PitchFest 1: Gaz in Jamaica

Gareth Leah Dec 6th 2023
  • Gaz in Jamaica
  • Photo by Well Good Media

I’ve always been curious. Curious of people, places, traditions, and outlooks. It is here that I am most easily able to see the beauty of life, its differences and similarities. In my spare time, I use my curiosity as a compass to help direct me to my next adventure - which on this occasion, was the tropical paradise of Jamaica.

  • Bird's eye view of Discovery Bay
  • Photo by Well Good Media

With my interest piqued, It was time to unravel the logistics and challenges that I would need to overcome to visit. At the time, there was relatively little information online about climbing there. But after several weeks of diving into the area, small amounts of information would start to emerge which eventually lead me to contact a local developer and community leader Juan Luis Toribio who had started the instagram group @jamrock.

Juan had explored the country extensively in his pursuit of climbing, and had an insatiable drive for developing both the community and climbing routes. He explained that there was a lot of rock in Jamaica, but sport was in its infancy and needed support to take it to the next level. As a fellow developer, I thought I might be able to help contribute to its growth through the addition of new lines and bringing equipment.

I pitched the idea to the team at @sterlingrope and a few weeks later, I found myself touching down in Montego Bay.

Arriving in Montego Bay, I was greeted by Juan who had agreed to show me around on my short trip. The first place we visited was Discovery Bay on the Northern coast. This was the first climbing location to be developed on the island by a visiting climbing @danieloury in 2017. Since then, only Bogdan Simandan (@brsjamaica), who bolted the first climbs at an area near Kingston called Cane River Falls, and Juan had taken the baton of development.

Hiking our way over the strange coral formed undergrowth, we arrived at the wall and were able to sample some of the climbing Jamaica had to offer. Large roofs of Tufa’s, pockets, and crimps defined the limestone style. Hungry to try out the routes, I tie in and climb a short horizontal roof that had been graded 5.12 and had been unrepeated to this point. Reaching the chains, I lower down reflect on the route. “Felt hard for the grade” I tell Juan. He laughs with a sense of pride, “There’s no gifts here!” He replies referring to the stout grading.

  • Juan climbing the wall of coral undergrowth
  • Photo by Well Good Media

We spend a few days here exploring the different walls, bolting new routes, and holding a community event to bring the climbers together and celebrate our tribe. Climbers from all over Jamaica make the journey to join us at the wall and sample the new routes. Alongside shooting photo and video, I do my best to get to know each of the climbers and understand why, of all the sports they could be doing here in Jamaica, they chose to climb?

After spending time in Discovery Bay, we make our way to Tangle River - A limestone cliff, high in the mountains of Jamaica. The rock here is easier on the skin, the walls higher, and the climate cooler. We dedicate several days to this area, sampling the many routes that Juan had labored to establish on his own.

  • Mountains of Jamaica
  • Photo by Well Good Media
  • Juan climbs Tangle River
  • Photo by Well Good Media
Huge tufas, some as big as a car, hung firmly to the ceiling and stretched back hundreds of meters into the back of the cave. “This is the future of climbing in Jamaica,” says Juan. I couldn’t agree more.

As the end of the trip approached, Juan shared that there was another place nearby named Camp Millbrooks which currently had no climbing, but held incredible potential. Making our way once again into the mountains, we arrived at the mouth of a giant cave that left me speechless. Huge tufas, some as big as a car, hung firmly to the ceiling and stretched back hundreds of meters into the back of the cave. “This is the future of climbing in Jamaica,” says Juan. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen a lot of rock in my travels, but this was something else. Juan set out to establish the first line in the overhang in the style that he had bolted most of his climbs in Jamaica, climbing ground up by slinging tufas and hoping they hold, with the help of Francisco Bran Cibrian, one of the most active members of the Jamaican climbing community. Bolting takes up most of our day, and he placed the final anchor as dark approaches.

  • Juan, attached to rope hanging from above, leans in a dark cave
  • Photo by Well Good Media

Not wanting to leave without seeing the real Jamaica, I grab a route taxi to downtown and spend a day exploring and mingling in the many stores and markets. Finally, with my cup full and my flight imminent, I make my way to the airport for my return home.

My sincere thanks to everyone that shared a rope and their time with me. I can’t thank you enough, It was incredible to learn what it means to be a climber in Jamaica, and I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Keep the fire stoked!

  • Street view in Jamaica
  • Photo by Well Good Media
  • Street art in downtown Jamaica
  • Photo by Well Good Media
  • Downtown Jamaica
  • Photo by Well Good Media
  • Corner signs in Jamaica
  • Photo by Well Good Media