I recently visited the island of Puerto Rico with my brother Zach for two weeks in March 2015. This wasn't a spur of the moment trip to get tan and climb rocks, I have been trying to plan a trip to visit the local climbers for two years now. I wanted to check out what this Caribbean Island offered that is so close to where I live (4 hour direct flight on Jetblue without a passport to be exact). Checking out the articles “Rock & Ice” and “DPM” have put together from previous climbers/journalists, I kept getting more psyched to get down there and climb, but to do what I love the most, explore and find more.
Bryant Huffman is a name and face that any local climber and musician in Puerto Rico should know. This dude, is the dude. Bryant is one of fearless leaders, developers and climbers that work hard to grow climbing and make it accessible to any level climber. The island climbing crew is a very inspiring, motivated crew to explore, climb and chill with. From the beginner without climbing gear to the experienced bouldering and sport climbers, Puerto Rico offers it all because of these manly island men.
I wont take you day-by-day though the trip, but I do have to start with one story….
Bryant picked up my brother Zach and I at the airport around 9pm the day we arrived. We hopped in his (old and maybe sketchy looking) van and sped off to get some food and chill. While driving along the highway (Zach sitting on a milk crate between the two of us) Bryant was telling us about his main car that just broke down and why we are in the free candy van. Going about 55 mph and we heard a loud noise that sounded like we hit a pot hole… but we were leaning to the left and the noise still continued. I look up to see our tire rolling past us as we grind along the highway on 3 wheels. Hollywood stunt driver Bryant somehow pulled over enough and we stopped; we all looked and decided it was time to laugh and try to get a handle on what just happened.
"Welcome to Puerto Rico boys"!
For the first few days we climbed in a area 20 min South East from San Juan called “Bayamon”. This area has it all; single pitch sport climbing, tech blocs and some roof blocs with massive stalactites through out some of the caves. We climbed some established lines and then added 3 new lines to the area.
The beach town of Yabucoa is in the southeast corner of the island. When you drive into Yabucoa there are green hills towering over the white beaches. Up in the hills you’ll see the massive granite blocs that need love and want your skin. On the sides of the open green boulder fields is the deep jungle. We call one of the areas “the underworld” because under the jungle canopy are boulders, and under the boulders are more and more boulders. It’s a scary hike at first, no trails, with vines and thorns everywhere and under you; are deep caves and future problems. It’s scary but super fun to know that you could be walking on top of the next line. You might think it would be dark under the canopy but the light shines in and shows off the granite towers and caves. Bryant and Jean showed us a few lines they developed and also a few projects. Here are some of the gems:
The Chewawa bloc
It was sitting along a steep dirt road covered by 5’ of tall grass and thorns. We thought we saw a line through the grass and started to cut into it. We found a few potential lines but didn’t know it was going to become my favorite problem so far in Yabucoa. It’s on beautiful textured granite with a V8/9 stand start and a hard 3 move SDS addition to make it V10/11
The Iguana bloc
Is another giant bloc we found during out stay. It holds 6 quality granite problems with some interesting sequences. Some sequences have very bad to no feet like the one below called “Yoga Skank-asorus” (V9) , a low sit start to Jean’s 5 star “Yogo Skank” (V5).
To the left of "Yoga Skank" (Same starting hold/ledge) is the hardest line on the bloc called "Moon walk" V10/11 FA by Josh Larson. It was at first a easy looking line, then we cleaned the wall and found a lack of feet (again) and a crack that did not offer any grippers! So I worked out all the possible sequences and finally found the beta. A tall person might have an easier time with the move after the right hand cross (pictured below) but still hard to get into the cross position. I love this boulder problem. When I return, i'll probably have to climb this one again!
The Slide Bloc
This boulder is massive and can be seen from the main road in Yabucoa. In the picture below it is in the field on the top left. Bryant and Jean showed us a tall line that nearly went to the top of this 30' bloc. With it being so tall, I decided I better rap down and clean and chalk the line. A very tall, technical line presented itself with a easy yet scary top out. Called "The Slide" V7 (FA by Josh Larson). Directly to the right of the slide is still a project that was almost sent by my bro Zach and sits around the grade of V6/7. They both share the same, slaby finish.
This was another sector in the south of the island that the local crew took us to. The blocs are along a hill side....from hell. Steep, sunny and covered in unfriendly bushes. Like Bryant said in our Puerto Rico teaser "Ya gotta really want tah boulder to pass trew-dis sh*t". There is a project at the top of the hill that has a really hard, weird dyno off a sloppy edge to a flat edge. At first it didn't look hard, then after a few hours of not sticking the dyno, we left. It's hard, awkward hard but in a good way. The hill side offered many other blocs, some Bryant, Jean and the crew have already established lines on. I was able to add a low start to a compression rig call "Moncho" V8 and it added a grade or two and it's called "Super Moncho" V9/10.
With a big, HUGE THANKS to the locals in Puerto Rico for hosting us, touring us around and getting me motivated to grow out my hair, be chill and move to Puerto Rico. Thank you Bryant, Valeria and Jean!
Video series of the trip will be releasing shortly. For now check out the PR teaser over here!
Some more photos you can scan through