Rock Climbing in the Western Cape
I have to admit, I’m not a very good rock climber. I’m the guy that experienced climbers take along in order to show off their skills and soon regret it. Invariably I’m the guy that gets stuck or injures myself and has to be helped and/or rescued. But one doesn’t have to be Stallone in Cliffhanger to recognize the goldmine of rock climbing opportunities that Cape Town offers.
Those coming from abroad will find rock climbing in the Western Cape extremely inexpensive as well as very accessible. Having entire crags and routes to themselves also often pleasantly surprises climbers visiting the Cape. Absent from queues and strangers, allowing them to experience all its worth and beauty. Characterized by majestic mountain ranges and vast cliff faces, scattered with thousands of climbing routes, all within a few hours drive from each other, you don’t need many more reasons to understand why the Western Cape has become the rock climbing hub of South Africa.
What is important to note for foreign climbers is that here routes are graded according to the Ewbank system, the same system used by Australia and New Zealand. The system grades routes by giving each route a figure between 1 and 34. This figure represents the difficulty of the hardest individual move required by that specific route. So get to know the system before you go biting off more than you can chew.
There are spans of artificial walls to climb within Cape Town itself. The most significant of these being CityROCK, situated in Observatory. Boasting over 450 square meters of climbing area, a bouldering cave, a large top rope and lead climbing area, as well as Cape Towns premiere gear shop, CityROCK is an excellent starting point within the city.
It would also be advisable to join the Cape Town section of the MCSA (Mountain Club of South Africa). With over 1200 members, this is a useful way to chat with climbers who have experienced the cape conditions, and the MCSA will also be able to provide guides and any other necessary information regarding climbing in the Western Cape.
But only minutes from the city there are loads of easy to challenging climbs. After all, Cape Towns’ most famous landmark just so happens to be a 1086-meter tall mountain, littered with stunning cliff faces. Your chance to feel like that kid in the candy store. Table Mountain is a world heritage sight and therefore bolting is prohibited, limiting the mountain to trad routes only. However the high quality sandstone provides some great positive edges and makes for an exhilarating climb, with the city bowl beneath you and the cable car for a easy and pleasurable decent.
Cederberg is another great location for trad enthusiasts. Located two and a half hours north of Cape Town, Cederberg offers an exciting bouldering area and arguably the best trad routes in the country.
Those in search of a the best sport climbing spots in the Western Cape will be far from disappointed with Montagu and Oudtshoorn. Montagu is a fantastic tourist destination. Surrounded by vineyards, orchids, and natural springs, the unique rock formations make it one of the most desirable climbing destinations in the Cape region. With over three hundred bolted routes at all grades, Montagu offers endless excitement for both trad and sport climbers. And no more than a month has passed since the 2008 Montagu Rock Rally, meaning freshly chalked routes and flattened trails.
Oudtshoorn is the only limestone climb in the country. Home to some of the most notorious climbs in the Cape, Oudtshoorn requires big moves between holds. Some of the most famed climbs to look out for are Phallic Mechanic (graded 24) and Sid Vicious (graded 27). And if you feel you have skill beyond any other, then chalk up and take on the countries hardest sport climb. Known as Street Fighter and graded at 34, we salute any man to successful complete this challenge.
With literally thousands of routes in the Western Cape, it’s really just a question of finding the route that suits you. Speak to the people at the MCSA (Mountain Club South Africa); they are extremely helpful in all aspects of climbing. Websites such as climbing.co.za are also extremely helpful in providing information on routes, grading and guides. (For your accommodation requirements, we recommend you try www.SA-Venues.com to find the perfect place to stay!)
As long as you as you stick to the true spirit of climbing and leave no trace, preserving our mountains in their natural beauty, then we can’t wait to have you experience what can only be experienced on the rocks of the Western Cape.
Mountain Club of South Africa
Telephone: +27 21 465 3412 (Cape Town) and +27 11 807 1310 (Johannesburg)