Climbing in Cuba: Officially Banned but Alive, Well, and as Good as Ever?

04/13/2012

While officially nothing has changed, and climbing (as well as other outdoor activities) is still prohibited in Viñales National Park and the entire western province of Pinar del Río, our friends at www.cubaclimbing.com are reporting that climbing activity continues, and that no visiting climber has yet been barred from climbing.

Cuba climbingAfter the closure was first announced four months ago, rangers and police posted themselves on trails to popular climbing and hiking venues. It was even reported that local farmers retaliated by baring the rangers from their land. The initial surge of enforcement, however, appears to have lapsed. Even the most popular walls can be climbed after 2:00pm when the rangers quit for the day. The most common report is that if park rangers see you climbing, they will ask you to stop. That's it. Two different climbers, however, put it in identical words—"They don't see you."

Venezuelan climber Xavier Garriga just wrote that his group climbed at popular sites and even at Cueva Cabeza La Vaca, Guajiro Ecologico, La Costanera, and El Palenque, which are visible from much of the valley and town. Xavier concluded, "If you are thinking of traveling (to Viñales) to climb, you can go without problem. We invite you to go and climb everything you want!"

The Cubans have also resumed putting up new routes. They have returned to a distant wall know to Cuban climbers as Hasta Siempre Armando, a massive wall first climbed in 2000, and newly revisited in 2010, when the locals took Michael Fuselier and a team of Petzl climbers to explore a 60 degree wall called Techo del Mundo, Roof of the World. However, the Cubans have also just completed a new route (as yet, an unnamed three-star 7b) on Mogote del Valle, the closest and most accessible walls to town.

Perhaps, nothing has changed. In 2003, Access Fund founder and native Cuban Armando Menocal wrote, “We visitors, along with the Cubans, climb under the cloud of ambiguity.” Another Cuban climber claimed, "Nobody knows what is allowed and what isn't, or why and when. That's how you drive a child insane, how you infantilize people and drive them crazy."

Indeed, it seems nothing has really changed.

For more information, visit: http://www.cubaclimbing.com/climbing/cuba-climbing-resumes-unofficially/

Blog Comments

Wow! I never thought I would see the Access Fund tacitly endorse climbing at a closed area, or even publish information about an officially closed area being secretly open, no matter how unjust that closure may be.

Posted by: josh | April 16, 2012 at 09:26 AM

Interesting point, Josh! It goes to show how U.S. sensibilities often don't apply in Cuba. Until just recently, buying and selling cars and apartments required staged marriages and subsequent divorces. Most Cubans are still forced to break the law and trade on the black market just to keep their families out of poverty. Cuban nationals have always climbed in a legal limbo, suffering frequent indignities at the hands of the police even as foreigners enjoyed unfettered access. According to Armando Menocal, "Several journalists have questioned park and tourism officials in Cuba to ask about the closure, even asked to see to the written decree or regulation, and in each case, the officials refused to respond. After announcing some kind of closure, officials have since been mum on whether there is a closure and what has been closed or prohibited and have done little if anything to enforce a possible closure. This has been the pattern of behavior since 2003 - declare closures or need for prior climbing authorization, and then let climbing go on, even promote and exploit it." Is that climbing in a closed area? Hard to say. But after the surprise announcement of park closures last month, it would seem that climbing is more or less back to what passes as normalcy in Cuba. We thought our readers would want to know.

Posted by: Access Fund | April 17, 2012 at 11:42 AM

I agree with the reply. Dicey to walk line between reporting a dubious closure and providing the beta to get around it.
At Access PanAm and cubaclimbing.com, we sat on news of the closure for 2 months. Climbers were telling us of run-ins with local rangers, but how they still climbed all they wanted and had an awesome trip. Other climbers were asking about shutdown rumors and worried that their trips from Canada, Europe, or U.S. were in jeopardy. Our Cuban friends, climbers, local farmers, and private entrepreneurs, didn’t want to scare visitors off. Frankly we hoped that someone else would scoop us, and that we would not be the ones left to explain this ambiguous situation.
How do you provide the best information at hand on this mishmash without disclosing an officially closed area that is secretly open? In this case, you can’t.
Armando

Posted by: Armando Menocal | April 19, 2012 at 07:06 AM

There are lots of people who are adventurous. Climbing is a good way to relax and experience the beauty of nature.

Posted by: car hire brisbane | May 09, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Really like the blog, appreciate the share!

Posted by: Laura | May 17, 2012 at 01:44 AM

I went with a group last year to Cuba had a great time we climbed in two areas. Only had one group that were told to move on. I am heading back in February 19-23 2014 for the
Climbing Competition at "Silla de Gibara" and Guide Training.

If anyone would like more information on coming to the comp contact me.
at mountainman@mtjeff.com

Posted by: Rick Krause | December 03, 2013 at 08:27 AM

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