Climbing on Cayman Brac

This weekend I’m off to Cayman Brac in the British West Indies for a climbing trip. I visited the island last year and never thought I’d go back, so can’t quite believe I’ve made this happen. If things go according to plan ( and so far they haven’t what with spraining my ankle a month ago!) a feature should appear in a climbing magazine over the winter.

The island is interesting as it’s the only one of the Cayman’s that isn’t totally flat. Hardly any Brits have heard of the climbing there as the ministry of tourism don’t really want to promote it. But a small community of American climbers have houses there and visit most years to climb and bolt more routes.

Most famous for its diving, the island has not attracted many tourists lately either, since Hurriance Paloma hit in 2008.

Here’s a bit more about the climbing:

There are 4 main places to climb on the Brac. Spot Bay on the north east end,  North Wall, East Wall and South Side. Some of the best climbing is in the east end which has 7 bolted areas. The best sites are below the lighthouse and to get to them you’ve got to abseil down the side of the Bluff to just above the reefs, then climb back up the sheer walls.

The climbing sites have names such as Wave Wall, where
you begin at the base of the wall and climb straight up the overhanging bluff. In Spot Bay there is a site called Dixon’s Wall, which you can reach by cutting through Mr. Dixon’s back yard.

In November of 2000, a small team of climbers blitzed the Bluff with new titanium bolts, that have been specifically designed for marine environments. There are now over 70 bolted routes in grades ranging from 5+ to 7+.  Most faces are vertical to overhanging, made up of finger pockets, stalactites and flowstone. It’s generally smooth where the climbing is found, but sharper elsewhere.

Many of the climbers who set up routes on the Bluff have homes on the island and visit several times a year.  John Byrnes, the part owner of Bluff View House, a small guest cottage for rock climbers on the south east coast, has route maps and static ropes for abseiling so you don’t have to bring your own.

The best time to go climbing on the Brac is from January through March. Water temperatures range from 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit and it is warm and dry (the rainy season is in the summer. ) So with water is warm enough to dive and rock dry enough to climb.

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