Climb­ing Out of a Hur­ri­cane

HOW CLIMBERS ARE BRING­ING BACK PUERTO RICO

Climbing - - TALK OF THE CRAG - BY MATT MINICH

In Oc­to­ber 2017, Le­an­dro Tarabor­relli gave the most im­por­tant be­lay of his life. The Red Cross Team leader was stand­ing on a washed-out bridge over Puerto Rico’s Arecibo River, us­ing a rope to be­lay 20 doc­tors and phar­ma­cists up a rick­ety lad­der. In the riverbed be­low, a team of fel­low climbers guided the vol­un­teers, who’d come to help Puerto Rico re­build af­ter the devastation wrought in Septem­ber 2017 by Hur­ri­cane Maria. A pipe had rup­tured up­stream, con­tam­i­nat­ing the river with sewage.

Their goal was R’o Abajo, a neigh­bor­hood in Puerto Rico’s moun­tain­ous Utu­ado re­gion. Sixty miles from San Juan, the com­mu­nity had been iso­lated for weeks af­ter the cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane, go­ing so long without aid that its res­i­dents had come to call it El Cam­pa­mento del los Olvi­da­dos: “The Camp of the Forgotten.”

In the months since Maria, Tarabor­relli and other Puerto Ri­can climbers have worked full-time to bring aid to the re­mote cor­ners of the is­land—to places like Rio Abajo.

“We’ve been in those ar­eas climb­ing and canyoneer­ing,” says Ni­cole Vi­dal, another team leader, who worked along­side Tarabor­relli and lo­cal boul­derer Car­los Sali­nas and who is also Tarabor­relli's wife and busi­ness part- ner. Through their com­pany, Moca Climb­ing + Coach­ing, Vi­dal and Tarabor­relli have spent two years guid­ing clients around the is­land’s half-dozen sport crags, jun­gle canyons, and caves. While most Red Cross crews per­formed bulk dis­tri­bu­tions, the “moun­tain-climber teams” hit the back roads.

“Our motto was al­ways to go to the very, very end,” says Vi­dal. Often that meant clear­ing roads with chain­saws and rig­ging Ty­rolean tra­verses across other­wise im­pass­able rivers. They dis­trib­uted food and wa­ter, wa­ter-pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tems, so­lar pan­els and lanterns, and small gen­er­a­tors on an is­land where al­most a third of the 3.4 mil­lion res­i­dents still

POST- MARIA, LO­CAL CLIMBER USAMA HAMID NU­MAN WORKS TO FREE A SUP­PLY TRUCK I N THE ADJUNTAS RE­GION.

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