A classic sunset shot on Cayman Brac.
We step out of the tiny Cayman Brac airport and find ourselves in a new and mysterious world. The air is heavy and the wind sharp, though soft and does not sting like the desert winds we had come from. The aroma of salty ocean fills the air. We drive our rental car on the wrong side (if you’re from the US) of the road through the darkness, and I can barely make out limestone cliffs through the breaks in the densely vegetated roadside. Palm trees sway as their leaves filter the strong wind, their sound blends with thunderous waves pounding the shoreline. Soon we arrive at the Bluff View, the place we call home for the next week, and retire. We sleep little as anticipation and sounds outside our window stir our dreams.
Awaking to early morning dawn, we rise excited to explore the mystery that was clouded by the darkness the night before. The island paradise transforms as the sun ascends above the deep blue Caribbean Ocean. We walk along pink coral and shell strewn beaches exploring sharp gray ironstone and looking into tidal pools filled with small creatures. For the next week time slows, nearing irrelevance. The days are filled with walks on the beach, solitude, wind, waves, amazing sunrises and sunsets, climbing, snorkeling, caving, dining, relaxing, and hanging out with friends.
Cayman Brac (Brac=bluff in Gaelic) is one of the most beautiful areas I have ever been lucky enough to clip bolts. The climbing exists on a bluff that runs west to east, with large limestone cliffs rising up to about 150 feet in height on the northeast end of the island. The island has all you might expect for limestone sport climbing: steep and juggy overhangs to vertical and technical rock, stalactites and flowstone, sometimes sharp, or sometimes smooth and slick, and pockets and jugs. If you are looking for solitude, this is your place. If you are looking for lines to wait in to get onto climbs, go elsewhere. There are several developed crags on the island with 47 climbable routes, with grades range from 5.7 To 5.12+. Most of the climbing ranges from 5.10 to 5.12. Experienced climbers will enjoy this area more than beginners, as there are few climbs in the easier range. The few that do exist at this grade, however, are quite good.
BOLT WARNING: Many climbs are equipped with standard stainless steel bolts and hangers. In the marine environment, these older bolts corrode quickly. Climbs with these old bolts are dangerous and have resulted in serious injury. DON'T EVER CLIMB THESE ROUTES! 47 of the 77 routes on the island have been equipped with newer, corrosion resistant Titanium Tortuga glue in bolts (www.libertymountainclimbing.com). In the future, more will have these newer, safer bolts. Routes chosen to be re-bolted were the highest quality routes (stars) of each grade at each area. Although you may see some non-rebolted routes discussed on this site and in other guides, they are mostly included to assist in finding other routes.
GEAR: There is no place to purchase climbing gear on the island, so everything will have to be brought with you. If you stay at the Bluff View House you will have static ropes and a clip stick, just bring a squid or something similar to clip the bolts. A rack of 20 quickdraws will get you up any route on the island (the longest route requires 19). Some slings for some of the wandering routes at The Point may also be helpful. Take something to ascend with (i.e. prussic or Tiblock) when climbing at the point. All gear should be washed when you return home to get rid of the salt. Because of the sharp rock you will walk over during the approaches, sturdy hiking shoes and gloves recommended.
To prevent becoming fried by the intense Caribbean sun, climb in the shade! Info included below to help plan your day accordingly.
Love Shack Wall: Just a three minute walk from the Bluff View house. Warm up on 5.11d/.12a. Shade @ 3:00 or 3:30 in March.
Orange Cave: A great way to spend an afternoon and to get used to the stone on the brac. This area offers climbing from 5.7 to 5.11a, and includes one of the steepest 5.10s anywhere! Shade @ 2:00 in March.
The Wave Wall: With routes graded from 5.8 to 5.12, and the greatest concentration being in the 5.10 range, this crag offers a high concentration of moderates. Unfortunately, it can only be accessed during calm seas, a luxury we were not afforded on our trip. Shade @ 2:30 in February.
Edd's Place: Only 3 routes here (and only two with Titanium bolts), and only accessible during calm seas. Shade @ 2:00 in February.
The Northeast Point: Adventurous climbing ascending with nothing but water and air below you. Many routes here from 5.9 to 5.12. Shade all day in February, the top of the routes get sun by mid March.
Neptune's Lair: Though only a few climbs here, the beauty of the area makes the 25 minute walk well worth it. If you continue just a little further beyond the crag, Neptune’s Cave is well worth exploring. Shade most of the day, with evening sun in March.
Dixon's Wall: This area is home of the best rock and the best routes on the Island. Though only 4 (5.11) with titanium bolts, thee of them are four star routes. Please ask permission before passing through the Dixon’s property. Shade all day.
In the center of the Caribbean, 450 miles to the south of Miami, Florida, and 150 miles south of Cuba are the Cayman Islands. Cayman Brac is the easternmost island of the Caymans, 85 miles northeast of Grand Cayaman, and 5 miles east of Little Cayaman.
Many of the major airlines offer service to Cayman Brac (i.e. American, United, Cayman Airways). A visit to your favorite online booking agent (i.e. Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz, etc.) will lead the way. In some cases (as in ours when traveling from Albuquerque, NM), these sites mix different airlines and come to a price more expensive than you will come up with if mixing airlines on your own. For example, we traveled from Albuquerque to Tampa on Southwest, then to Grand Cayman and finally Cayman Brac by purchasing a separate flight on Cayman Airlines. Doing this was less expensive than the prices any of the online agents came up with.
On the South side of the island there are many houses available for tourists to stay. However, for climbers, I would recommend contacting John Byrnes (email@example.com) to see if the Bluff View climber’s house is available. Staying here will ensure you don’t have to bring static ropes, which are helpful for rappelling into the climbs at The Point. He also has stick clips available (which may be difficult to travel with), which you will most certainly want to use on some of the climbs.
oldskipharper (see comment below) suggests "many alternative places to stay on the island. One of the best is La Esperanza, www.laesperanza.net , on the North Side. It's actually very convenient to all routes on the island, not just the South side. It is a 50's style 'motel' and/or 'houses', has a bar, restaurant, grocery and car rental. Owned by a very friendly local Bussy Dilbert, it is usually calm and quiet during the week, but on Friday and Saturday nights, they 'jerk chicken Cayman style, locals hang out and party - many times (depending) with live music. A superb place to relax, catch an incredible Cayman sunset and enjoy the 'local color'.
Two additional websites are good resources for a variety of accommodations and more detail about 'The Brac'": www.itsyourstoexplore.com
Climate and When to go
The Cayman Islands have two seasons: winter, from November to April, and summer, from May to October (which is also the rainy season). Rainfall tends to come in short bursts of heavy showers, and rock quickly dries as the sun returns. The water temperatures range from 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and from 82 to 86 in the summer. Cayman brac is hotter and drier than Grand Cayman, with the dry season during the winter. June through October is hurricane season. The most ideal weather conditions tend to occur from January through March.
- The ONLY climbing guide that is kept current is at John Byrnes website: www.climbcaymanbrac.com/
- Larry Hamilton's Trip Report: pubpages.unh.edu/~lch/Cayman_Brac.htm
- Information about many of the islands attractions can be found here: www.caymanbrac.com/
Adventuring On Cayman Brac: A Guide to Great Adventures on this Small Caribbean Gem.
By: Skip Harper
Heel and Toe Publishers, 2002
A great guide to get you acquainted with the Island. Gives great information on history of the island, scuba, snorkeling, climbing, hiking, caving, running, fishing, and other activities.
The author has a website on the brac here: www.jharp.net/cayman_brac.htm
Browse More Classics in Cayman Brac
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Cayman Brac:
Featured Route For Cayman Brac
The Bluff View climbers house, owned and operated ...
And this is just after five minutes of walking aro...
Dean playing around on a palm tree.
Some of the creatures on the island.
There are many caves around the island to explore ...
BETA PHOTO: Old stainless steel bolts carode easily in the sea...
BETA PHOTO: The newer titanium glue in bolts are far more caro...
The island has excellent snorkeling with clear wat...
BEWARE of the iron shore! This is what happens wh...
looking towards wave wall
yes, the water is this blue.
yet another beautiful cayman brac sunset
Bussey's place, La Esperanza, with "Bob" the cat c...
Approach to Wave Wall during low seas and low tide...
For climbers who dive, there is expansive underwat...
|By Rob Kepley|
Jun 14, 2009
If you're looking for a place that feels like the "ends of the earth" then go to Brac. I mean that in a good way of course. This is the most laid back place I have ever been in my entire life. If you're looking for tourist type, night life then stay away. However, if you just want to unwind, relax and re-charge then go. Brac is a magical place you will never forget, ever.
|By Skip Harper|
Mar 16, 2010
Nice write up Anthony. Sorry you missed Wave Wall. It easily rivals Dixon's wall for user friendly stone and superb routes. While 'Rob' caught a dowsing and turned back, it's well worth heading there during a receding tide.
There are many alternative places to stay on the island. One of the best is La Esperanza, www.laesperanza.net , on the North Side. It's actually very convenient to all routes on the island, not just the South side. It is a 50's style 'motel' and/or 'houses', has a bar, restaurant, grocery and car rental. Owned by a very friendly local Bussy Dilbert, it is usually calm and quiet during the week, but on Friday and Saturday nights, they 'jerk chicken Cayman style, locals hang out and party - many times (depending) with live music. A superb place to relax, catch an incredible Cayman sunset and enjoy the 'local color'.
Two additional websites are good resources for a variety of accommodations and more detail about 'The Brac': www.itsyourstoexplore.com and www.gotocayman.com .
|By Anthony Stout|
From: Albuquerque, NM
Mar 25, 2010
Thanks Skip! And thank you for the awesome guide book. It was great to have it, and also helped a great deal for this page write up. Greatly appreciated.
The approach to the wave wall was being POUNDED when we were there! We were really bummed out not to have the opportunity to go there. We checked every day, and still the waves were coming. And we most certainly did NOT want to end up like Rob. God that looks terrible.
|By Joe Cayer|
From: Mesa, Az
Aug 23, 2012
I was just wondering if anyone had any additional information on Cayman Brac. My fiance and are are scheduled to honeymoon there from Dec. 2nd - 11th and will be staying at the Carib Sands Beach Resort.
Any current info on the island would be greatly appreciated. We are planning to dive, climb and whatever else sounds like a fun adventure...
|By Vance White|
Oct 16, 2012
take a look at this:
John Byrnes is an active climber and spends months on the island each year. He also rents out rooms. He leads the charge each year with retro bolting efforts as well.