Rock climbing

Cuba Climbing Photo Gallery

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For decades climbers have ventured into paradise limestone walls of Cuba, where in the Viñales region alone you can taste several hundred bolted sport climbs. Just over 100 miles off the coast of Florida, Cuba offers European-style tufa towing without the time and expense commitment of continental travel. Like many countries, especially smaller, somewhat isolated ones like Cuba, the island nation has been hit hard by Covid, unrest compounded by war in Ukraine, sanctions and declining subsidies from Venezuela. Tourism from visiting climbers, on which locals depend for gear and dollars, has all but ceased. Add to that a destabilized economy, with triple-digit inflation, and Cubans now face long lines for food. Most of the time, said a Cuban climber who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals, “the shops are empty for weeks and when they provide food people behave like cannibals trying to attain what little there is”.

The government, which provided rudimentary provisions, collapsed. “Even the commitment to provide milk to every child is being forgotten,” says Cuban-American rock climber Armando Menocal, founder of Access Fund and Acceso PanAm and one of the earliest developers of Cuban rock. It is the worst economic crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union some thirty years ago.

Other basic needs such as electricity are scarce. The situation “is horrible”, says a Cuban mountaineer. Outside the capital of Havana, people live without electricity for four to 16 hours, and “you never know when they’ll take it out or when they’ll turn it on”. Menocal says many Cubans “cook without electricity and shower in the dark with a bucket of water.”

The ever-resilient Cuban climbers have continued despite the hardships and lack of government recognition or support, which may even make climbing illegal for Cubans. For more than 20 years, Cuban climbers have developed and maintained their bountiful, world-class cliffs with gear donated by visiting climbers, who often leave their gear behind after seeing local climbers climb barefoot or on frayed ropes. Today, the situation goes beyond the need for climbing gear – being able to buy food is a bigger concern.

The following is a photo gallery of Cuba’s foremost rock climbing photographer, Tito Jorge. Escalation is happy and honored to present these images and hope they will motivate you to help our fellow climbers. How? Plan a trip. For more details on how to visit Cuba legally (the rules seem to be constantly changing), visit the US Embassy in Cuba website. For more information on rock climbing in Cuba, see cubaclimbing.com —Duane Raleigh

Henry Sanches gets an envelope on Tho Más Dos (7c+/5.12d), Techo Del Mundo, Viñales, Cuba. (Photo: Tito Jorge)
Adrián Pérez works on the steep slope on Tho Más Dos (7c+/5.13a), Techo Del Mundo, Viñales. (Photo: Tito Jorge)
Dione and Mambises y Maulet (6b+/5.10d), Cueva Larga, Viñales. (Photo: Tito Jorge)
Dione and Mambises y Maulet (6b+/5.10d), Cueva Larga, Viñales. (Photo: Tito Jorge)
Adrián Pérez with an oceanside seat on Buen Viaje (5+/5.10a), Peñón del Fraile, Jibacoa.
Dairon, Tacto Rectal (7a/5.11d), Jaguaeyana, Vinales. (Photo: Tito Jorge)

Luis Enrique Pimentel on the bucket-list La Puta del Barrio (8b/5.13d), Techo del Mundo, Viñales. (Photo: Tito Jorge)

Elisa Moreno on RM (6a+/5.10b), Cueva de la Vaca, Viñales. (Photo: Tito Jorge)
Adrián Pérez continues with an Espléndidos (8a/5.13b), Cueva de la Vaca. Vinales. (Photo: Tito Jorge)
Dione on Mambises y Maulet (6b+/5.10d), Cueva Larga, Viñales. (Photo: Tito Jorge)
Raikel Reyes size Insection (7b/5.12b), Mogote del valle, Viñales. (Photo: Tito Jorge)

Mija Popovic on Romeo y Regletas (7b+/5.12c), Paredón de Josué, Viñales. (Photo: Tito Jorge)

Jorge Luis Pimentel works with Je Sui Qun Connurd (8c/5.14b), Techo del Mundo, Colales. (Photo: Tito Jorge)

Nicky Kleoudis, Mucho Pompito (6b/5.10c), Costanera Wall, Vinales. (Photo: Tito Jorge)

Raymon Lee dancing with the Pink Lady (6c/5.11a), Cuba Libre Wall, Viñales. (Photo: Tito Jorge)