. All the cliffs are within 25 miles of the ocean. It’s all karst limestone.Don’t let its bullet-proof rock fool you, Cuba is the potential perfect storm for bad bolts.
If you care about safety, bring the most corrosion resistant bolts and hangers possible. Right now, that metal is titanium. Titanium anchors are not cheap, 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 titanium complete 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.
Titanium bolts are becoming more available. The principal source is Titan Climbing in the U.K. It’s Eterna Titanium bolt is excellent. The Eterna bolt is also available in the U.S. from RapBolting.com. Ask Martin or Jeff about possible discounts, if buying Titanium bolts to be donated.
Short of titanium, high corrosion resistance (HCR) steels are preferable. A widely used HCR steel is 254 SMO.
Anchors of all other metals, from stainless steel to zinc plated, could become a longterm menace. Stainless steel bolts/hanger were the norm in Cuba for 15 years. And now some are failing and dangerous. There are many grades of stainless steel. SAE 304, sometimes called 18/8, is very good in most situations but may not be good enough for use in Cuba. For tropical karst limestone, even marine grade SAE 316 may be insufficient and corrode too quickly.
Most of the carbon-steel bolts, such as the Rawl/Powers 5-piece sleeve bolts, are zinc plated. These bolts are commonly used by climbers in the western U.S. In wet, warm tropical climates, it doesn’t take long for the zinc to corrode. Please, no zinc or galvanized bolts or hangers. These are dangerous in the highly corrosive environment of Cuba.
Finally, please don’t bring or place bolts of different metals, such as an aluminum hanger on a stainless steel bolt. This causes galvanic corrosion and aggressive corrosion.
More than a dozen companies in the outdoor industry have donated gear since 1999. The companies currently supporting the Cuban climbers are: