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, and certifiable Cubaphile.

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.

Bolts4Cuba 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 climbers with the hardware they need to keep Cuba’s existing routes safe and exploit Cuba’s almost limitless potential for great climbing. Together, Bolts4Cuba and CubaClimbing raise money, buy drills, bolts, and glue, recruit volunteer to carry it all to Cuba, and help organize anchor replacement projects in Cuba.

In its first year, Bolts4Cuba purchased and delivered to Cuba, 2 Bosch 36V Rotary Hammer Drills (reconditioned), both Eterna titanium and Collinox glue-in bolts, epoxy, and drill bits. Donated bolt puller from the Access Fund and a static rope from Bluewater are also in use in Cuba.

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, full-color topo of the Boveda de las Españoles, the site of Cuba’s first multi-pitch sport routes – and those in dire need today of anchor replacement. It is a historic souvenir worthy of mounting after your return from climbing one of its famous routes, such as Mucho Pumpito or Flyn’ Hyena.

The Cuba Climbing guidebook focuses on Viñales, Cuba’s climbing mecca. The majority of new routes, however, are now being put up in other provinces, outside of Viñales. Topos to these areas are being created and provided as gifts for donations to Bolts4Cuba. The first topo is to Jibacoa, on Cuba’s north coast near Varadero, Cuba’s most famous beach. More topos will follow.

For U.S. citizens or residents, Bolts4Cuba offers a unique and indispensable bonus: An itinerary for climbers that should pass legal muster with the U.S. government.

From the news in the U.S. media during November, 2017, you probably thought that the window to travel legally had been slammed shut by President Trump. True, he took away the category of legal travel to Cuba that created a travel surge for Americans in 2016 and 17.

Barely noticed, however, Trump redefined another category of legal travel, to provide Support for the Cuban People, that should make legal travel to Cuba even easier, at least for climbers.

The new rules fit to a “T” the climber lifestyle in Viñales. Stay and eat in private Cuban homes. Spend your free time where ordinary Cubans go and predominate. Take climbing gear and provide donations to Bolts4Cuba. Don’t do what you wouldn’t do anyway: stay in expensive hotels or go on tours run by Cuban Army. That basically describes what climbers, specially American climbers, have been doing in Viñales for the last two decades.

There are still legal pitfalls. As the U.S. government likes to repeat in every relaxation and tightening 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.

Clipping to stainless bolts that are 19 years old.