The Bluff View Guide to Climbing on Cayman Brac

March 2014 edition

This guide is offered to you free of charge and I hope it serves you well.   I would like feedback whenever you discover an error, omission or get horribly lost trying to find a climb.   Feedback on grades and quality ratings are greatly appreciated.  I have tried to make the grades consistent but you know how that goes.  What I desire most is that you are able to find the climb you’re looking for and then have the right gear with you.  You can contact me at jbyrnes@ezlink.com.

Route Overview

There are now a total of 80 routes on the island from 5.6 to 5.13, with the bulk being tens, elevens and twelves.   There are several open projects in the 13-minus range.  The rock is mostly clean pocketed limestone but Spot Bay is also rich in stalactites and flowstone.

Histogram2014I’ve used a four-star rating system to give visiting climbers a rough idea of a route’s quality.   As always, take difficulty ratings with a grain of sea-salt.  One day conditions will be crisp and a route will feel easy at its given grade; another day, if it’s receiving sea-spray, the route may feel “smarmy” and hard.

In general it’s best to climb directly over the bolts, or very near them, even when it looks easier to the side (it’s usually not).  Don’t dive head-first into caves along the route: cave floors are often fine silt, a sticky dry lubricant.  Climb on the outside edges. 

Climbing Gear

There is no climbing shop on the island, so bring everything you’ll want.   All routes are fully bolted so you don’t need to bring traditional climbing gear. 

You’ll need a rap rope and a lead rope to climb at the Point.  Rap ropes are usually  available in the shed at Bluff View but check with me first. Leaving your old rope for others to use is appreciated and leaves room in your baggage for souvenirs.

The longest route requires 19 quickdraws.  Six to eight shoulder-length slings with biners will be useful.  Ascending devices (prussik, Tibloc, Ropeman) must be taken on all routes at the Point.  

Due to hard starts and bad landings, a stick-clip is recommended for many of the routes!  If you’re staying at Bluff View, a painter’s pole with a standard thread is available so you can just bring the “head”.   If you are staying elsewhere bring tape,  since there’s almost always a tree branch at the base of the routes and you can tape a quickdraw to the branch.

When you get back home, wash all your gear (rope, harness, quickdraws, Gri-gri, etc.) in fresh water to get the salt off.

Other Important Gear

I strongly recommend sturdy hiking boots and a pair of leather gloves to protect your feet and hands for the approaches and while belaying.  There are all manners of cactus, yucca, thorns and sharp rock, and lots of vines waiting to trip you and end your climbing trip with a lacerated hand or foot.

Gloves and boots that cover your ankles will be welcome when crossing the sharp ironstone. Donaldson

Don’t be dismayed by the sharp quality of the rock you are walking on, the rock you’ll climb on is much friendlier.  Bring a foam pad to sit on to change shoes, have a bite to eat, admire the sunset, etc.

Wear a sun-hat that has a brim all the way around (not a ball cap), sunscreen, and always climb in the shade.

Bolts

As you probably  know, the original stainless steel bolts are seriously corroded and no longer safe.  It is pretty much certain you will be seriously injured or killed if you trust any of the old bolts.  I’M NOT KIDDING!   If you break off an old bolt or hanger with your fingers (not that unusual) you can take it home for a souvenir.

The Titanium bolts we are now using were developed specifically for the harsh environment on Cayman Brac and are now being used in many other places around the world.  After 14 years the titanium bolts show absolutely NO signs of corrosion, have been fallen on many times and will provide safe climbing for centuries to come.

A Ti in the route description means the route has titanium bolts and is safe to climb.  For clarity, the old steel routes are not included in this guide except for historical or location reasons.

Retreat

If you lower off the middle of a climb do not leave anything on the bolts!  Steel “quick-links” rust shut in days and carabiners last a few weeks before the gates can’t be opened.  These can only be removed with a hacksawAll titanium bolts can be directly threaded with the rope so you can lower off without leaving anything, just like you do when threading the anchor. You can easily thread two sequential bolts in the middle of a route for redundancy without going off belay.

Climbing Areas

The guide is organized starting at Love Shack and progresses counter-clockwise around the island. Routes over land are listed in the order you approach them looking at the rock.  Routes requiring rappel access are referenced right-to-left, while looking towards the ocean.

LOVE SHACK WALL

Located on the South Side Road, 2.7miles (4.3km) east of the Ashton Reid Road (a.k.a. the Bluff Road), it is easily identifiable from the road by its left angling crack. It’s a three-minute walk from Bluff View.  Shade about 4pm in March, noon by mid-May . Steep, white, clean, pocketed rock. Routes are listed left to right.  A stick-clip is recommended.

overhanging pocketed limestone in a tropical location

Kirk doing his lizard imitation on Leaping Lizzards. (Donaldson collection)

****Leapin’ Lizzards  Ti, 11d/12a 7 bolts + anchor. The far left route.  Have you seen those lizards who jump from branch to branch? Stick-clip the first bolt and make a huge throw to a bucket.  Repeat.  Again.   Incredible! JE, LG, DN.
Bat(s) in Brac; 12c/d. 7 bolts, 2 ring bolt anchor. JE & LG

**Parrot Trooper  Ti, 12c/d  4 bolts + anchor, stick clip. A hard boulder problem start (finger size dependent) leads to a rest and tough technical finish. LG

*** Throwin’ the Hoola Girl  Ti, 12a  7 bolts + anchor. A Houdini route, the moves are never quite what they seem. If it looks hard, it’s easy, and vice versa. JE

*Bric-a-Brac Crack  Ti, 12b  6 bolts + anchor.  The left diagonaling seam.  Shares last bolt & anchor with Hoola Girl.  Use pockets at the start and cross the crack near the finish. LG & JE

***Cayman Daze  Ti, 13b  6? bolts + anchor.  Unblemished, marble-like stone.  Climb small, technical holds to 11+ exit moves.   Open project. VW

***Cayman Nights  Ti, 12c  6 bolts + anchor.  Powerful dynamic moves on perfect rock.  MS

 

STARGAZER WALL

About 35m east of Love Shack, or a two minute walk west of Bluff View, is a stellar panel of marble-like white stone.  It has a conspicuous round cave at the top with a tree growing out of it (photo).   Shade about 3:30pm in March, 2pm in April.  A cairn marks the start of the trail which snakes  through the vegetation and between two boulders to avoid the evil velcro bushes.  A stick clip is highly recommended.

**Betelgeuse  Ti, 9+  7 bolts + anchor.  (a.k.a Not so Sirius) Stem, bridge and mantel up the obvious dihedral until some airy moves allow you to join Sirius for the last two clips.  Venturing into the black rock on the left will get you a taste of Orion’s sword.  Best route of its grade.  JB 2011

***Sirius  Ti, 12a  6 bolts + anchor.   Start from either side and power up big pockets for two bolts then crank continuous thin moves to a Thank-God pocket.  JB 2011

***Canopus  Ti, 11a  6 bolts + anchor.  This jewel of a route starts at the blocky dihedral on the right side of the wall.  Trust me, the big flake is solid.  JB 2011

John on the first ascent of Sirius, 12a. (Darek Kroll)


THE ORANGE CAVE

This large area is broken into 4 sectors: 1) the Orange Cave itself,  2) Theology, 3) Orange Streak and 4) Seahorse. Park at the East end of the South Side Road where there’s a sign for The Great Cave. Hike about 4 minutes further east along the iron shore until you’re opposite the Orange Cave (cairn), then hike up to the base; maybe 10 minutes total.  Shade about 2pm in March.  When the wind is strong, sea spray can make the holds slippery like wet soap. If the wind dies, the next day it can be dry and crisp.   Routes listed left to right.   A stick clip is useful.

Climbers at the Orange Cave

Sector Orange Cave

**Chum Buckets  Ti, 10b  5 bolts + anchor.  The left-most route starts outside the left side of the cave. Big moves on big holds leads to thoughtful climbing on the headwall.  The very  first route on the Brac.  SH

CAUTION: When lowering and cleaning, or top roping Goin’ to Cayman or Orange Fantasea, be very aware that rope-stretch may cause a swinging climber to crash into the boulders at the cave mouth!   Clean the bottom bolt by clipping directly into the bolt above. Stand up to belay and keep the rope tight!

**Goin’ to Cayman with a Snorkel in My Jeans  Ti, 10d  5 bolts + anchor.  Gymnastic climbing up the left side of the cave leads to a devious headwall. One look should convince you to stick-clip the first bolt. CL

 

Seaside sport climbing on overhanging limestone caves

Katy demonstrating the “approved” beta for Goin’ to Cayman with a Snorkel in my Jeans.

 

**Orange Fantasea  Ti, 11a  7 bolts + anchor (shares anchor w/ Snorkel). Start inside the cave on the right. Powerful pulls lead to a bizarre rest. Pull the lip while the cameras click. Use double-draws on the third and fourth bolts to avoid rope drag. CL

**L’ Orangerie  Ti, 8d 5 bolts + anchor.  Climbs out right of the cave.  After a difficult crux to get past the first bolt, style your way to the anchors. SH

*Boy Georange  Ti, 8  5 bolts + anchor. Was that a Karma Chameleon?  Stick clip #1.  Better than it looks with the crux at the last move.  JB & VW 2011

** Lord Slime  Ti, 7+  4 bolts + anchor.  Lots of options until the steep finish.  Don’t be fooled, even though it looks blank, climb directly over the last bolt.  JB & VW 2011

Sector Theology

The following routes are 200′ (60m) East of the Orange Cave at a low roof.

***Ick! Theology! (I’d Rather Study Cod)  Ti, 10b  9 bolts + anchor. After piling cheater stones as high as your conscience allows, boulder past a bolt, pass a small cave, then haul steep jugs to the top.  EH/SB/AP 2000

**Nameology  Ti, 10c. 8 bolts + anchor.  Aharder boulder problem than Ick! makes stick clipping #2 a smart move.   The climbing above is really fun. A double-draw in the cave will prevent rope drag and cross-loading the biner.  MS & JB 2011

Sector Orange Streak

About 100′ (30m)  East (right) of Ick! Theology! is an obvious orange streak above a talus cone and a cave on the right.   Hike past to the bottom-right of the cone, then weave your way towards the cave following a rough path through the talus.

*Brac Snack  Ti, 6  3 bolts + anchor.  Too short but sweet.  SH

*Orange Streak  Ti, 7  6 bolts + anchor.  Climb cool pockets and edges, then lay back, avoiding the hideous loose block on top of the dihedral.  Unknown

*Shark Bait  Ti, 9. 5 bolts + anchor.  Climb moderate fun rock to a big crux move right at the end.  Unknown

***Fake Left, Move Right  Ti, 10d.   7 bolts + anchor.  Start just left of the cave for a little March Madness.  Juke, bob and weave your way up white rock with hidden pockets.  Spicy, so have an alert belayer!   JB 2012

Sector Sea Horse

This new sector (2014) is located just past the “Sea Horse,” a 40-foot freestanding tower that sits near the ocean.  Park as for Orange Cave, at the end of the South Side Road.   Hike past First Cay (see photo below) to the bottom of the Seahorse.   Scramble up left of the Sea Horse and pass above it (best if the low-passage is being slammed by waves)  or pass below it and then scramble up. The first climbs are directly above the point where the approach options converge; about 20 minutes from the parking.  The first two routes start on a small terrace left of an orange undercut section of wall that contains a multi-tiered cave system.

SectorSeahorse

Climbers on Bananaquit (left) and Flying the Colors with the Seahorse Pinnacle behind them. (Donaldson)

**Bananaquit Ti, 7. 11 bolts + anchor. Excellent, moderate climbing but perhaps a bit long and adventurous to be a good beginner’s lead. Climb carefully up sharp rock for a few bolts—do not fall on this terrain! Surmount a cruxy bulge, then drift a bit right and up into a steep and enjoyable groove to finish on a small ledge on the left. The anchor is a titanium U-bolt with lowering ring, plus a standard glue-in for backup. Thread both the ring and the backup when lowering!  JA 2014

**Flying the Colors Ti, 11c. 12? bolts + anchor. Start a few feet right of Bananaquit and climb sharp, low-angle rock for a couple of bolts, then surmount a bulge and mantel onto a ledge. Overcome the undercut above (easiest on the right), then maneuver through steep and colorful panels (5.10) to a final headwall. Make some crux reaches up and right to more plentiful holds on the wildly exposed prow.  JA 2014

Anemone Ti, 13? (open project).   15? bolts + anchor. This starts from the highpoint of the boulder pile to the right of the undercut orange cave, starting in spiny gray rock, up nice-looking pockets, then out a colorful overhanging wall. A pretty line that still needs some cleaning, but it is a bit too easy at the bottom and too hard (and sharp) at the top to be classic.  JA 2014

THE WAVE WALL

The Wave Wall is 15 minutes of walking past the Orange Cave (25 minutes total) and offers a wide variety of long, high quality routes. Unfortunately, it is only approachable during calm seas. Boots and gloves recommended for this approach. Goes into the shade about 2pm in March.  Since carrying a stick on this approach is difficult, the first bolt will be reachable from a good stance.

First Cay is your first landmark on the way to Sector Seahorse and the Wave Wall. (Donaldson)

Park as for Orange Cave (East end of the South Road) and hike east to First Cay which has a sharp, pointy top. Pass above it, then below a pinnacle that looks like a seahorse.  Here is the first test: if you can’t pass below the seahorse, even by timing your crossing between waves, then you won’t be able to cross the sloping shingle beyond either.

Once past the seahorse pinnacle scramble through a boulder field at mid-height and come to a section of sloping rock with the overhanging wall on the left and the water on the right (photo). Even moderate waves can make this section extremely dangerous! Do a 3rd class (sometimes 5th class!) traverse to the last large shelf (~100m). Routes listed left to right.

steep rock on the ocean

The approach to Wave Wall during moderate seas. When the waves are breaking high enough to wet the dark rock, it is close to suicide to try this approach. (Kirk Donaldson)

 

**The Huckster  Ti, 12c/d  6 bolts + anchor + belay bolt.  The first route you come to starts about 50′ past the stalactite pillar (photo) and below an obvious cave.  Big moves between pockets.  Hucking amazing!  JA 2013

***Get It Together Ti, 12d/13a.  8 bolts + anchor. Starts about 10′ left of the belay pillar described below.  Steep, sustained, juggy climbing leads to a very difficult, small-hold boulder problem past the last bolt. Angle right to finish at the Pirates anchor.   JE

The next two routes start atop a nice belay pillar with a very white and clean face above. 

****Pirates of Penance Ti, 12b. 5 bolts + anchor.  Very steep climbing with big holds (and even bigger reaches) leads to a tricky crux layback sequence past the last bolt. A sporty runout on good pockets takes you up and left to the anchor. On you the whole way!  JE

***Pirates of Pissants  Ti, 12d. 6 bolts + anchor.  Powerful, continuous pockets on a steep, white shield of rock. JE & LG

****Conched Out  Ti, 10d. 7 bolts + anchor. After deciphering the starting moves (climb directly over the bolt), pull through beautiful Caymanite bands and crystal grape-clusters in a small cave.  Angle right to the last bolt and anchor of Frolickin’ Frigates. LG

***Frolickin’ Frigates  Ti, 10c. 8 bolts + anchor. Climb up to a ledge, and then crank directly over the bolt on the finger of rock (or worm your way around it). Now race the pump to the anchors. LG

For the next two routes (about 25′ past Frigates), dump your packs on a comfortable platform, about 10′ above the approach shelf, which has many little “stash caves” and a 5 foot long caymanite band below Blackened Durgon.

***Booby Trap Ti, 10b.  8 bolts + anchor.   A few feet left of the platform, at about head level, is a perfect thread and a flat spot for your belayer’s feet.  Anchor your belayer here with some long runners.   Traverse left to the first bolt then climb a panel of perfect white stone.   After a rest, climb the white pillar on either side (left is harder).   JB 2014

**Blackened Durgon Ti, 9+.  11 bolts plus anchor.  What’s for dinner?  Start at a 5′ long caymanite band and climb to a big roof/bulge.  Stay left of the bolts until you get a letterbox hold at the top of the caymanite cave, where you can clip and sneak right around the roof.  (Going right earlier is a little easier but is sharp.)  This route is loaded with fossils and caymanite.  A new-style titanium anchor is at the top.  Lemme know what you think of it.  JB 2014

Recognize the next two climbs by the vertical, white rock which leads into a shallow alcove, then up to a scooped dark roof, and then over this to a vertical head wall. You need a 60m rope to lower from the top anchors, although you can lower/rap twice by using the Ray’s Gar and Krill anchor with a 50m.

**Reef on This! Ti, 10d. 13 bolts + anchor. Pick a hold, any hold…until the finish. Shares the anchor with Parrot Preserves. LG

****Parrot Preserves on Rye Ti, 10d. 11 bolts + anchor. Climb moderate rock to the overhang, crank that and find the technical crux above. LG

*Jumbo Shrimp Ti, 10c. 2 bolts + anchor. A short extension to Reef on This and Parrot Preserves which will get you to the top of the bluff and within 15 minutes of the Spiral Staircase area. Combine with either route for one long, four-star pitch. A 60m rope will just barely get you down (tie a knot in the end) or rap twice using the Ray’s Gar and Krill anchor. EH

**Ray’s Gar and Krill  Ti, 8. 3-4 bolts + anchor. Climb either Reef on This or Parrot Preserves to the two-bolt anchor below the big overhang. EH

(For several decades a life-sized statue of a black pirate, cutlass in hand, dominated the departure lounge at the Grand Cayman airport.  Next to him was a story-board titled “The Legend of Big Black Dick”  in large print.  Unfortunately,  we have lost his grinning visage, and a good chuckle, but his legend will live on!)

****The Legend of Big Black Dick   Ti, 11a. 12 bolts + anchor.  Start about 30ft right of Parrot on featured vertical rock just right of a blunt pillar.  Negotiate the slab, then power up the pockets.  Don’t be strikin’ yer colors before the anchors on the overhanging arete.  JB 2012

***Unsuspecting Remora Ti, 12a  10 bolts + anchor. Climb pockets up a black and white streaked face (watch out for shark-bite!) to a rest. Steep jugs left of the cave lead to a devious, difficult finish. Take a doubled draw for the first bolt on the headwall.  EH

***Shooting the Curl Ti, 10a 8 bolts + anchor.  This route is easily identified by the bright orange rock, right-diagonaling crack and caymanite band at the start.  Take a long sling or double draw for the bolt in the cave. SH

**Hang Ten Ti, 10d. 9 bolts + anchor. A difficult start leads to a good rest. Use it; it’s pumpy the rest of the way to a difficult blind finish! Shares the anchor with New Wave. SH

***New Wave Ti, 10b. 8 bolts + anchor. After a stiff start, jug-haul into a small cave. Climb out the roof of the cave (look down here!) to another crux at the final bolts. Take a double-draw for the bolt in the cave.  JE

The following three routes start off the end of the large shelf, where it becomes impossible to walk further along the cliff.

****Old School  Ti, 8  7 bolts + anchor + 2 belay bolts.  Starts on a stepped shelf with two belay bolts.   If you’re not on a bucket, you’re off route.  Best route of its grade.  JE

The next two routes require a via ferrata-like traverse.  There’s a fixed rope but you should belay each other too  as the integrity of the fixed rope cannot be guaranteed.  Stay low at the start following a line of footholds (5.4).  When lowering and cleaning or following these routes, stay trammed-in to your belayer’s rope all the way down, or you’ll be swimming!   Your belayer must be clipped into the belay bolt of course.  Astounding position over the crashing waves.

*** Crab Dance Ti, 11c/d.  ~9 bolts + anchor + belay bolt.  Belay your partner to the third bolt of the via ferrata, about 40 feet right of Old School,  to a stance just big enough for him and a flaked rope. Start with some tricky moves out right, some good pockets, then another tricky move to reach the first overhang. Yard out on some great holds to a rest, then yard some more on sharper holds to finish.    Feedback on grade, bolt count and quality welcomed.  JA 2014

*** Salty Dog Ti, 12a.  ~11 bolts + anchor + belay bolts.  Approach as for Crab Dance but continue for several more bolts to an exposed belay station below an extensive cave hidden in the cliff above. Climb an overhanging pillar on the right side of the cave, past one difficult section, to a no-hands rest at a “window” in the cave.  Engage the very steep, pocketed bulge above and continue to anchors. Lowering directly off this route will land you in the breakers, so remember to stay trammed in (see above).   Still a bit sharp in places.  Feedback on grade, bolt count and quality welcomed.  JA 2014

White clean stone on the ocean

Climbers on Hang Ten and Old School.

ADVENTURE CLIMBING AT THE POINT

Read this TWICE before climbing a route at the Point!

Climbing at the Point and Edd’s Place is an amazing and unique experience. However, it can turn into a serious situation should anything go wrong.  Remember that unless there are some other climbers around, no one else on the island can rescue you but you!  Always carry ascenders (prussik, Tiblock, Ropeman) on all routes!

Often the wind and the sea breaking on the cliff make it impossible to hear each other while climbing.  Establish rope signals (see below) or make other arrangements to communicate with your partner before rappelling over the edge

The rappels present unusual challenges for many climbers, especially since most of them overhang and you’ll be rappelling on a single rope.   I suggest you use the following time-tested procedures.

First of all, evaluate the surf conditions before rappelling.   Be sure your targeted belay stance isn’t being hit by big waves or wind-driven spray.  If the belay looks wet it often means it’s been hit by a big wave within the hour and will be again!  You might choose another route or a different area for the day.

Setting up the rappel (abseil)

Slide a piece (or two) of garden hose (in the shed at Bluff View) over one end of your rappel rope and then anchor it to a tree or thread on the top of the bluff.  Then tie a figure-8 on a bight with enough slack for the knot to hang about 2′ below the bolt anchor that’s over the edge of the cliff.  Use a locking biner on your belay loop to clip into this knot and you’ll be protected while you down-climb to the anchor.

Slide the hose into position to protect the rope from any sharp edges and/or stuff some other padding under it. Don’t throw the rope yet.

Down-climb to the anchor and clip two quickdraws to the bolts.  Now clip directly into the bolts using two runners girth-hitched to your harness (not on your belay loop).  Leaving about 10′ of slack between knots, tie another 8-on-a-bight.   Clip this knot to the quickdraws in the anchor.  Move your runners down, one at a time, to the bottom biners on the quickdraws; this gives you enough slack to get on rappel.  Now you’ll be hanging from the quickdraws and you can unclip from the safety knot.

Ann has down-climbed to the anchor, clipped to the bottom biners (red & blue runners) and is about to unclip from the safety knot. Note the piece of garden hose protecting the rope. (Donaldson)

Clip the free end of the rappel rope to the back of your harness to keep it out of the sea.   Now you can toss the rope and get on rappel in the normal way.  The slack you left between knots allows your partner to pull up the safety knot, clip it, and down-climb to the anchors while you’re rappelling.

Depending on your rap device, you may want to add friction to the system.  Add a second biner for ATC-like devices.

The first person to rappel takes the quickdraws and lead rope in a bag; a bucket-type rope bag is best.    As this person descends, they must clip the rap line into enough of the bolts to stay in contact with the cliff!  If they don’t they may find themselves hanging 10′ from the wall and 30′ above the water.  (Time to get out the ascenders!)

When the first person gets to the belay anchors, they clip-in using the slings girth-hitched to their harness.  Then unclip the rap-line from the back of your harness and clip it into the anchor too.    The second person unclips the rap rope from the draws as they descend and may end up hanging over the sea.  The first person then pulls them into the belay.

NEVER use a long  (e.g. 70m) rope, do a double-rope rappel and pull it down to use for leading.  Having a fixed rope is essential for self-rescue (prussik, Tibloc, Ropeman) if for any reason you should not be able to climb the route. Usually there are rappel ropes you can use in the shed at Bluff View, so you only need bring a lead rope.

One of the most common mistakes is for both climbers to rap down and then discover they left the lead-rope on top of the cliff!  To combat this, we’ve developed the “one-two-three” check before starting the rappel:

  1. Am I safe? Double check your rap setup, anchors and harness.
  2. Am I taking everything I want? Such as the lead rope, draws, ascenders, camera and chalk bag.
  3. Am I leaving everything I don’t want? Such as sunglasses and hat (you’re rapping into the shade).   I stuff my hat and glasses into a convenient hole so I can put it on while belaying my second and not get sunburned.

After the leader reaches the top of the climb, they should belay from the anchors below the rim to avoid running the lead rope over any sharp edges.   Since it’s often difficult to hear each other, the leader can pull up the rap rope to signal ”Off Belay”. Afterwards, I use 3-tugs for ”On Belay” and a 2-tug response for ”Climbing.”

Finding the routes

A T in the route description indicates the route area has been Tagged with a yellow marker at the top of the cliff to help you orient yourself.  These are often tucked into pockets or depressions to keep them out of the elements.  Nonetheless, each year a few tags deteriorate and disappear. I replace them regularly, but I apologize if one is missing.  (All verified or replaced March 2014) I tie them on with white clothesline, which never blows away.

Look for yellow tags like this to identify routes when  on top of the Bluff.

BOLT COUNTS

At the Point and Edd’s Place the bolt count is designated as: 2/10/2, meaning there is a 2 bolt belay at the bottom, 10 bolts on the route and 2 bolts at the top.  Always take an extra draw or two.

Brown Boobie Birds 

(Hamilton)

The Brown Boobie is a rare, protected species that climbers must be considerate of. They nest on top of the Bluff and on ledges alone or in small groups.  One year they will be nested in one area and the next year somewhere else.

If you find a nest (a sitting adult with eggs or fledgling) please be respectful.  They are quite tolerant so if you get prepared away from the nest, then move slowly to the anchors, they’ll usually squawk at you but not flush.  You don’t want to flush the parent leaving the egg/young unprotected for a long time.   If the parent flushes, they will usually return immediately if you move away (i.e. get on rappel over the edge).  Obviously, you don’t want to walk through a nest.  Use good judgement.

EDD’S PLACE (aka The East Bluff)

Historically this area hasn’t seen much traffic due to the difficult long approach.  However this year, 2014, a new road has been cut on top of the bluff that puts you within a 15 minute walk to the top of the wall.   Boots and gloves are recommended.  Shade about 1:30 in March.

Take the Lighthouse Road to Peters Road which previously only went left.  Note your odometer reading and turn right onto the new road (which may be renamed someday).  Drive 2.0km (1.24 miles) to a pull-out on the right and park.  Walk further down the road about 200m and find a cairn that’s about 50 feet off the road on the right.   Walk straight out to the cairn, then angle right at about a 45-degree angle towards the bluff edge.  Spiral Staircase is between some large bushes that grow right on the edge of the bluff.  There’s a cairn and a new yellow tag (2014).  (You can actually see the top of Spiral Staircase from the parking spot, but heading straight at it is practically impossible on foot.)

(See Also the description of Jumbo Shrimp at Wave Wall for an alternative approach to Edd’s Place.)

****Spiral Staircase  Ti, T, 10a. 2/12/2   One of the island’s best tens with an outstanding lower belay position! Shares lower belay with Limestone Pirate. Pre-clip the first bolt while still on rappel to obviate a factor-two fall onto the belay.  Smooth pocketed rock leads to a cave. Climb back out and ascend the spiral staircase, or crank straight over the bolt (mid-5.10).  JE

spectacular seaside climbing on excellent limestone

Looking down Spiral Staircase. (Larry Hamilton)

****Limestone Pirate  Ti, 11a. 2/12/2. Steep and excellent! Fun moves with a couple of exciting reaches. Shares Staircase lower belay. Top anchor bolts are hard to see from above, under a small overhang. Pre-clip the first bolt while still on rappel to obviate a factor-two fall. JE

Jumpin’; 11d/12a. 2/10/2 Surprise holds; obvious big move at beautiful Caymanite shelf. Might as well jump! JE & JY

 

THE NORTHEAST POINT

Drive down the Lighthouse (Major Donald) Road about 6 miles (10km) to the east end of the island and park at the lighthouse. Follow the obvious trail to the left.  Boots and gloves highly recommended for these approaches!  Routes listed right to left as you look towards the water. Look for tortugas and dolphins while you belay! Shade almost all day in winter, starts to get sun at the top in late-March. By May there’s shade on most routes by 3pm.

The Point features routes from 100 to 140′ long. (Larry Hamilton)

About 100m from the Lighthouse car park there is a cairn next to the trail. From this first cairn, look straight out towards the edge to see some large bushes with a few palm trees.

*What’s the Point?  Ti, T, 5.9 2/13/2. From the first cairn angle hard right (easiest walking) to the very NE Point of the island. A little run out if 9 is your limit, and sharp at the top, but an impressive position. Anchors are over the edge on a slab. Beware the waves! One day a wave broke OVER my belayer, like a surfer in the tube, and left her scared but dry! GB

****Freedom  Ti, T, 12c 2/17/2. About 25’ left of What’s the Point. Anchors are just below the left side of a large block. Three 5.12 cruxes: technical, mono pulling and a roof. LG & JE

****Throwin’ the Tortuga  Ti, 11b 2/11/2. 5’ left of Freedom; anchors are next to a diagonaling crack that splits the cliff edge. Shares bottom belay with Freedom. Beautiful huecos filled with globular crystals lead to an airy, orange arête. Then up a steep flake system and over a bulge to a final technical crux. Rock & Ice #69 cover photo! JE

***A Porcupine Named Fluffy  Ti, 11c. 2/12/2.  20′ left of Tortuga look for the anchor bolts just above a small reddish ledge with a small bush.  A steep wild start leads to a devious technical crux.  The first bolt will prevent a factor two fall onto the belay.  Clip it with a long runner or back-clean it after clipping the next one to reduce rope drag.  Shares top and bottom anchors with Renegade.  JE

****Renegade  Ti, 11d/12a. 2/14/2.  Shares top and bottom anchors with Fluffy. Cast off to climber’s right while on rappel and follow the bolts down.  Amazing steep start, a rest, then technical cruxes on sharp rock in the headwall.  JE & LG

**The Devil Wears Flippers  Ti, T, 11a 2/16/2. 40’ left of Fluffy around a bush.  Anchors are drilled straight down in a pothole at the cliff edge. Girth-hitch these with long slings to prevent cross-loading your biners. Long, sustained, steep; don’t give up…hidden buckets just when you need em’! Trends left, then right; take a long sling for the left-most clip. CL

***Spermy the Whale  Ti, 11c/d 2/14/2. 5’ left of Devil. Shares The Devil Wears Flippers lower anchor. Nifty long diagonal huecos above the low crux. Technical and sustained. JE

Approach the next climb by staying on the trail and walking past the first cairn about 20m to a second cairn; or about 120m from the car park. Now head towards the edge and slightly right to a palm that’s on the edge of the bluff. This avoids scary bushwhacking on the cliff edge.

***Shiver Me Timbers  Ti, 10b 2/13/2 Located in the first big dihedral with a convenient palm tree anchor.  An easy rappel set-up, short crux and a belay ledge high off the water makes this a good choice for your first Point route.  SH

Great winter weather, no crowds, unique climbing on the water

Dawn on Shiver Me Timbers, 10. (Todd Mummert)

Approach the following four routes by staying on the trail for about 75m past the second cairn until you find two more cairns. Walk between the cairns on a faint trail that angles left to a rocky area. Then angle right following the path of least resistance to a narrow break in the brush. This will put you a few feet right of Blackbeard’s Revenge. These routes are a good choice for days with rough seas as the belay ledges are about 8m above the water!

**Blackbeard’s Revenge  Ti, T, C, 10b 2/9/2 Find the top anchor bolts just below a flat shelf in a square-cut alcove. Shares Walking the Plank bottom belay, so you can do both routes without moving the rap rope. Interesting line with fun moves on duos, edges, and side-pulls. SH

***Walking the Plank  Ti, 10c. 2/12/2 Top anchor is 8’ left of Blackbeard’s. Bottom belay is to the left when rappelling. Find the hidden pocket and pull over the first bulge;  grab the handle!  More amazing holds in the black & orange dihedral lead to the blind crux. SH

Photo published in Climb and Rock magazines

Katy Walking the Plank on a calm day.

**No Problem, Mon  Ti, C, 10a. 2/9/2 Top anchors in a big white dihedral about 20′ left of Plank. Perfect belay ledge is to your left on rappel. Go right and up an arete/bulge to  photogenic moves on the white arete. Make a pretty step-across to the belay. SH

****Porpoise Christi  Ti, C, 11b 2/4/2 Direct start to No Problem, Mon. Exquisite white limestone, big pulls, big holds! It can be top roped from the No Problem belay ledge, but it’s a unique lead with a memorable lower belay. JE

The Wall of Early Morning Flight

To find the Wall of the Early Morning Flight follow the trail approximately 125m past the No Problem Mon double cairns to another cairn. Angle slightly right to a lone bush near the edge. There’s also a square, faded-red painted, concrete “DOS” survey marker about 5m to the left of the routes.

**Holy Huecos Batwo-mon  Ti, 5.10c 2/14/2 Look for the anchors down low, on the left side of large, ugly “V” cleft.  Remember Charybdis, the terrifying whirlpool in the Odyssey?  This route will make you feel like a Greek hero if the seas are rough.  A hook-shaped rock protrusion creates a whirlpool effect and rouge waves can inundate the belay! More than one person has gone through the wash cycle and it’s never on “Delicate”. After rapping to the first set of double bolts, look for wet rock below you and examine the surf for a few minutes before committing. You can belay from the higher set of anchors, so you miss the lower crux, but it’s still 10c. LG

sea cliff climbing, long routes up to 140' long

John on Holy Huecos Batwo-mon with the whirlpool below.

***Spine-less  Ti, T, 11d 2/15/2 Top anchor bolts are just right of the large bush, on the right side of a triangular ledge, just below a 4-inch overlap. Shares both the Holy Huecos bottom anchor and the Chicken anchor at the top. Travel up incredibly smooth, steep hueco-ed rock. Enter a rest cavern with optional thread. Straight up and out to an incredible tricky thin crispy finish. JE & LG

****Chicken of the Sea  Ti, T, 12a 2/10/2 Shares Spine-less top anchors. Exposed and sustained! Follow the big holds past the last bolt for a true “photo finish” or head straight for the anchor. Terrific drama on the high seas! Don’t forget to look around at the stunning view, most airy! JE & LG

***Hot Tuna  Ti, 12a 2/8/2  Top anchors easily seen 6 feet left from Chicken anchors.  Bottom anchors in a cave. Follow smooth, steep, white rock. JE & LG

*Beach Fire  Ti, C, 10c 0/7/2/6/2 (2 pitches) 165’ past Tuna, rap a chimney system past a nasty ledge to a unique and very isolated rock “beach” (great position, calm seas only!). Climb back out in two pitches, starting with a left arching crack-like system. The first pitch (crux) is excellent; unfortunately the second is mostly just pointy. EH, SRB

Mud Falcon  Ti, 5.11b Top-rope variation to Beach Fire. Thread the intermediate anchors on your way down (they’re in a shallow groove off to the left as you face the wall), and top-rope the steep straight-in crack system. VW

NEPTUNE’S LAIR

Park at the east end of the North Side road in the Spot Bay turnaround. Follow the trail east and then walk the Long Beach toward the big pointed rock in the sea and the micro-island “Little Cayman Brac”. If the water’s calm, stay close to the water when entering the boulder area. Otherwise, you can scramble at mid-height, aiming for the steep white face.  About 20-25 minutes from the car.  Wear gloves & boots.

The routes face due north (early morning shade) and in winter can take a long time to dry after being hit with sea spray, so it can be very smarmy.  By March, April and May the wall is baked dry by the late-day sun and you should find it crisp the next morning.   I’ve been there when it was crisp and when it was so slippery it was almost unclimbable.  YMMV!

The approach to Neptune’s Lair during rough seas. Abort! Abort! (Larry Hamilton)

The routes are described from right to left. Therefore, Calypso is the first route you will encounter as you approach.

***Calypso  Ti, 11c 7 bolts + anchor. Several cruxes and a throw will sweep you off your feet. LG

**Booby Eggs for Breakfast  Ti, 11a 10 bolts + anchor. Follow the crack to the cave, and then switch gears (shift down for more power!) for the top. Tape your right index finger between the first and second knuckle (middle flanges)! LG

****The Poseidon Adventure  Ti, 12a 10 bolts + anchor. Several people have called this the best 12a they’ve ever done!  Steep and wild.  LG

John on The Poseidon Adventure during an early redpoint attempt. (Hamilton)

***The Tempest  Ti, 13-ish,  11 bolts + anchor.  Bolted a dozen years ago, this route has never seen a free ascent to my knowledge. Shares Poseidon top anchors.  Two hard, powerful cruxes getting past big bulges. Open project, don’t leave biners on the bolts!  Rebolted 2012.  LG

Conch-U-Brine; 12?. 8 bolts, 2 ring bolt anchor.  LG

SPOT BAY

Take the North Road to the little town of Spot Bay.  The Creek and Spot Bay Junior School is a few hundred yards past the “25″ speed limit sign. Park in the school lot.  This area has three Sectors: Dixon’s Wall, Iguana Wall and Pinky’s Buttress.

Free hanging stalactites break! Over the years many of the amazing stalactites have been broken off by climbers unfamiliar with this type of hold.  This significantly changes the character and grade, as well as diminishing the enjoyment of the climb. If you undercling/pinch a stalactite at its base (top) or pull straight down, it’ll stay there.  However, if you grab it at the bottom end, stem at the bottom, or knee-bar behind it, it’ll probably hurt you and then hit your belayer!  

Flowstone features, also called tufas, look like  a stalactite that’s glued on the wall for its entire length.  These  are quite solid and have taken a lot of use from a lot of climbers; don’t worry about these.

This 50lbs (23kg) stalactite broke when Vance knee-barred behind it. It gave him 7 stitches in his arm (note bandage) and almost killed his belayer. (Darek Kroll)

Pinky’s Buttress

From the school parking lot walk east on the road 30 seconds to Neptune’s Way and the Variety Store.  Follow Neptune’s Way, staying on the right near the chicken coops, to reach the wall. Alternatively, walk east from Iguana, 2 minutes. (Note: the last house on the left is owned by Mr. Ernie, who asks that you knock and let him know (if he’s there) that you will be climbing behind his house.  Please respect his request.)  Morning shade until about 3pm in March.

Go right behind the boulder to find:

*Hand Me The Can of Tuna, Boy  Ti, v6 4 bolts + anchor.  A very tall boulder problem.  Open project.  Mandatory stick clip.  Crank like  a disease to the lip then dance to the anchor.  JA 2013

****Full Metal Jackfish  Ti, 12b 12 bolts + anchor + belay bolt.  Mandatory stick clip.  A hard boulder problem (V5) leads to excellent climbing on the beautiful orange wall above.  Don’t feel bad about just pulling up to bolt #1 and continuing from there for a three-star 11c.  The belay bolt holds the rope out of the way for the boulder problem.  Unclip it when the climber gets to #2 and you can walk out and see him for the rest of the route.   Caution: Due to rope-stretch, falling off the boulder problem while following will cause you to crash into a jagged boulder.  Stretch the rope before following!  JA 2013

Iguana Wall

From Dixon’s Wall (see below) stay relatively close to the wall on a rough trail.  Cross a trashy  area, climb “up & over” twice past some easy scrambling and a crux cactus (push it away with a stick) to reach the Iguana wall.  About 5 minutes.  An easier 2 minute walk from Pinky’s Buttress.  Only one route at this time but it’s excellent.

****Iguana without a G  Ti, 12a 9 bolts + anchor.  Starts just right of an obvious rock shelf.  Mandatory stick clip.  Right knee pad.  Powerful dynamic moves between great holds.  JB 2013

Dixon’s Wall

This wall is world-class.  You’ll notice lots of quality stars and it’s no exaggeration. North facing with large trees at the base, it’s shady almost all day. Access to the cliff is through the Dixon’s back yards. Please ask permission (always granted) and chat a bit; the Dixons are all incredibly friendly.  Try not to swear loudly if it’s not your day, your voice will carry to the  school across the road.

Berg Dixon’s house in Spot Bay with Dixons Wall rising behind. (Donaldson)

 

The green and white house with white picket fence opposite the school belongs to Mr. Hindenberg “Berg” Dixon. The house just left belongs to his son, Mr. Peter. Walk up to either front door and knock to get permission. Don’t be shy, they really like climbers!

Berg’s dog, sarcastically named Hitler, looks scary but is the biggest cream puff you’ll ever encounter. Given a chance he might lick you to death.  It’s traditional to call out “Hi, Hitler!” when you see him.

HitlerAnna

Hitler welcomes Anna to Dixons Wall. (Donaldson)

Pass between the two houses, duck under the clothes lines and head straight back along a faint trail behind Berg’s house.  Step over whatever vines/vegetables they have growing (Pumpkins this year).   Don’t wander too far right; there’s an old barbed-wire fence hiding in the weeds. The trail ends at Lizzard the Gizzard.  Routes described from left to right when facing the cliff.

 *Wait!  Wait!  Stop The Bus!  Ti, 11a/v4  8 bolts + anchor.  (Overheard as the school bus pulled away.)  The left-most route starts off a flat boulder.   A difficult boulder problem on small pockets means this is not a good warmup route!  Stick clipping #2 is a good idea.  A good variety of techniques will get you to the anchors.  SK 2013

***Bussy’s Bulge  Ti, 11c/d  9 bolts + anchor. Start off a flat boulder, 3′ right of Wait!, and do a hard boulder problem right over the  bolts, or sneak around on the right.  Tricky face climbing leads to a steep enduro finish. JE

****Lizzard the Gizzard  Ti, 11d  10 bolts + anchor. Stick-clip the first bolt and climb straight up, or climb in from the left. Fun pocket pulling leads to several powerful sequences through the overhang. This route has spit off many a good climber.  JE & LG  ( The first route on the wall, Jeff Elison bolted this on lead!)

****Dixon’s Delight  Ti, 11b   10 bolts + anchor.  Starts at a small arching roof with an orange flat hold below it.  Several  rest positions on the lower half makes this a good warmup route. Climb straight over the 4th bolt on hidden pockets. At the top of the vertical section, decipher the moves into overhanging territory.  Beware sucker holds at the crux; stay right of the long tufa rail, where the bolt is.  JE & LG

TufaStalactites

Flowstone and stalactites are characteristic of Dixons Wall. John tops out Dixon’s Delight. (Donaldson)

****Hindenberg’s Harmonica  Ti, 12b  12 bolts + anchor.  The great pockets suddenly give out making bolt #5 hard to clip.  From the big lonely pocket decipher the thin, insecure crux and finish on steep tufas and flowstone.    MS 2011

****Out of Africa Ti, 11d 10 bolts + anchor. One of my favorites, this route has everything. Climb up the grey elephant trunks, decipher the blank-looking mid-section (use the mono) then finish on steep flowstone features. JE

flowstone, tufas and pockets on overhanging white limestone

John reaching for the mono on Out of Africa. (Donaldson)

****Buffalo Soldier  Ti, 12a 11 bolts + anchor. Starts just right of Africa on a buffalo nose. Crimp, pinch and pocket your way to a good rest then launch into the powerful, pinchy, pumpy crux moves.  Be gentle with the large stalactite on this route! You can undercling at its base, but don’t crank on the end of it. JE

tufas, stalactites and pockets

John pinching the tufas on Buffalo Soldier, 12a. (Darek Kroll)

**Captain Kirk’s First Voyage Ti, 10c  8 bolts + anchor.  About 15′ right of Buffalo.  Mandatory Stick Clip.  Reach the first hold off of stacked blocks then link discontinuous tufas to the anchor.  JA & JB 2013

****Boom  Ti, 12a 9 bolts + anchor.  About 15′ right of Kirk’s.  Mandatory stick clip.  Start off the boulder or as many stacked blocks as you need to reach the starting holds.  Jump onto the wall and follow a spectacular line of tufas through the bulge.  Brilliant!  Please don’t break the small stalactite at the bulge.  There’s a perfect pistol-grip pinch at its base (top) so there’s no need to grab the end of it. JB 2013

JeffMovePocketWeb

Jeff at the powerful lower crux of Carpe Stalactite, 12b.

****Carpe Stalactite  Ti, 12b 7 bolts + anchor.  Starts about 20′ right of Boom below an obvious large stalactite.  Left knee pad.  Stick clip #1.   Use the large pocket and solid white tufa (directly above) to get to bolt #4.  Bear-hug the stalactite, step out onto it and climb it on the outside!   Excellent movement and amazing holds lead to a sequential crux right at the end.  JB 2014

Caution: There is a long, thin, grey stalactite in the “armpit” of the big stalactite that is purely decorative!  Do NOT grab or stem it; it will likely break!   As a precaution, position your belayer and rope well left of the drop zone.

Routes Established by:

  • George Bracksiek GB 1995
  • Jeff “Mort” Elison JE 1995,1996,1997
  • Lizz Grenard LG 1995,1996,1997
  • Skip Harper SH 1994,1995,1996,1997
  • Craig Luebben CL 1995
  • Dave Newton DN 1996
  • Jonny Woodward JW 1996
  • John Young JY 1997
  • Susan Bolton SB 1998
  • Al Pacifico AP 1998
  • Eric Hirst EH 1998, 2000, 2001
  • Vance White VW 2000, 2011
  • Simone Brisson SRB 2001
  • Mike Snyder MS 2011
  • John Byrnes JB 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
  • Sam Kabota SK 2013
  • Jeff Achey JA 2013, 2014