Climbing in the Western Cape
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.
Articles & Blogs
A Cederberg Amble6:47pm 7 May
Words Matthew Holt, pics Matthew Holt & Fiona Mcintosh
I tiptoed along the ridge, mindful of the fresh air either side. The summit beacon was now in view, which should have been uplifting, but instead my gaze was drawn to the imposing rock fortress some 12km across the valley, which was our next destination.
This was all Don Hartley’s fault. A visionary of a particular sort, Don opened climbing routes on Table...
International Rock Climbers Visit South Africa9:43am 29 Feb
Pics Tony Lourens
To showcase South Africa’s world class rock climbing, CapeNature and the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) have welcomed members of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) for a 10-day climbing tour of the country.
Starting in the Cederberg Wilderness Area, the teams will climb together and share knowledge and experiences of this rapidly growing activity. The climbers will visit the world famous...
Heading up the Lion9:30am 7 Oct
Heading up the Lion
I experienced such an outcry at the fact that, despite living in Cape Town, I had never hiked up Lion's Head before. So I set out to correct this on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and am so glad I did. In all honesty, it wasn’t the “mild” hike I was expecting- in fact it was pretty tiring- but definitely worth it. Navigating your way through rock crevices, climbing up ladders and jumping over small streams all the while getting a 360-degree view of Cape Town. The whole experience - going up, relaxing at the top and coming down - took three...
Cradock Peak9:30am 18 Sep
Cradock Peak: Garden Route
Nearly 500 metres higher than Table Mountain, Cradock Peak is a long climb. It’ll took us most of our morning to conquer the peak, but thick clouds blanketing the Garden Route and fading when reaching the sea, is a sight worth seeing. We began under a Pine forest, and rose above it to wander through escalating fynbos paths that eventually reach the saddle of the mountain. Right goes to George Peak, the lesser, and left to Cradock Peak, the greater. Of course, we chose the greater out of some misplaced sense of bravado. It isn’t easy, the...
Towerkop, the Magic Mountain9:55pm 12 Aug
Words by Fiona McIntosh, Pics by Fiona McIntosh and Jan Viljoen
The rock was steely grey and cold to the touch. Struggling to find even small finger grips on the slippery, bulging face I inched my way up, balancing on tiny edges with lots of air beneath my feet, my hands becoming increasingly numb. I had ropes for safety, nuts and friends, sticky rubber climbing shoes and a helmet, but still I was scared. Yet 125 years ago a local lad with no rock climbing experience...
Alone in Another World9:55pm 15 May
Words: Garrreth Bird, pics Garrreth Bird & Leonard le Roux
Blood pumps thickly through our veins as we balance and thrust our way up the viciously loose boulder field below the base of the wall. In the cavernous silence of this place you can hear the thud of it passing by your ears. We emerge from the dark ravine, where we spent the night, to find ourselves facing a gigantic buttress of bright orange overhanging rock, folded back on itself until it almost touches again: the Western Cape’s Slanghoek Amphitheatre.
I am here with Leo, my climbing partner, a strapping lad in...
Capetonians5:55am 4 Nov
There’s so much to explore!
Capetonians are snobbish and full-of-themselves; I can say this because I’m one of them! This self-importance is largely justified by the exciting and diverse beauty which surrounds us. Mountain-biking, trail running, a superb coastline, paragliding, and the list goes on. What’s got me hooked is our hills! I’ve spent hours scrambling up them, hanging...
Kai prepares to his next adventure4:55pm 3 Nov
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller
KAPE 2 ATACAMA has been a rough year in the making. An expedition like K2A involves a lot of TLC. From building the right team, fund raising, ironing out logistics for 8 months at sea and on the road.
Training for everything from those big snowy peaks to prepping for the Cape to Rio (Say, what?!?). Ensuring I have the lightest and best gear and then *most importantly*, tirelessly searching for at least one inspirational quote for the all important Facebook page . (I’m still unaware of the importance of...
Adventure Training12:42pm 3 Nov
It always tickles me to sit in a Mugg&Bean and chat to one of our Nightjar Adventurer contenders. With their friendly natures, it is hard to imagine their smiling faces battling the elements, facing all sorts of adversity that harken back to the golden era of exploration… Particularly so when you’re speaking to Kai Fitchen, winner of the Readers’ Choice, with his youthful enthusiasm as he recounts the ups and downs of finding sponsorship over a cappuccino. It is easier to picture him wooing the ladies at University than on a mountain. Fortunately, he brought some more photographic...
Rocklands Bouldering Crisis5:55am 23 Sep
Words by Delaney Carpenter, pic by Julia Chen
For years climbers have been enjoying the world-class bouldering in the area known as Rocklands in the Western Cape, South Africa. Many climbers have been oblivious to the fact that Rocklands is owned by five different landowners: four farmers and Cape Nature.
When climbing became a prominent activity in the Cederberg, the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) and Cape Nature (CN) drew up the Cederberg Environmental Management Programme (EMP) to jointly manage climbing in the Cederberg, including bouldering in Rocklands. It was...
K-Way Winter Gear3:19pm 5 Mar
We’ve just had a sneak preview of K-Way’s winter gear offerings – and my word there’s some funky stuff about to hit the shelves. I drooled over the hi-tech sleeping bags, imagining myself on some epic Arctic expedition, and there were plenty of items from their range of vibrant fleeces, softshells and jackets that I tested in the ice-box and would happily add to my wardrobe. But my first purchase will be their new, lightweight Swan down jacket. I’ve had similar jacket - that I bought overseas - for years and it’s showing its age. But,...
Journey Planning Inspiration11:40am 2 Oct
By now you've heard plenty about bouldering in Rocklands, and flowers on the Cape West Coast... so what if you're itching to go, but you have friends/family to consider?
Well I've put together an itinerary that touches on a few different interests to get you started... and if it doesn't quite suit your style, remember that you can always pull it into your account and replace my suggestions from your own favourites list! If you have any questions, drop a comment here and I'll see what I can do.
BOULDERING FOR DUMMIES8:58pm 1 Oct
Words by Matthew Holt, Pics by Matthew Holt, Fiona McIntosh and Mandy Ramsden
Over the years I’ve tried most types of climbing – rock, ice, trad, sport – without really finding my forte. So, I decided to give bouldering a go: might this be my metier? Bouldering is rock climbing on a miniature scale. Instead of tackling routes on vertiginous peaks, climbers pit themselves against ‘...
Rocklands bouldering11:40am 1 Oct
Rocklands, in the Cederberg, is renowned for its spectacular rock formations and naturally-sculpted boulders. It has also become a world-renowned venue for the sport of bouldering: a low-level, highly-gymnastic form of climbing and every year the top practitioners will spend months here, searching and solving new boulder ‘problems’. But, you don’t have to be able to dyno a gaston or stick a crimper to appreciate this unique place, with its burnished rocks, brilliant sunsets and big blue African skies. Especially now, with the west coast flowers in bloom.
- Matthew Holt