Cayman Brac is well known for its spectacular wall diving but lately it is also developing a reputation for some of the world's most exotic rock climbing. The 140 foot bluffs of the island provide dramatic vistas and challenging climbs from 5.8 to 5.12.
There are seven areas on the island which have been bolted. These areas are all around the east end of the bluff and getting to these climbing sites is almost as much fun as the climb itself.
The most spectacular sites are located below the lighthouse at the far end of the island. Climbers must rappel down the side of the bluff to just above the turquoise reefs below, then climb back up the sheer walls. Some special techniques are required to do this safely. If you are new to the area you should ask one of the local guides about it before attempting these terrific climbs.
Another great site, called Wave Wall (for a good reason I might add), is located on the south side of the island. A good 20 minute hike along the face of the bluff is required to get to the start of this awesome climb. The hike can be a bit wet if the tide is high and the seas are rough. The climbing routes begin at the base of the wall and climb straight up the overhanging bluff. Along the way, you can see outcroppings of Cayman's famous semi-precious stone called caymanite. The view out to sea from this wall climb is out of this world.
Another unique climbing area is in Spot Bay and is called Dixon's Wall. The starting point can be reached, with permission, by cutting through Mr. Dixon's back yard. Make sure you spend a few minutes talking to this interesting gentleman. He is a wealth of information about the Brac and its history. The trail, leading from his house, puts you at the base of the north face of the bluff and the climbs here offer great views of Spot Bay and the north wall of Cayman Brac.
A number of world renowned climbers have built homes on the Brac. Two such people are Liz Grenard and John Byrnes. Liz, who put up many of the climbing routes on the island, and John owns Bluff View House where many visiting climbers relax for their vacation. Both of them are great resources for finding out more about the climbs. John and Liz both live in the US and visit Brac quite often. John can be contacted via email at email@example.com or by phone at 970-493-5801.
No gear is required at any of the walls except quickdraws. The lighthouse run will require a rappelling rope in addition to your belay rope (165 ft is good). You will also need a way to climb the rope if you can't make the climb (ascender, prussik etc). Sturdy shoes are a good idea for the hike in. The trails are along ironshore so you can twist an ankle pretty easily if you're not careful. Bring a camera with you. The views are awesome and you will want to share them with your friends.
At present, there are over 70 bolted routes but that number is always growing. Difficulty tends to be high and varies from 5.8 to 5.12d, but there's potential for routes in the 5.14 range. The climbs are definitely aimed at the more advanced levels. Route maps are available at "Bluff View House". A search through some old Rock and Ice magazines (Oct 95 & Dec 97 issues) will also provide articles and maps on climbing in the Brac.
The diving still remains Cayman Brac's biggest attraction but if you are a climber or better yet a climber and a diver then you can't find a better vacation spot to try.
..... Ian Stewart lives part-time on the Brac. He is an accomplished videographer, diver, underwater photographer and climber. He can be reached by eMail at firstname.lastname@example.org.