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Don’t be fooled by media reports. Trump has not made Cuba off-limits. The U.S. says your trip to Cuba will be legal if you stay, eat, interact with ordinary Cubans and climbers, and take climbing gear and provide donations to sustain the Cuban climbers. It’s a perfect fit to what climbers do anyway in Viñales. It’s that easy. Particulars are spelled out at Bolts4Cuba (fundly.com/bolts-for-cuba-c…) and CubaClimbing.com (cubaclimbing.com/essential-…).
There is No Real Closure or Access Problem In Cuba.
Now, years after Cuban authorities declared that almost all access to the mountains in Western Cuba was closed, everyone has learned to live with the so-called closure. It’s a Cuban version of a kabuki drama. The officials pretend that all access is closed. the climbers pretend to obey — as they go about climbing. All sides seem content.
The bottom line is that everyone is climbing. New routes, even bolt replacements, are continuing in Viñales. No one has ever been cited. Indeed no one has ever seen a copy of the closure, and some doubt it ever was put to paper. For more information go to cubaclimbing.com. cubaclimbing.com/climbing/p…
Its multi-pitch classic climbs define big wall sport climbing with their remote locations and mandatory techniques like tag ropes and back clipping on rappel.
Climbing in Cuba is as much about Cuba as it is about climbing.
Few visitors to Cuba come away equivocal. Most become passionate about Cuba. The first Americans climbers went again and again, obsessed to keep returning, despite U.S. law threatening $250,000 in fines and 10-years imprisonment. The visiting climbers donated gear, clothes, even drills and bolts, and as a result, perhaps unlike any other climbing destination, the vast majority of first ascents have been done by locals.
Its lighting fast development and passionate popularity indicate that Cuba is quickly becoming one of the finest sport climbing destinations of the world.
It has seen an influx of leading climbers, such as Lynn Hill, Neil Gresham, Timmy O'Neil, and Jim Donini, and the development of a strong contingent of Cuban climbers, who are eager to climb with visitors.
Travel, digs, food, and climbing partners are no sweat. The beta on Cuba is at hand in guidebooks, websites, even Facebook.
American climbers need to realize that Cuba is not isolated from the world; it is Americans that are isolated from Cuba.
Perfect climbing days, mild weather, and everything from isolated beaches to caving and cockfights on rest days make for a one-of-a-kind adventure. Add an exciting, sensuous nightlife, the gregarious, vivacious Cuban people and the country may already be the best outdoor experience anywhere.
The mountains around Viñales have over 250 routes (300 pitches of climbing) with potential for hundreds more. The majority of routes lie within three main areas in the Valley: Mogote del Valle, El Palenque, and La Costanera.
More than 80 percent of the routes in Valle de Viñales are on the walls of Mogote del Valle. The closest routes are about one kilometer from town, and the golden walls and caverns of Mogote del Valle can easily be seen from the town of Viñales.
El Palenque lies four kilometers north of town and is easy to reach on foot, cab or bike. El Palenque was the hub of the first routes put up in Cuba. It may be the cushiest, most indulgent advance base camp in climbing. El Palenque is a bar by day and disco at night, under an immense hemisphere of limestone stalactites, pockets, and knobs, offering gymnastic bouldering on its walls and ceilings, and apre-climbing super-chilled beer or lush, frosty mojitos. You can return for the evening extravaganza and spectacularly clad mulata dancers. El Palenque provided the first American and Cuban climbers with rest and refreshments after a strenuous day of route-building, and new climbs were named for the disco songs that wafted out over the fields. Those days have passed, but El Palenque still offers uncommon diversions and high quality climbing.
La Costanera is a spectacular cathedral chamber of limestone. Its north facing walls are the best place to climb when it is hot. Usually, the north coast and ocean can be seen from the upper belays of La Costanera routes. Its 120m walls have yielded the greatest number of long routes of 4 to 5 pitches.
Getting Settled in Viñales
That Viñales is gone, gobbled up by its popularity with tourists and an explosion of casa particulares and paladares, the Cuban versions of rooms and restaurants in private homes. Today, Viñales, along with Trinidad, are probably the most prosperous, dynamic, and entrepreneurial town in Cuba. The casa particular-paladar entrepreneurs have reshaped this small town in the middle of a national park and World Heritage Site.
Reserving rooms in casa particulares is becoming easy and routine. Most proprietors have email and cell phones. When calling a casa particular, it is best to have someone who speaks Spanish or a translated script with your information. You are calling a home, and you don’t know which family member might answer. Once in Cuba, speaking Spanish is less important.
To call Cuba, use prefix to call international, 011 from USA, country code for Cuba 53, and then number, such as those listed below. Cell phones usually start with 5.
It is advisable to have accommodations arranged for Havana in advanced. You don’t want to spend your first day looking for a room in a big city with limited transportation choices. For Viñales, a reservation in advance isn’t required, except during the end of year holidays.
Our recommendations are a mix of price levels and neighborhoods in Viñales. We recommend these casas because we trust the families to take good care of any guest.
1. Our favorite off-the-beaten-track choices are in the little village of El Palmar, only a few hundred meters west of Viñales and a 1km walk from the bus station. El Palmar is actually closer to the most popular climbs on Mogote del Valle than most of Viñales. Villa Las Vegas is a top pick in El Palmar. The prominent, nearby view is the wall of Gaujiro Ecologico. Villa Las Vegas is a completely independent house with one room, 2 beds, and space to spread out gear. Raquel Nodarse, husband Manuel García, and daughter Yomara live in the adjacent house. Casa 48796429. Cells 54508799 and 52671011. email@example.com.
2. Across the way from Villa Las Vegas is Villa Las Palmeras of Xiomara and Tito. One room and a view from the large deck of El Mogote del Valle. Casa 48796035. cell 55450770. firstname.lastname@example.org. Las Vegas and Las Palmeras are the first houses on the road entering El Palmar and closest to Viñales. Continuing up dirt road into El Palmar, the next few houses also rent good rooms.
3. Since 1998 the climbers’ base camp in Viñales has been the home of Oscar Jaime and Leyda Robaina. Its dirt-bag days when the first American and Cuban climbers shared floor space in a couple of room are long gone. It’s 3 or 4-stars now, with multiple rooms and private baths and terraces. There is a photo mural tracing the history of climbing in the valley. Adela Azcuy #43. Casa 48695516. Leyda cell, 52486770. Oscar cell 54055605. email@example.com.
4. Next door is the spacious home of León León Hernández. León was one of first to rent rooms in Viñales, and he has hosted many climbers. Adela Azcuy No. 45-A. firstname.lastname@example.org. 48796380.
5. To sample one of Viñales’ contemporary, built-to-rent casas, go to Leon’s daughter’s El Balcón de Mignelys y Juanito. Calle Rafael Trejo No, 48-A. email@example.com. casa 48696725. cell 52714699.
6. La Escalada is another modern house built-to-rent. Your hosts are one of Viñales’ best climbers, Jorge (“Tito”), and his beautiful wife Heidi. Jorge is available as a climbing guide. Camilo Cienfuegos #43. firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com. casa 48695476. cell 53097610.
7. María Elena Urra has a single room. It’s on Adela Azcuy and 50 feet from Calle Salvador Cisneros, as close to the heart of Viñales as you can stay. Adela Azcuy # 5-A. casa 79313. cell 52714698
8. Almost at the bottom of the hill on the north side of Adela Azcuy is Casa Tatica y el Chino. El Chino rents two rooms. Adela Azcuy Norte Final no. 61-C. casa 48695021. cells 53030649 / 52453116.
9 Up the hill from El Chino is Villa Loly El Habano. Another longtime renter. Four rooms. Loly and El Chino are among the casas closest to the crags. and popular with climbers on longer stays. Adela Azcuy Norte No. 55-A. casa 48695047. cells 53364592 / 54055608. firstname.lastname@example.org.
10 Casa Vladimir y Gladys is one of the excellent choices at the top, where Adela Azcuy meets Calle Salvador Cisneros. The family compound includes three casas. Vladimir y Gladys, Adela Azcuy No 10-A, casa 48696587. cell 53373911, email@example.com. Casa Milagros y Yamile, No. 10, casa 48095678. cell 53311915.
11. Heading west on Calle Salvador Cisneros at the intersection with Calle Sergio Dopico (the entrance to the town from Pinar de Río) is the home of Dalia and Millo. They rent two rooms. Sergio Dopico #3A. casa 48696994. cell 53642614. firstname.lastname@example.org. tropiccollage.com
12. Villa Cristina is a top-tier casa on the western end of Calle Salvador Cisneros. Cristina Gómez and Juanito have a beautiful house with an enclosed compound of rooms, dining, living area, and parking. Cisneros No. 206. Casa 48793396. Cell 53311737.
13. Villa Gena is across the road from Villa Cristina and another excellent house on western end of town. Two rooms, private baths and terraces. Hosts are Eugenia and Sosa. Salvador Cisneros No 209. Casa 48793320. Cell 52483961. email@example.com
14. Down the street is Villa La Rueda of Catalina and Orestes. Catalina is a great cook. Two rooms; one is a large independent, rustic cabin. Salvador Cisneros No. 214. Casa 48695207. Cells 52446620 Roly (who speaks English). Osnan 52486662.
AirAndB, Trip Advisor, and the numerous guidebooks have more lists of recommended casas. If you can’t get a room in a someone’s recommended casa, relax. There are a profusion of excellent casa particulares in Viñales from which to choose. See an example here.
Cuba welcomes tourists. Travel to and within Cuba is not restricted. A valid passport, which does not expire within six months of traveling there, is required for entry. Visas are not necessary. Instead your travel agent or airline will sell you a tourist card ("tarjeta de turista"). Cuban immigration stamps the tourist card rather than your passport. The latest info on flights, currency, ATMs and credit cards, and security are spelled out in the Cuba Travel page at cubaclimbing.com.
Getting to Viñales is about the easiest transport in Cuba. There are two bus lines, and lots of private taxis waiting outside the two bus terminal in Havan. Renting a car is expensive and is not necessary. Within the town of Viñales everything can be reached on foot. All the climbing areas are within walking distance or a short cab ride.
Season and Weather
What to Bring
Sport climbing in the tropics does not require much, which is a real bonus in this era of disappearing baggage weight allowance. Take advantage, and bring gear for the Cuban climbers.
Many companies in the climbing industry, donate gear, shoes, and clothes for the Cuban climbers. CubaClimbing,com relies on traveling climbers to carry these donations to Cuba. Contact the website to volunteer.
Planning Your Trip
Perhaps the only thing Cuba lacked to make it a must see climbers destination was a world class guidebook. Now, the first guidebook to Cuba has been published. Cuba Climbing (Quickdraw Publications, 2009); however, is much more than merely descriptions of routes and approaches. As one would expect following the initial decade of climbing in Cuba, the guide reflects Cubas history of commitment and devotion. Its authors, Aníbal Fernández and Armando Menocal, are the first Cuban climber and one of the first foreigners, albeit a Cuban-American, to discover Cubas climbing potential. This guidebook is unique, intended to be a keepsake, a souvenir of a visitor's Cuban experience. Every photo, map, and topo is full color.
The guidebook authors also maintain an up-to-date website, cubaclimbing.com, with last minute climbing news and featured routes. A highlight is a page with every article ever written about climbing in Cuba - over 30 articles in all! The young Cuban climbers in Viñales have also created a useful website, escaladaencuba.com. On Facebook, you will also find pages for cubaclimbing.com, Escalada en cuba, and Cuba Bouldering. Cuba is a major tourist destination, and there are many good travel guidebooks available including Bradt, Eyewitness, Fodors, Footprint, Insight, Lonely Planet and Rough. Our recommendation is the Cuba Moon Handbook.
The option that is always available is to fly to Cuba from a third country. Mexico, Canada, Nassau, Jamaica. The crux of this route is to keep your mouth shut when you return to the U.S. But if outed, say NOTHING. Don't try to explain or justify. You will only make the matter worst. Politely refuse to say anything. Almost no one is caught, and if you don't say anything or lie, nothing more will probably happen.
Cuba says, please come, and we will not even stamp your passport. Cuban immigration doesn't care whether you are coming legally or not.
Recommended Climbs on Mogote del Valle
4s and 5sEl Asegurador Cuenta, 4+/5.8
En la Sombrita, 4+/5.8
El Repaso, 5/5.9
Ojos Carmelitas, 5+/5.10a
Torre Blanco, 5+/5.10a
Psicologia Infantil, 5+/5.10a
Mi Cusi, 5+/5.10a
Fantasta de la Ópera, 6a/5.10b
Guao, Guano y Espina, 6a/5.10b
La Cuchillita, 6a/5.10b
Calentando Baterías, 6a/5.10b
Filo de Cuchilla, 6a+/5.10c
Más Tarde, 6b+/5.11a
La Mulatisima, 6a+/5.10c
Puro Cubano, 6b+ /5.11a (1st pitch)
Fernando's Hideaway, 6c/5.11b
Ana Banana, 6c/5.11c
Psicosis, 6c, 3 pitches/5.11c
Huevos Verdes con Jamón, 6c+/5.11c
Calzo de Guagua, 7a/5.11d
Cuando los Angeles Lloran, 7a/5.11d
La Vida es Bella, 7a/5.11d
Malanga Hasta la Muerta, 7b+/5.12c
Wasp Factory, 7b+/12c
Romeo y Regleta, 7b+/12c
Pichulina San, 7b+/12c
Medio Bandidos, 7b+/12c
Cuando el Mal es el Cagar, 7b+/12c
Amigos en el Tope, 7c/5.12d
8sHay Papito, 8a/5.13b
The Colony, 8a+/5.13c
One-Inch Punch, 8b+/5.14a
Classic Climbing Routes at Cuba
Days w Precip