The cliffs are big, wild, often remote – and still being discovered. And it’s a climate for being out in. South Africa offers some of the best, and most diverse, rock climbing in the world. Gear up, chalk up, and start cranking!
Ever since the German climbing magazine Rotpunkt published an article about Waterval Boven in 1993, foreign visitors have been flocking to this Mpumalanga town for some of the best sport climbing in the universe. The Restaurant (officially known as “The Restaurant at the end of the Universe crags”) offers more than 500 routes, and there are still numerous untouched rock faces in the area.
With routes ranging from scramble-easy to a superhuman 33 – and a number of natural or “trad” (traditional, or unbolted) routes – there’s something for everyone here.
Outside Durban, there are also a lot of sport climbs, and a few close to Johannesburg. En route between these two major centres, you’ll find some wonderful bolted routes in good hard sandstone in the eastern part of the Free State – notably at Eagle Mountain Game Lodge (formerly misnamed Mount Everest Nature Reserve) near Harrismith.
If you’re more of a traditionalist, don’t worry. You can revel in miles of unbolted rock in the fantastic, virtually pristine Blouberg in the Limpopo, the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal, the Magaliesburg in North West province – in close striking distance of both Johannesburg and Pretoria – or in the miles and miles of fantastic mountain ranges in the Western Cape.
One of these deserves special mention. The Cedarberg, two-and-a-half hours’ drive north of Cape Town, is a world-class bouldering area – and boasts some of the best trad rock climbing routes in the country.
But for a close-to-city experience, nothing can beat Cape Town, with hundreds of sport and traditional routes within the city limits. The city is built around Table Mountain, a national park consisting of two great, hard rock types – Table Mountain sandstone, which gives nice positive edges, and Cape granite, which offers fantastic friction climbing.
ROCK CLIMBING & MOUNTAINEERING OPERATORS
Mountain Club of South Africa – Founded in 1891, and one of only two clubs in Africa to be affiliated to the world mountaineering body UIAA, the MCSA offers climbing, mountaineering and hiking opportunities to its members and is involved in mountain search and rescue, training, conservation of mountain areas, procurement of access for mountaineering, and competition climbing. The club has 13 autonomous sections:
- Cape Town
- Eastern Province
- Free State
- Hottentots Holland
Adventure Dynamics undertakes major mountaineering expeditions, mostly outside of Africa, but including a Mt Kilimanjaro package and a guided climb of the Sentinel in the Drakensberg.
Alard’s Bigwall Climbing Site – If you thought that southern Africa doesn’t offer big wall climbing, take a look at Allard Huffner’s site – and think again! It carries information on climbs in South Africa and surrounding countries and contains some awe-inspiring photos.
Cape Climb is based in Cape Town and focuses on technical rock climbing and mountaineering, in Cape Town, the Cape peninsula and beyond. It offers guided climbing of all descriptions, from single pitch sport climbing to big walls, to big peaks.
City Rock Indoor Climbing – The first indoor climbing gym in Cape Town, and the largest in South Africa. Its has 24 different topropes, 10m high, 400m² of wall climbing area, a dedicated beginners’ and kids’ wall and 10 lead routes for experienced climbers. Gear is also for sale or rental.
The Climbing Barn is located on the outskirts of Pretoria. It features over 450m² of climbing wall and over 100m² of bouldering. Gear is available for hire and training for beginners is also on offer. The Climbing Barn also hosts birthdays and functions.
Climb ZA is a comprehensive climbing resource. The website offers news, information, a climbing directory, local weather and a classified ads section. There is also a very active forum.
The Crag lists over 4 000 climbs throughout South Africa, and a total of almost 175 000 throughout the world. Access to the website is free, but it is necessary to sign up. Providing your e-mail address is optional.
De Bos is a guest farm, backpackers lodge and a camping venue for climbers wanting to explore some great routes in and around Montagu in the Western Cape. Guided climbing can be arranged by appointment and no experience is neccesary. In addition, rock climbing workshops are offered and gear is available to rent.
The Exploration Society of Southern Africa is a non-profit organisation founded in 1988. Essa provides a platform for “the conceptual and physical exploration of the Southern African landscape”. The society organises expeditions, holds discussions and presentations by world-class adventurers – and throws good parties.
The Fearless Indoor Climbing Centre offers indoor climbing in George in the southern Cape. There is over 400m² of climbing surfaces, while bouldering is also on offer, along with training courses, and gear rental. Children from as young as five are able to participate.
Govertical Mountaineering Adventures offers rock climbing, mountaineering, trekking, kloofing and abseiling. The rock climbing takes place at Waterval Boven, in the Drakensberg, Magaliesberg, and Hartebeespoort. They offer a basic climbing course as well as an adventure weekend at Eagle Mountain (previously known as Mount Everest) in Harrismith, where climbing and abseiling takes place.
Guided Ascents in Africa is headed by Richard Behne, the first South African to be certified as a Mountaineering Instructor under the MDT scheme (Mountaineering Development and Training Trust). Guided climbing is offered around South Africa for all levels of climber on all sorts of surfaces. Climbing safaris in the Western Cape and Namibia are other options.
Indoorclimbing.com provides a list of South African rock climbing walls. The information provided includes addresses, telephone numbers, websites if available, and a brief description of the walls and routes.
Info Hub has information on mountain climbing in and rock climbing in South Africa. It is geared towards the overseas visitor and presents four different holiday options in Cape Town, the Western Cape, Magaliesberg, and the Drakensberg.
Peak High Mountaineering offers trekking, rock-climbing, ice-climbing, and Mountain Development Trust Courses in mountaineering, trekking and abseiling. Guided rock climbing is offered, as well as guided ice climbing. Equipment is available for hire.
RAM Mountaineering Gear not only supplies equipment, but also has news on climbing competitions, athletes, expeditions, and routes.
Roc ‘n Rope Adventures is based at The Restaurant (officially known as the Restaurant at the End of the Universe Crags) in Mpumalanga. They offer accomodation, abseiling, mountain biking, fly fishing, horse riding, and rock climbing. Numerous climbing courses are available too.
Rockclimbing.com – Rock Climbing Routes in South Africa presents information on climbs around South Africa. Directions to the destinations are provided, as well as the nearest town or city, the latitude and longitude, access issues, camping, when to climb, the quantity of climbs, and books.
RockSport Mountain & Outdoor is a site for GPS, rock climbing and hiking in southern Africa. It offers a diverse product range, and tons of free climbing, hiking and backpacking information for the international and local visitor.
SA Mountain Sport is a magazine that provides information on mountain climbing, not only in South Africa, but all around the world. The website includes news, bouldering, weather and events and events.
The South African Climbing Academy is based at Saint Peters Prep School in the north of Johannesburg. It offers training courses for school learners and outside individuals wanting to learn about rock climbing and bouldering, and is also a training facility for rock climbers.
Southern Rock Gym Climbing Centre is is located in New Germany, a short distance from Durban. They offer courses of various levels and there is something for everyone, from individual to parties to corporate groups. A shop features climbing, eyerwear, free riding, hiking and camping and other equipment.
Spirit of Adventure, based at the Shongweni Dam between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, offers some exciting routes, ranging from grade eight to 33. Other options include, among others, abseiling and rapp jumping.
The South African Climbing Info Network is an excellent, comprehensive and easy-to-use resource on climbs in South Africa. It features up-to-date information and news on crags and routes, a calendar of events, results of events, climbing gyms, competitions, climbing gear, climbing stores and other resources.
Venture Forth International is based in Cape Town and incorporates the Cape Town School of Mountaineering. It’s a specialised mountain guide service and an accredited mountaineering school. The offer guided rock climbing, sport climbing on the Cape Peninsula, traditional climbing on Table Mountain, climbing road trips, and country routes, big walls and alpine rock routes, with trips ranging from two days to two weeks in length.
Wildways Adventures – Promotes the safe enjoyment of southern Africa’s mountainous regions though education, training and guiding services. They offer climbing walls and rope courses, as well as guided rock climbing. They also have a training centre at Monteseel Crag in KwaZulu-Natal.
Wonderwall, in Johannesburg, is an indoor climbing venue which features 500m² of climbing walls, as well as a three-metre high bouldering cave. It caters to everyone, from beginners to veterans, and offers training courses for all levels. There is a fully stocked Pro Shop, gear is available for rental, while change rooms, lockers, and cool drinks and snacks are also on offer. There is also a fully licensed restaurant and bar.
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