Climbing in Cuba Article in English

Cuba's Bandit Climbers, Rock & Ice, Oct. 2017. "Henri, Yondry and most of the Cuban climbers have never left the island. Maybe they never will. Everything they know about climbing was shared by visiting climbers or learned from the tattered pages of old magazines the guests left behind. Cuban climbers live in a world of circumstantial confinement and rules, and the constant threat of punishment for doing what they love—a life, as Americans, we can’t even imagine. Still, as so many of us have found out one way or the other . . . the freedom of climbing is often worth the risk."

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Cuba’s Underground Movement, By Sasha DiGiulian, photos by Cameron Maier, Rock and Ice, July, 2016

“As we hiked across grassy flatlands to the Salon de los Gigantes, an enormous cave near Viñales, Cuba, we had no sense that epic climbing lay just ahead. I stepped in and went slack- jawed—a rope-length overhead hung some of the most spectacular tufas I'd ever seen. The cavern was so fantastical it was as if we had fallen down a rabbit hole and landed in Alice in Wonderland. Equally incredible, this world-class crag didn't have a single route. Despite a history that dates back to the 1990s and numerous magazine articles, climbing in Cuba is just beginning.”

R&I SashaDiGiulian-p.040 Cuba 235>READ MORE. . . .

“Cuba On the Rocks,” Story by Majka Burhardt. Photographs by Holly Wilmeth, Afar, Jan-Feb 2012

“Cuba was in my memory long before i ever knew it in reality. Graham Greene’s words and Celia Cruz’s music were partly responsible for this, but the elements of Cuba that loomed largest in my subconscious were its towering rock faces. My friend, the late American climber Craig Luebben, was a pioneer of the Cuban climbing scene. A decade ago, Craig showed me photos of Cuba’s spectacular karst mountains and their dramatic stalactite overhangs. When I saw those images, I knew I would someday climb there.”


“Cuba Again Open to U.S. Climbers,” by Armando Menocal, photos by Yarobys García,, January 6, 2011.

"I've asked myself, would I tell this story if Craig was still alive? Over the previous decade, he and I had been brought together by our passion for the people and especially the climbing in Cuba. We had been the first to go and returned again and again. And we shared something else. Our love affair with this special place was totally illegal, exposing each of us to criminal prosecution and up to 10 years imprisonment and a quarter-million dollar fine - more than the usual punishment for robbing a bank! "
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"First Sinner in Paradise: Aníbal Fernández," Story and photos by Armando Menocal, Gripped, June/July 2010

"On our last day of climbing, we had been joined by an ernest teenager with short cropped blond hair. We did not know it at the time, but Aníbal had gone AWOL from the army and hitchhiked all day to climb with us. After I dropped Aníbal in Havana, he went straight to the brig for two weeks. As he later told me, he was not going to miss the first genuine climbing experience, and he didn't care what the army did to him." READ MORE

"For Climbing," by Janet Bergman & photos by Anne Skidmore, Rock & Ice, June, 2010.

"The Cuban climbing scene continures to grow despite the risk of incarceration posed by an unforgiving communist goverment. A group of Americans discover climbing as passive resistance." read more...

"A Decade In The Life Of A prAna Headband," Story and photos by Armando Menocal, PrAna website, Feb. 2010:

"I realized that it was possible to trace the remarkable development of climbing in Cuba through the lives of prAna headbands. The Cubans climb despite a crushingly poor, authoritarian government that threatens them with prison for climbing, while welcoming foreign climbers. With their stiff-necked commitment to climb, especially to put up first ascents on the stone of their own country, the Cuban climbers have created something that I believe is unique in climbing." read more

"Rock Climbing in Cuba," Text and photos by Armando Menocal, Cuba Absolutely 2008-2009.

"One year after Fidel Castro came down from the Sierra Maestra Mountains to claim triumph for the Revolution, he declared: 'The Revolution was the work of climbers and cavers.' They, he said, had enabled the guerilla forces to stay one step ahead of government troops. But climbing as a sport is almost unheard of in Cuba." read more

"Cuba Climbing: La Vida es Bella," Story and photos by Armando Menocal, Gripped v.10.15, 10/11, 2008:

"When did I first become aware that Canadian climbers had claimed Cuba as one of their favourite winter climbing venues? Basically we saw almost no Canadians and then, seemingly, the Canadian invasion was there. I recall that, whenever it was, we christened it ‘The Year of the Canadians.’" READ MORE

"El Morro, the Heart of Havana Climbing," by Michael J.P. Hall, Climbing, No. 267, June, 2008.

“Go, go, gringo!” they taunt. “Jump!” Feeling like an ambassador for the Western world, I hurl myself into the deep waves. Treading the cool waters of the Gulf of Mexico, I watch El Morro — without a doubt, Cuba’s coolest climbing gym — turn amber in the fading light. READ MORE

"Classic Climbs: Mucho Pumpito," Armando Menocal, Climbing No. 267, June, 2008.

"The best 5.10 in the World -- it's a big claim for a two-pitch sport route in western Cuba. Yet that's the consensus among those who've climbed on the elbow-deep pockets of Mucho Pumpito, in the island's Valle de Viñales." read more

"Cuba: Fear Me, Fear Me Not," words by Mike Brumbaugh and Photos by Andrew Burr, Urban Climber 26, 2008:

So when you’re pondering where to head on that next climbing vacation, contemplate Cuba. It’s cheaper and closer than Thailand or Europe, the stone is amazingly good, and the people are incomparably friendly. If you go, you won’t be disappointed. You’re certain to return with sore tips, incredible memories, and the guarantee that you’ll get the opportunity to look your fears square in the eye — and then clip a nice fat bolt and forget all about them. read more

“Cuba on the Rocks,” Story by Daniel Duane. Photos by Jimmy Chin, Men’s Journal, September, 2007

The moment he jumped out of the bushes and blocked the trail, I knew that plump little Cuban communist was going to give us a hard time. "Grimpadores?!" he demanded, twitching his fat black moustache. "Sí, grimpadores," I replied, because we were indeed rock climbers, and because we had come all this way on the strength of a rumor about a world-class climbing area deep in the Cuban highlands around the sleepy market town of Viñales . . . .READ MORE

"Outed by the Wall Street Journal," Armando Menocal, Alpinist 21, 2007:

"For the past eight years I've been carrying on a secret affair -- one that I could result in imprisonment and a heavy fine. But I'd fallen for Cuba and its Karst limestone hard.”


“Cuban Rock Climbers Inspired by Foreigners Irk Castro Regime,” Matthew Moffett, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 28, 2006:

"Young Cubans schooled by an influx of foreign rock climbers have turned this western town [in Cuba] into an extreme-sport mecca,” and as a result, “rock climbing has emerged as an improbable political battleground between the government and young Cubans eager to embrace the latest foreign fashions. Wall Street Journal Full Front Page

"The Rock", Armando Menocal, Rock &Ice No. 125, June, 2003:

"In Cuba, the crags give hope and a glimpse of freedom to a growing band of climbers isolated behind a wall of oppression." read more...

"Banned, Climbing in the Forbidden Paradise of Cuba" Beth Wall, Climbing 248, 2006:

"They can tell if you're lying -- a flush of the cheeks, or a nervous movement of the hands," I say." READ MORE

"The Young Men and the Sea," by Mike Robertson, Climber / UK, December, 2002.

"Whatever you think of its politics, Cuba remains one of the most romantic climbing destinations on Earth. The island may be caught in a time warp but the climbing certainly ain’t, as Mike Robertson, our answer to Ernest Hemingway discovered. . . .

"Viñales, Cuba," by Craig Luebben, Rock & Ice 114, March, 2002, page 67.

"A mist lingered over the lush, green tobacco field as a man and his ox worked the red soil. Huge limestone mogotes, enormous mounds of sculpted limestone, stood like chess pieces above the flat fields. . . . We waited among the Cubans for public transportation--any vehicle that dares to stop. After a few minutes, we piled into a rickety, wood-plank trailer towed by a red tractor with a white star. Off to the crags!"


"An Unimaginable Adventure in Cuba," by Ahmed Velázquez, Granma International (Official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba), August, 2002.

"Every year, thousands of climbers from various countries travel to different locations on the planet, intent on facing challenges and opening up new routes. Very few people are aware that the island has great potential for the sport of rock climbing.

"Cuba's Rocky Start," by Jonathan MIiles, Men's Journal, November, 2001.

"Rock is rock, it's true, but climbing in Cuba isn't like climbing in any other place. Climbing in Cuba is as much about Cuba as it is about climbing. It's about seeing the Patio del Decimista bar absolutely explode when the band starts, and most of all, about the Cubans themselves.


“Climbing on the Island of the Revolution," by Craig Luebben, Rock & Ice 95, October,1999.

"The question on everyone’s mind is what’s to come -- democracy or dictatorship? One thing is certain, however: With some of the best limestone in the America's and a population of warm, inviting citizens, Cuba is set to become a favorite destination for climbers, no matter what political road the island’s government takes."


Articles in other languages

Escalada O Muerte, All Mountain, # 4, 2016.

Sozialismus oder Tod? Die Locals in Kubas Klettergebiet Viñales folgen einem anderen Motto: Klettern oder Tod! Mit bescheidenen Mitteln haben sie ein Top-Revier erschlossen, das noch ein Geheimtipp ist. Das dürfte sich ändern, wenn jetzt, nach dem Ende des Embargos, die US-Amerikaner auf die Karibikinsel strömen.
Sozialismus oder Tod? Die Locals in Kubas Klettergebiet Viñales folgen einem anderen Motto: Klettern oder Tod! Mit bescheidenen Mitteln haben sie ein Top-Revier erschlossen, das noch ein Geheimtipp ist. Das dürfte sich ändern, wenn jetzt, nach dem Ende des Embargos, die US-Amerikaner auf die Karibikinsel strömen.

Weiterlesen01_REA_ALLMOUNTAIN_2016_01_Bergwelten_KubaAll MountainAll Mountain

“Cuba Grimper, Cigares, Salsa Et Vieilles Americaines,” ("Climb Cuba, Cigars, Salsa and Old American Cars") Grimper (France), Octobre-Novembre 2011

“Les payasages ne trompent pas, les gros dévers a concrétions formés au pied des Mogotes attirent immédiatement l’attention.”


“Welkom op Cuba: een nieuwklimparadijs” (Welcome to Cuba: A New Climbing paradise) Martin Fickweiler, BLOK (Nederlands) 2011

“Klimmen op Cuba is niet hetzelfde als klimmen in andere gebieden. Het klimmen overtreft alles, je beweegt je omhoog aan bakken en pockets over onwaarschijnlijke kalk en door prachtige overhangen vol stalactieten en colonettes. Maar, klimmen op Cuba heeft net zo veel met Cuba te maken als met het klimmen zelf. Cuba raakt je. De meeste mensen die Cuba bezoeken, worden verliefd op het land! De eerste Amerikaanse klimmers gingen er keer op keer heen, vastberaden om terug te blijven komen ondanks de Amerikaanse wet, die hen dreigt met $ 250 000 aan boetes en tien jaar gevangenisstraf.”


“Viva la Revolucion? Climbing in Cuba /LEZENÍ NA KUBĚ,” Story and Photos by Gerhard Schaar, Montana (Czech Republic), May, 2010.

“Přijel jsem na Kubu, abych si vyzkoušel lezení v novém kontextu – geografickém, politickém i společenském. Tušil jsem, že asi získám nějaké nové zkušenosti, ale vůbec jsem neměl představu, jak silné nakonec budou. Mohu tak říct, protože jsem to zjistil, jaký rozměr tu lezení má pro skupinu mladých lidí. Pro obyvatele Viñales se zdá být pevným bodem ve světě, kde nemají žádné skutečné vyhlídky. Na mizernou situaci, jakou je život v komunistické zemi, reagují ohromnou radostí ze života, obrovskou solidaritou a neuvěřitelnou pohostinností. V tom posledním se, zdá se mi, skrývá i nevyřčená žádost o pomoc. Tady je tedy trochu jiný příběh o lezení na Kubě, který vůbec nesestává z popisů této báječné lezecké oblasti. Je to prostě příběh několika skvělých kluků a toho, jak se podle mě věci mají.”

VÍCE ZDE (Read more)

“Caliza Revolucionaria,” por Fernando Núñez, Campo Base (España), Agosto, 2010

“Al sur el Caribe, al norte las Bahamas, al este el Atlántico. Esta perla de tintes revolucionarios, que brilla impregnada de historia y regada por el mejor ron de América, esconde en su interior todo un corazón de caliza, cuyas paredes de formas caprichosas, emergiendo imponentes de la misma selva subtropical, esperan ansiosas a ser profanadas por los más atrevidos escaladores….


“El Mejor 5.10 de la Tierra,” por Armando Menocal y Jorge Mederos, Aventura Vertical (Mexico) No. 51, 2008.

Se llama Mucho Pumpito y los que lo han escalado aseguran que es el mejor 5.10 o 6a del mundo, el más desplomado y con más canto. El que quiera comprobarlo tendrá que viajar a la imponente catedral de Cuba, La Bóveda de Las Españolas en el Valle de Viñales. leer más

"Alpinistas en Cuba," Armando Menocal, Escalando (Chile) No. 5, 2008:

"Armando, alguine de Seguridad del Estado de La Habana estuvo haciendo pregunats sobre ti." leer más

“El 6a Más Desplomado del Mundo,” Armando Menocal y Jorge Mederos, Desnivel (España) No 256, Diciembre, 2007.

Se llama Mucho pumpito y los que lo han escalado aseguran que es el mejor 6a de la Tierra, el más desplomado y con más canto. Quien quiera comprobarlo tendrá que viajar a Cuba, a la Bóveda de las Españolas. ¿Españolas? Sí, por sus aperturistas. ¿Quiénes fueron?…leer más

"CUBA, Escalada en Viñales," Texto y fotos por José Ignacio Morales, Escalando / Chile, Diciembre, 2006, No. 10.

"En medio del Parque Nacional Viñales se esconde uno de los mayores enclaves de roca caliza descubiertos recientemente. Perfectas paredes, cuevas, chorreras y estalactitas ofrecen al escalador inquieto una variedad de rutas y otras tantas sorpresas por descubrir." LEER MAS

"Escaladores en roca cubanos enfurecen al régimen de Castro," Wall Street Journal, 28 Noviembre, 2006

Durante los últimos años, audaces jóvenes cubanos como González, instruidos por varios escaladores en roca extranjeros, han convertido a esta población occidental en una meca de los deportes extremos. Pero los escaladores que han conquistado los mellados picos de Viñales y sus imponentes paredes ahora enfrentan un obstáculo más formidable: el sistema político.


"El Reto de Escalar Rocas," by Sol y Son / Cuba, 2002, no 75.

"Ya Cuba está en el mapa de los escaladores. Muchos de elllos en el mundo saben de sus encantos y los tendremos de huéspedes en nuestra zonas montaños."LEER MAS

“Uma Aventura Inimaginável em Cuba,” Ahmed Velázquez, Granma International, 20 Agosto 2002.

“Anualmente, milhares de escaladores de diversas latitudes viajam a diferentes cantos do mundo, tentando vencer novos desafios ou abrir novas rotas. Poucos conhecem que a Ilha mor das Antilhas possui amplas possibilidades para a prática deste esporte.”


“Ein Unvorstellbares Abenteuer” Ahmed Velázquez, Granma International, 2 September, 2002.

“Jährlich bewegen sich Tausende Bergsteiger verschiedener Breitengrade zu unterschiedlichen Stellen des Planeten, um sich höheren Herausforderungen zu stellen oder neue Routen ausfindig zu machen. Nur wenige wissen, daß Kuba ein großes Potential für diesen Sport zu bieten hat.”


“Cuba, Hasta La Victoria, Siempre,” Sam Bié, Gripper, Avril 2004.

“Autant vous le dire d’entrée. Cuba n’est pas le spont de grimpe du siécle. Les conditions météo sont difficiles, la faune et la flore quelque peu agressives, le voyage onéreux et le nombre de voies n’est pas sans limites. . . Mais voyager à Cuba reste une expérience inoubliable et sans pareil!”


Viñales -- Klettaklifur á Kúbu," ÍSALP, 2007.


Articles about Outdoors Rec and the Environment in Cuba

"The Golden Age of Havana is Now," Patrick Symmes, Outside Online, September 28, 2015

"The abrupt onset of reforms inside Cuba means that for the first time, individual, self-organized travel is becoming less onerous and expensive. A new generation of Americans will soon be able to explore Cuba at their own pace, doing things that should be perfectly routine but aren’t, like renting cars, climbing crags, or setting their own itineraries—all difficult or banned under Fidel Castro."


"Red is the New Green," Patrick Symmes, Outside, March, 2008.

“The key to a good trip is of course a bad start. so things began looking up for me in Cuba late on my fourth night, when I was ambushed by two young men. They smashed me against the door of my guesthouse, grabbed my wallet, and took off sprinting.”


TRAIL RUNNING: “Cuba Libre,” by Michael Sandrock, TrailRunner, January 2002

“Away from its major cities, Cuba has three unspoiled mountain ranges, hundreds of rural dirt roads, and countless trails. Getting to Cuba in the first place can be difficult, but once you get there it’s a trail running paradise.”


SEA KAYAKING: “Free Cuba Now”, Peter Heller, Outside, July, 2001.

Smuggling himself on to a Hemmingway-inspired junket to hunt birds and fine cigars, Peter Heller investigates Cuba?s imminent emergence -- and limitless potential -- as the world’s next adventure headquarters.


SEA KAYAKING: “Cuba, A Dry Run, Peter Heller, Outside, August, 2000

"The Cubans gave us one day. A whole day to explore a section of coast I’d been eyeing for a couple of years: a hundred-mile stretch from the 400 year-old sugar port of Caibarién to the beach resort of Varadero. A few miles offshore for almost that entire length is the Archipiélago de Sabana, a chain of wild mangrove islands. The water between the coasts and the archipelago are shallow, protected from wind and waves. Beyond the keys, the water deepens, bell clear, and lobsters school so densely a freediver can easily pick up dinner. There are sand beaches cut from the thickets, and on some of the islands clusters of tall cedar trees flag freshwater springs. The north coast is a kayaker’s dream, yet no one has ever paddled it for any distance."


KITEBOARDING "A Cuban Odyssey" by Michael Behar, photos by Alexander Nesbitt, Sept., 2009

Last summer, I began studying the north coast of Cuba with Google Earth, and what I saw was electrifying. An aquatic labyrinth of mangrove cays and sapphire lagoons emerged 80 miles from Havana in the Archipiélago de Sabana and ended in the east near Baracoa, where, on Oct. 27, 1492, Christopher Columbus first spotted the island from the deck of his carrack. Satellite imagery revealed a wide coral shelf paralleling the shore. Between the reef and the mainland is an enormous inland sound sprinkled with hundreds of tiny cays. From almost every cay extends snow-white sandbars that enclose aquamarine pools.