Climbing like a bunch of girls: Puerto Rico.
I live in Ontario. I love climbing. I hate being cold.
Solution: find an affordable tropical climbing destination.
If you are looking for somewhere warm, sunny, and full of limestone, Puerto Rico may be a good option. This was actually my second climbing trip to San Juan. It was so great the first time that I could not resist going back for more!
Probably one of the best things about Puerto Rican climbing is the variety. At any given crag there are well rated climbs from 5.8 into the 12’s. That said; for this trip we stuck to the Nuevo Bayamón and Caliche Crags – it is worth noting that wherever you choose to climb you will need to rent a car. With lots of options for route styles and lengths, you can really choose your own adventure. Whether you are into pumpy shoulder pulls on 30 foot overhangs, crimpy balance moves on a face, or an all out endurance fest on 110 foot single pitch, there is something that will capture your imagination and inspire you to send.
Although February to March are the best times to climb, we still encountered a full day of heavy rain, and the occasional shower. After getting caught in a torrential downpour in Bayamon, our group became entranced by the beta of Twilight Zone, a 45 foot 5.11c that remains dry no matter what the weather.
Bayamón gives you the feeling of climbing in a jungle. With all of the humidity and vegetation you’d expect in such an atmosphere. So bring lots of chalk and be prepared to move the occasional plant, or gecko off the climb. If you are going to climb Bayamon, it wouldn’t be a complete experience without grabbing onto some tufa’s. These formations can look intimidating, and be difficult to read from below. But once you get the hang of these vertical holds, you can lay-back and smear your way all the way to the top.
As a group we reached the consensus that the Caliche climbs were unlike anything any of us had experienced before. Overlooking the town of Ciales (not a typo, also we are pretty sure the town has no affiliation with the popular drug – that said we did ‘get up’ those routes so who knows for certain), and with climbs in the 85-110 foot range, the Caliche Crag is very exposed. It is also unbelievably beautiful. Both Blanca Nieves-5.8 and Triboro Direct-5.10b are amazing climbs on their own, add in the views and you’ve got something seriously special. If you ever make it out to San Juan, both of these climbs are must do’s. Just remember to take your rests, and climb later in the afternoon when the rock is not in full sun!
Some added bonuses to both the Bayamón and Caliche Crags are their proximity to San Juan (20 and 60 minutes by car), and the short approaches (under 15 mins). Additionally the routes are well bolted; not run out, leaving you feeling safe. However, there are a hand full of areas that do have precarious belay positions and probable rock fall, so a stick clip, helmet, and critical decision making skills are all something you should bring along.
Anyone interested in climbing in Puerto Rico should scope out Adventuras. We combined the information we had from a friend (a regular on the Puerto Rican climbing scene that we had met up with on our last trip) and the guidebooks to decide where and what we wanted to climb. At five dollars a pop, the books are well worth the investment. The driving instructions provided are good, but I’d recommend having a cell phone, GPS, or map just in case you get turned around on your way.
With 6 full days in PR, our group decided to climb 5 of them. Which may seem like we didn’t get to enjoy the beach! Worry not. We opted for early starts and finished mid day, leaving lots of time to take in the sites, sun, and enjoy some R&R. It is a vacation after all! We stayed at an airbnb in the Ocean Park area of San Juan, a block from the beach. From there we could easily navigate to Old San Juan, the El Yunque rainforest, and just about anything else our hearts desired.
If anyone has any questions about planning a trip to Puerto Rico, or just what goes into planning a destination climbing trip feel free to contact me though the blog. Additionally if you have a climbing destination/trip you’d like to share with the community, let us know!
Hoping Spring comes so that we can all enjoy the sun on real rock soon!
Hope to see you out there,