Puerto Rico has lots of sport climbing routes to explore. Considering our climbing experience in this Caribbean island, the United States and many other countries in the last twenty years, we find that Puerto Rico’s crags have attractive amenities for climbers around the world. We make reference to the previous article published by ecotreasures, titled “Sport Climbing in the Island of Puerto Rico”.
Climbers may be captivated by a particular cliff on a conical hill rising over 2,000 feet (610 meters) above sea level in the Municipality of Salinas, just miles away from the Caribbean Sea. Due to the efforts started by longtime climber and Aventuras Tierra Adentro’s owner and climbing instructor, Rossano Boscarino, as well as other route developers who apply sport climbing standards similar to Rossano’s, currently this crag has over twenty-five well protected sport climbing routes with grades ranging from 5.9 to 5.12a.
The last time we climbed on this hill in Salinas was 15 years ago. Thus, we decided to re-explore this spot along with Rossano.++
As in any other extreme sport, preparation and safety are paramount to promote a fun and challenging climbing experience. Hence, before the day of the climb Rossano and Edda Jiménez, Aventuras Tierra Adentro’s Manager, interviewed us about our previous climbing experience, current climbing grade and climbing equipment. Based on the interview, Rossano determined that the best course of action was to climb a 350-foot-multi-pitch route comprised of the easiest sections of three adjacent routes, with grades ranging between 5.9 and 5.10a.
In the day of the adventure, we met Rossano at Aventuras Tierra Adentro’s premises early in the morning. After a 35-minute drive towards the south of the island, we arrived at a designated parking spot close to the base of the crag. From there, a 15-minute hike through the dense forest would lead us to the routes. Before starting the hike, Rossano and us did a checkup of the ropes, harnesses, climbing hardware and first aid kits to ensure that all the proper equipment were in good condition.
During the short hike, we were amazed at how different the forest was from what we remembered. Secondary succession plants, remnants of a past agricultural phase in the area, were transforming into a more mature forest species. Moreover, the trails were clearly marked and in good conditions making it easy to hike towards the crag even with heavy gear on our backs.
Then we hit the wall, towering over 400 feet in front of us and still standing out all its basaltic glory—a testament to millions of years of history of a place where once stood the seafloor and underwater layers of volcanic rock.
Since it was the first time we climbed with Rossano, we sent a short single-pitch route (5.9) as a practice to warm up as well as to review all the commands, lead climber and belayer coordination and other measures to resolve technical issues, among others, proper for a multi-pitch route. The route was solid, well equipped and fun to climb.
As we approached the 5-pitch route, we noticed how the climbing areas are well kept and have enough space for safe belaying while immersed under the forest canopy.
Finally, we were ready for the multi-pitch route. Pitches 1 and 2 of the route were relatively easy, and the views along the way were breathtaking. Rossano led smoothly all the way up. As we arrived at the top of pitch 2, we were taken aback by the views. From that point onwards, we were able to see a subtropical moist forest and a nearby subtropical dry forest covering a significant portion of the south shore of the island. A bit further south, the vast Caribbean Sea and its plethora of blues were prominent.
Pitches 3 and 4 were a little bit harder than the previous ones, but easily manageable by an intermediate climber. Pitch 5 led all the way to the top of the route, just below the trees and shrubs that crown that part of the hill.
Right before it was time to rappel back to the ground, we took a short break, sat on a ledge close to the fourth reunion anchor point and enjoyed a homemade chocolate cake baked by Edda. Being a highly accomplished climber with those baking skills, we have no doubt she could be an awesome grandma one day.
The way down was split in two rappels that led straight to our starting point on pitch 1. It took us about three hours to complete the whole journey up the route and safely back to the ground, including the vista gaze and break time.
The whole experience was revealing, especially after so many years since our last visit. We rediscovered the hidden treasure that the visited climbing area represents. Without a doubt, it is a venue worth to visit as the quality of the routes, the trails, the environment and the surrounding beauty compares to any other climbing venues we have been around the world so far.
Also, climbing with Rossano, who has been engaged in the sport around three decades, was like climbing with an old friend even though we met recently—a camaraderie not uncommon amongst climbers around the world. Climbing with someone with vast technical knowledge and concern for the preservation of the routes, in such a beautiful natural area resulted in much more than just climbing and, in a sense, was enlightening.
Most importantly, we remembered why we love to climb in the first place— the combination of a zen-like meditation in motion experience with the exhilaration of pushing yourself to the limit while becoming one with nurturing and nourishing Mother Nature.
+ As in other ecotreasures stories, N. Michelle Rodríguez Amadeo, ecotreasures Editor, modified the original version of the story submitted by the climber-writer, Iván Aponte González, for editorial purposes. Ms. Rodríguez also collaborated for the article’s writing in order to include information besides the writer’s climbing experience.
++ Aventuras Tierra Adentro does not normally provide rock climbing guide services. Usually, at your request, inquiries for such services are forwarded by this business to other specific sport climbing guides in the island. However, you may contact Aventuras Tierra Adentro for information about the sport climbing routes it promotes, or to schedule rock climbing courses (Rope & Rescue School).
Note: Climbers engage in rock climbing at their own risk and are responsible to take the necessary measures to access the spots, subject to availability, and to choose the route according to their climbing skills and knowledge. Rock climbing is a risky sport that may result in serious injury or may be fatal. The information included in this article is based on the climber-writer’s perspective, among other factors. Do not depend on the information provided herein for your safety. Make your own assessment based on your own experience, perspective and skills.