Climbing in the Free State
Climbing in South Africa
Whether you’re a traditionalist who likes to climb using only natural protection, a sport climber who clips bolts or someone who enjoys the freedom of trying to work out technical sequences on low boulders without ropes – you’ll find endless opportunities to get out on South Africa’s rock. While many of the venues are truly world class there are rarely any crowds – often you will have a whole crag to yourself.
Much of the climbing is on solid sandstone, but there are also opportunities to friction up granite, pull up on limestone tufa formations, teeter up dolerite sea cliffs or scale the high basalt peaks of the Drakensberg.
The imposing cliffs of Table Mountain, just a short cable ride from the heart of Cape Town, offer some of the best climbing in the country on superb, solid sandstone. The exposed underlying granite layers on Lion’s Head and the massive granite dome of nearby Paarl Mountain, offer exciting crack and slab climbing. There are numerous scenic sports crags throughout the Peninsula that cater to everyone from absolute novices to the toughest rock jocks.
A little further north, the gnarled outcrops of Rocklands, in the Cederberg, are a Mecca for boulderers. The area has a vast number of bolted routes on low crags and pinnacles. The long, spectacular, sustained lines on the intimidating overhanging orange and grey cliffs of Wolfberg, Tafelberg and Krakadouw are a trad climber’s dream.
The picturesque town of Montagu, a couple of hours’ drive from Cape Town, boasts numerous bolted cliffs and the hardest route in the country. The Free State venues of Harrismith and Swinburne are also magnets for sport climbers.
The vertical cliffs next to the waterfall at ‘Boven, in Mpumalanga, are the ones that have most frequently graced the pages of international climbing magazines. This superb, family-friendly venue should be on every climber’s list.
The Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal offer varied and easily accessible climbing, often on the steep cliffs of magnificent ‘kloofs’ (canyons) or in caves. Mountaineers will find plenty of challenges on the remote, free-standing peaks of the Drakensberg. If you’re adventurous and can enlist local help, Blouberg is a steep-sided ‘island’ mountain that rises from the dusty plains of Limpopo. It offers a unique, truly African climbing experience.