The Bluff View Guide to Climbing on Cayman Brac
April 2015 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. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“So maybe there’s not that many routes on the island, but when the quality of the routes is so high…” -Yann L
There are now a total of 85 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 5.13 range. The rock is mostly clean pocketed limestone but Spot Bay is rich in stalactites and tufas.
I’ve used a four-star rating system to give visiting climbers a rough idea of a route’s quality. As they do anywhere, conditions vary. One day conditions will be good and a route will feel easy at its given grade; another day that’s hot and humid, 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, the inside of caves are usually greasy and grimy, climb on the outside edges.
There is no climbing shop on the island, so bring everything you’ll want, especially extra chalk. You might want to bring some comfy climbing shoes for the Point. 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. Leaving your old rope for others to use is appreciated and leaves room in your baggage for souvenirs. Ascending devices (prussik, Tibloc, Ropeman) must be taken on all routes at the Point.
All routes are fully bolted and the longest route requires 19 quickdraws. Six to eight shoulder-length slings with biners will be useful.
Due to hard starts and bad landings, a stick-clip is essential 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”. Otherwise 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 gloves to protect your feet and hands for the approaches and while belaying. Wearing sandals and then being dragged across sharp rock when you catch a fall isn’t recommended. The approaches have all manners of cactus, yucca, thorns and sharp rock.
Don’t be put off 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.
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 unusual) you can take it home for a souvenir.
Titanium bolts were developed specifically for Cayman Brac and are now being used in many other places around the world. After 15 years the bolts show absolutely no signs of corrosion or wear, and have been fallen on many times. We expect them to provide safe climbing for centuries to come. A Ti in the route description means it has titanium bolts. As of 2015 we are using two types of titanium bolts:
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 hacksaw! All 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.
This 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 over the water requiring rappel access are referenced right-to-left, while looking towards the water.
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 and steep white rock. It’s a three-minute walk West from Bluff View. Shade about 4pm in March, noon by May. Routes listed left to right. A stick-clip is recommended.
**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 2011
***Cayman Nights Ti, 12c 6 bolts + anchor. Powerful dynamic moves on perfect rock. MS 2011
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 4pm in March. 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. These routes would all have four stars if they were longer!
***Betelgeuse Ti, 9+ 7 bolts + anchor. (a.k.a Not so Sirius) Stem, bridge and mantel to the top of the dihedral, get your left hand into a jug pocket then 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, 11d/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. The big flake is solid. JB 2011
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.
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. Obviously, you should stick-clip the first bolt. CL
**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. Starts right of the cave. Find a good sequence for the start and it’s 5.8. SH
*Boy Georange Ti, 8d 5 bolts + anchor. Was that a Karma Chameleon? Stick clip #1. Better than it looks with a tricky 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
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 steep fun. A double-draw in the cave will prevent rope drag and cross-loading the biner. MS & JB 2011
Sector Orange Streak
*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 and stem 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. Some people love this route, others not so much. The white holds in white rock are hard to find, and chalk doesn’t help. The route jukes and weaves, with some spicy sections, so both you and your belayer need to be alert! And yes, there IS a clipping hold at the anchor. JB 2012
Sector Sea Horse
This new sector (2014) is located just past the “Sea Horse,” a 40-foot freestanding tower. Hike past First Cay (photo) to the bottom of the Seahorse. Scramble up left of the Sea Horse and pass above it if the low-passage is being slammed by waves, or pass below it and then up. The first climbs are directly above the point where the approach options converge; about 15 minutes. The first two routes start on a small terrace left of an orange undercut section of wall that contains a multi-tiered cave system.
**Bananaquit Ti, 7 11 bolts + anchor. Although a lot of work was done on this route in 2015, the bottom section is still a bit sharp. 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, 11b/c 12? bolts + anchor. Start 10′ right of Bananaquit and scramble up (5.1) to the first bolt. Work through the sharp grey section to good stone above. Mantle onto the ledge about 3′ right of the bolt. The climbing is continuously interesting as it wanders left and right across the bolt line, getting steeper all the time, and finishes on an exposed prow. Tremendous position! 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 spongy gray rock (terrifying), up pockets, then out an overhanging wall. JA 2014
THE WAVE WALL
The Wave Wall is 15 minutes of scrambling past the Seahorse (30 minutes total) and offers a wide variety of long, high quality routes. It goes into the shade about 2pm in March.. Unfortunately, it is only approachable during calm seas. Boots and gloves recommended for this approach. Since carrying a stick on this approach is difficult, the first bolt will be reachable from a good stance.
Park as for Orange Cave and hike east to First Cay (photo above). Pass above it, then below the Seahorse pinnacle. 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 (cairns) 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 dangerous! When the sea is calm, walk low to the last large shelf (~100m) and it’s 2nd class. Moderate seas, stay halfway up the slope: 3rd class. Big seas, stay high on the white rock: 5th class! Routes listed left to right.
**The Huckster Ti, 12c/d 6 bolts + anchor + belay bolt. The first route you come to starts about 50′ past the stalactite pillar (photo above) 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
****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. Bring small fingers. 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 solid 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. Locals were fishing while I was bolting this route. I thought they were crazy, dodging big waves in bare feet on sharp rock. They thought I was crazy hanging from a rope all day. We bought a dozen fish from them. 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 sharp.) This route is loaded with fossils and caymanite. A new-style titanium anchor is at the top: thread both the fat ring and backup bolt. 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. An extension to Reef on This / Parrot Preserves will get you to the top of the bluff and within 25 minutes of Spiral Staircase. 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. In an emergency (big waves) climb this route to the top of the bluff. Then walk away from the edge, on a 40 degree angle to the right and about 200m to a road. Turn left on the road, and walk about a mile to the Lighthouse Rd. Go left again to a round house, or follow Peter’s Road down to Spot Bay. EH 2000
**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 2000
(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, 10d/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
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
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 is 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)
The rappels present unusual challenges for many climbers, especially since most of them overhang and you’ll be rappelling on a single rope.
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 (use slings) on the top of the bluff. 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.
Tie a figure-8 on a bight (below the hose) 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 down-climb to the anchor.
Clip two quickdraws to the anchor 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.
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. (Shit, 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 clip the end of the rap line into the anchor too. It’s very important to maintain control of the end of rap line. The second person unclips the rap rope from the draws as they descend and may end up free-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. Not only will it end up in the sea and get hung-up on everything below you, 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.
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:
- Am I safe? Double check your rap setup, anchors and harness.
- Am I taking everything I want? Such as the lead rope, draws, ascenders, camera and chalk bag.
- Am I leaving everything I don’t want? Such as sunglasses and hat (you’ll be in the shade). If I’ll be leading, I stuff my hat and glasses into a convenient hole so I can put them 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. Since it’s often difficult to hear each other, the leader can pull up the rap rope as an unmistakeable ”Off Belay” signal. 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.
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
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). 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. In 2014 a new road was cut on top of the bluff that, if you drive, puts you within a 15 minute walk to the top of Spiral Staircase. But a gate has been installed about 200m from the Lighthouse road. This gate is locked on weekends and (apparently) at 5:30pm weekdays, and you don’t want to get your car locked in. I’m investigating simplifying this approach but for now, here’s the beta.
Take the Lighthouse Road to Peters Road which previously only went left (north). Note your odometer reading and turn right onto the new gravel road on the right. Drive to the gate, about 200m.
Driving directions: if the gate is open, drive in and see if you can find a person who can tell you if/when the gate will be locked. They are herding goats, so you may need to find the shepherd. Ask them what the situation is, then choose accordingly. If you can be gone by the time they lock the gate, or they trust you to lock it after you leave (ask!), you’re good to go. Continue driving, 2.0km (1.24 miles) from the Lighthouse road, to the second pull-out on the right and park.
Walking directions: Park outside the gate and start walking passing cisterns, many wild papaya and mango trees, a banana plantation and goat pens. Stay on the main way, to the second pull-out on the right. The road dead ends about 300m past the pull-out.
Common directions: From the second (last) pull-out, you can see the cairn at Spiral Staircase but it is practically impossible to walk directly at it due to very thick vegetation. So walk further down the road about 100m. Turn right off the road and head for the cliff edge angling right. Spiral Staircase is between some large bushes that grow right on the edge of the bluff and there’s a large cairn and a yellow tag (2014). Boots and gloves are recommended. Shade about 1:00 in March.
(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. Girth-hitch (lark’s-foot) slings to the bolts instead of draws so you don’t cross-load the biners. 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 with a spiral staircase, or crank straight up at the bolt (mid-5.10). JE
****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.
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
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
**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
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
***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
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 also when it was so slippery it was almost unclimbable. YMMV!
***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
***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
Take the North Road to the little town of Spot Bay. On the left is the Creek and Spot Bay Junior School, 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 mostly 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.
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. Morning shade until about 3pm in March.
This buttress has the only access issue on the island. Ernie, who lives in the last house on the left (opposite the chicken coops), will come out and yell at you. He will tell you Neptune’s Way is a private road but it’s a public road. He will say you’re on his property but you’re not. The cliff itself and the land adjacent to it is Crown Land, which is public. The land immediately next to the buttress is not his either, and we have permission to cross it. He’s put up “No Tresspassing” and “Keep Out” signs, but they are not on his property and he has no right to do so (this may be fixed soon). He has no right at all to keep you from climbing.
Basically, he yells at you and makes it unpleasant to be there, hoping you’ll go away. He threatened to call the police on me, and I invited him to do so, that shut him up for a full minute. He has a history with the police, and it’s not a good one.
My recommendation: See if there’s a vehicle parked at his house. If there is, you’ll probably find it more pleasant to climb somewhere else. If there’s no vehicle, go ahead and climb, and be assured there’s nothing illegal or wrong with you being there.
Go right behind the boulder to find, left to right:
*Hand Me The Can of Tuna, Boy Ti, vhard 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 four-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
This wall is loaded with tufas, stalactites (be gentle) and pockets. All routes have hard starts and high first bolts (stick clip), and a belayer’s bolt. Clip the rope to the belayer’s bolt to keep you and your belayer from a hard meeting should you fall before clipping bolt #2. After clipping #2, the belayer can unclip the rope and move out to watch.
From the school parking lot, walk or drive east on the road about 5 houses past Berg’s house. Turn right down a paved lane which is opposite the Cayman Catboat Marine Heritage sign. Pass a cream colored house, #154, on your way to the end of the lane. If you’re driving, you can park here. Follow a faint path straight back to the wall, turn left for the Tufa routes, right for Iguana.
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 to reach the Iguana wall. About 5 minutes. An easier 2 minute walk from Pinky’s Buttress.
These three routes are on the far left end of the wall, described left to right.
***Larry the Lime Lizard Ti, 11d 5 bolts + anchor + 1. Hard climbing at the start and middle (reaches) leads to a rest. Then climb good holds to the anchor. JB new 2015
***Tufa One Ti, 11c 5 bolts + anchor + 1. A hard, sequential boulder problem leads to a good pocket and jug-tufa. Go hard left at #3, pull the bulge on good holds, then climb back right to the line. (Or climb straight up on tiny crimps and tell me what you rate it!) Fun, steep finish. JB new 2015
***Tufa Two Ti, 12a 6 bolts + anchor + 1. Same start as Tufa One. Crank the boulder problem, clip (rightmost) bolt #2, then traverse right below it. Powerful pinching gains a rest below the bulge. Pull the bulge, right or left, and finish on hero holds. JB new 2015
****Iguana without a G Ti, 12a 9 bolts + anchor + 1. Starts just right of an obvious rock shelf. Right knee pad. Powerful dynamic moves between great holds. JB 2013
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.
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.
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. Don’t wander too far right; there’s an old barbed-wire fence hiding in the weeds. The trail ends at Lizzard the Gizzard, where a red bulls-eye is painted on the rock. Routes described from left to right when facing the cliff.
****The End Justifies the Knees Ti, 10a/b 8 bolts + anchor. Starts at a post set in concrete that marks the property line. Tufa and stalactite climbing on a moderate route! Climb pockets and edges, clip #4, then sneak right below it. Pass #5 on the right (long draw), then go left on good edges. Continue leftward and up on columns, stalactites and tufas. As always, be gentle with the free-hanging stalactites. JB new 2015
***OMG! Ti, 10a 8 bolts + anchor. Start 20′ right of the property line post on pockets in orange rock. Crank the pockets and edges and pass the small cave using OMG-holds so good they made me LOL. Continue up the dihedral. JB new 2015
**Rodeo Lover Ti, 10c 1 bolt + anchor. The extension of OMG! Check your spurs and hold on tight for this 8-second ride. JB new 2015
*Wait! Wait! Stop The Bus! Ti, 11d 8 bolts + anchor. (Overheard as the school bus pulled away.) Starts off a flat boulder. A difficult boulder problem (V3) on small pockets right off the deck means stick clipping #2 is a good idea. Pulling up to #2 and then climbing is a nice 10+. SK 2013
****Lizzard the Gizzard Ti, 11d/12a 10 bolts + anchor. Stick-clip the first bolt and boulder straight up, or climb in from the left. Fun pocket pulling leads to several powerful (and baffling considering all the chalk) sequences in the overhanging headwall. 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. JE & LG
****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 then 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
****Buffalo Soldier Ti, Tag, 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
***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
****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, 2015
- Sam Kabota SK 2013
- Jeff Achey JA 2013, 2014