Western Cape Rock

Introduction: The climbing in this guidebook is spread over a vast area. From the wild Groot Rivier and Old Forest Crags near Plettenberg Bay, right the way across the province to the world-famous walls and boulders of Rocklands in the Cederberg. The journey between the two spans some 600 kilometres and takes about eight hours by road. Between these two areas lies a wealth of the most awesome climbing one could wish to find. In the Cape Peninsula alone, we are spoilt by having five-star cragging a mere stone’s throw away from the bustling heart of the Mother City. An hour’s drive from Cape Town will take you to more scenic crags like the beautiful granite domes of Paarl, the lonely and atmospheric Hellfire Crags dwarfed by the huge Du Toit’s Peak massif, and the quartzitic crags perched on a ridge above the seaside village of Kleinmond. Two hours from Cape Town is the town of Montagu. Climbing was discovered here a few decades ago and since then this little Breede River Valley town has grown to become the undisputed epicentre of sport climbing in the Western Cape, and one of the most popular destinations in the country. Montagu alone could keep most climbers busy for half a lifetime. A few hours further up the road, you will discover SA’s only limestone crag at Oudtshoorn – a beautiful, steep, scooped amphitheatre dripping with tufas. Here you will find some of the country’s hardest routes. If this isn’t enough, the Cederberg Mountains are located a mere two to three hours’ drive up the west coast from Cape Town. To many, the Cederberg needs no introduction, but for the few who have never experienced the magic of this unique mountain kingdom, suffice to say that the Cederberg is one of those special places that takes a hold of your soul and never lets go. Besides some of the best trad climbing on the planet on remote red sandstone walls situated high in the range, the Cederberg is also considered to be one of the top bouldering destinations in the world. You will also find an array of world-class sport climbing crags in this area. At the time of writing there were 1 390 established sport routes and 64 bolted projects in the Western Cape with enough rock to keep our drills smoking for many generations to come. There is no question that the Western Cape is a climber’s paradise that can be rivaled by few places on Earth, so pack your sack and head out to sample some of the best climbing to be had. Acknowledgments: I am deeply indebted to so many people for all the help and assistance I have received from the climbing community over the years that I have taken to write, compile and publish this long-awaited new edition of Western Cape Rock. Writing a guidebook is really all about the continuous finding, gathering and accumulation of information and detail from many places, people and various publications. It is super time consuming and practically impossible to produce single handedly. Indeed, it is only with the help of many friends and climbers that I am able to produce this and any other guidebook. I have hounded loads of people and sent countless emails and text messages to so many folk and have always received a positive and encouraging response. For this I am deeply grateful. Special thanks however are due to a few who I have plagued repeatedly for information on areas they know well, or routes, etc. that they were responsible for. To Steve Bradshaw (snr) for his help with unravelling some of the mysteries of Peer’s Cave, Underside and various crags in Oorlogs Kloof. To Guy Holwill for always being an email or phone call away to answer the numerous questions on various lines at many crags. Also to Scott Miller for keeping me updated with all his bolting projects and routes, and Clinton Martinengo, for texting me all his information every time he sends another of his projects (and believe me, that is quite often). A massive thank you to Jason Temple-Forbes for his mega help with the Oudtshoorn area, particularly the Main Crag, where I’m sure no one knew (until now) where all the routes, extensions, extensions of extensions and wimp finishes went. It is a very impressive network of lines that I hope has been made clear on the photo topo. Then to Andy Davies and Cormack Tooze for keeping me updated with all the ARFing that has been going on in the Cape Peninsula and beyond, and also to Stewart Noy for information on new routes at Paarl Rocks. Thanks to Jan Fischer and Phlip Olivier for completing their work at Surfside in time for publication and getting me all the new info and updated topo. And to Malcolm Gowans and Patrick McCann for their help with information regarding new routes in Can Can Alley. Also to Matt Bush, Jamie Smith and Joe Möhle for information on their routes scattered around the Western Cape. I’d also like to thank all the people who have submitted climbing photos for publication in this guidebook, your names are too numerous to mention, but all the pics are credited. This is hugely appreciated, as a guidebook is greatly enhanced by quality climbing images that make you want to reach out and touch the stone. To Sean Langeveldt, who as usual has done a superb job with the layout and design of the book and to Chelsea Henning, who proofread the entire manuscript many times, to iron out any typos and errors and make things read all nicely, and also to the panel of climber proofreaders: Douw Steyn, Richard Halsey, Jamie Smith, Jason Temple-Forbes and Ross Suter, who gave their time to read through sections of the book for technical errors, etc. Again to Steve Bradshaw (snr), for writing the foreword to this book. Steve is a living legend in the sport climbing arena in the Western Cape. He has been climbing for four decades and in that time has put up and repeated some of the Cape’s hardest test pieces. His most recent creation, Where I Stood in Oorlogs Kloof stands at a whopping 33/8b+ and has just seen its first repeat by Clinton Martinengo, who declares it as one of the best routes in the country. Then of course to all my climbing buddies, particularly Willie Koen, who came on many excursions with me to different crags to check out lines, count bolts, and climb some awesome routes in special places. Thanks for your help and sharing my rope. To my wife Patsy, for her unending encouragement while writing this book and for all things climbing. For accompanying me on wild forays across the province to take photos of rock faces, investigate approaches to obscure crags, almost getting attacked by bees, falling into rivers, climbing with me in cold and miserable conditions for the sake of gathering information for this book and for producing that heavenly cup of tea in so many magical places in the hills. My deepest thanks and appreciation to all the advertisers who have supported this guidebook. Without their generous support, there would be no book. And of course to all the climbers out there who have bolted the numerous routes throughout the Western Cape; spent thousands of Rand on hardware and toiled many hours, so we all can have the pleasure of climbing awesome routes. Looking back on the last year or so, there were many times that I cursed the fact that I was writing this book. Every time I went climbing, I had to pack my cameras and my notebook, always on the lookout for a better shot of a crag, counting bolts, or drawing lines on pictures. Very few were the times that I actually just climbed. But reflecting on all that now, I would never replace those experiences and I suppose the mountains is not a bad place to have as an office. General Information: Introduction to Cape Town: Cape Town is what keeps the Western Cape alive. It is one of the most cosmopolitan cities you will find anywhere in the world. It pumps with life and is blessed with incredible scenic beauty, which is practically unsurpassed. The city itself lies sprawled at the foot of the famous and ever-present Table Mountain and spreads right to the edge of the sea, where the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (V&A) is situated. This is a visitor’s paradise when it comes to shops, restaurants, pubs and busking artists of all kinds. You can get almost anything and everything in Cape Town, from chalk to caviar. Most of the Western Cape climbers live here and most climbing holidays start here. It is central to all the crags and one can have a climbing holiday without even leaving the borders of the Peninsula (although you would be missing out on a few real gems). Best times to visit: There is really no disastrous time to visit the Western Cape, but if you want a pleasant climbing experience I suggest you stay away from about mid December to mid March. It can get exceptionally hot over January and February, but then this is also the best time to laze on Cape Town’s beaches and check out the talent. You will also always find shady crags on hot days. The choice is yours. The months of June to September usually see the most rain, with August being the coldest and wettest month, but unless you are going to be based solely in Cape Town, I wouldn’t let that put you off. Montagu and Oudtshoorn are generally quite stable during the winter months. The cooler days give ideal conditions for bouldering and sending hard routes. Climate and weather: The Western Cape is generally a winter rainfall area, but this varies a huge amount depending on where in the Western Cape you are. The most rain falls along the coast from Cape Town up to Plettenberg Bay. The further inland you go, the less chance you have of rain. Many times I have left Cape Town in a torrential downpour to arrive in Montagu under crisp blue skies to enjoy a full weekend of dry climbing. Mid summer can be unbearably hot, and it is imperative to find the shady crags at this time of the year. Although it is uncommon to get temperatures over 35 ˚C, it can reach up to 40 ˚C with warm evenings. Remember that the sun/shade aspect of many crags can change dramatically from summer to winter because of the different elevations of the sun. Winter can give you nice cool (read cold) days with temperatures often hovering around the mid teens and night-time temperatures sometimes dropping below zero in the inland areas. Cape Town itself rarely drops below freezing. The other climatic aspect to consider is the wind. In summer, the infamous Southeaster can often make climbing unpleasant at certain crags and in Cape Town this wind carries sea salt to some coastal crags rendering the rock schlauky (greasy). The prevailing wind in winter generally comes from the north-west. This brings the cold fronts that carry the rain. Overall, the weather is very changeable in the Western Cape. Always keep a close eye on the weather forecast to determine the best places to climb at on the day. Check out yr.no for the most accurate weather forecasts. You can find the smallest villages on this site and they give detailed long-range forecasts (10 days) and hourly 2-day forecasts. Arriving and getting around: Cape Town International Airport is about a 20-minute drive from the city centre. For visiting climbers it is essential to hire a car to be able to access the various crags around the Cape Peninsula as well as the outlying crags. Do not rely on public transport to get to the crags. An average small car will cost in the region of R350 – R400 per day. Petrol and diesel is available everywhere 24 hours a day and costs around R14 per litre. Alternatively, befriend a local climber. Shopping for supplies: Although it is possible to buy food and drink in most country towns and villages, it is advisable to stock up with your main provisions in Cape Town before heading out on a road trip. You will be able to buy all necessary food, fuel, climbing gear, mountain clothing, and whatever else you may need in the city. There is a variety of top class supermarkets like Pick n Pay, Spar and Woolworths (which can be a bit more expensive than the rest, but oh so worth it). And some smaller shops and grocers, some of which Gosia Lipinska seamless on El Nino (30/8a), stay open late into the night. General shopping hours are from 9 am to 6 pm, with many shops staying open much later. Most shops also stay open on Saturday and Sunday. No alcohol is sold in shops on a Sunday. The V&A Waterfront shopping centre has almost every conceivable shop one can think of, including good restaurants and movie houses, and is open from 9 am to 9 pm (later for restaurants), seven days a week, 364 days a year (closed on Christmas Day). Climbing and camping shops: There are a number of companies based in Cape Town that manufacture specialist mountain apparel, sleeping bags, backpacks and other mountain-related equipment. You will be able to find their labels in a variety of outdoor stores scattered around Cape Town as well as the full range of imported climbing gear, mountain clothing and other related equipment. See adverts in this book for details and the closest shop to you. Banking and currency: The currency of South Africa is the Rand (ZAR), and it is rather volatile, depending on current government corruption or national strike actions, etc. At the moment it is sitting at around R11 to US$1, R14 to €1 and R18 to GB£1. So . . . quite good for Americans and Euros to visit. Credit cards are widely accepted everywhere, even in the smaller towns, but it is advisable to carry some cash for the smaller shops and cafes in outlying villages. Banks are open Monday to Friday 9 am to 3.30 pm (no lunchtime closing) and on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 11.30 am. There are also numerous Bureau de Change kiosks in the city that are open outside these hours and in the V&A Waterfront shopping mall there are a few that are open till late and on Sundays. Auto cash machines are situated in almost every town and village. General costs Cape: Town is definitely not the cheapest city in South Africa. It draws the most tourists of any area in the country and due to this, prices are slightly inflated. Having said that, Europeans and Americans will still find it way cheaper here than in their home country. A sumptuous meal for two at an average restaurant, with a bottle of wine, will set you back about R450 and a local beer in a pub will cost around R15. In the liquor store a case (24) of local beer is about R220, a decent bottle of wine about R65 (with cheaper wine going down to R35) and a bottle of decent whisk(e)y (Jameson or Famous Grouse) will cost you between R170 and R250. Medical care and hospitals: Medical care in South Africa is of the very best, and Cape Town has some of the best hospitals and doctors in the world. However, these are generally private hospitals and if you do find yourself in need of hospital care, you would need some sort of medical insurance to be able to utilise these. There are general (state) hospitals where treatment is charged at a very nominal amount, but these are not quite as good and efficient as the private ones. Most towns and villages have their own hospital or clinic as well as well-stocked pharmacies. Emergencies and rescues: The Western Cape is covered by Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR). If you are involved in any accident at the crags, call 021 937 0300. The primary objective is, at all costs, to try to avoid emergency situations, particularly ones that could necessitate a search and rescue operation. However, accidents do happen and often when least expected. Here are some pointers to follow if something unfortunate does occur: • Remain calm and, if possible, ensure that the climber is safe and under no further threat. • Treat for shock and keep on reassuring the patient. • Apply the necessary first aid. • Ensure that the patient is comfortable and warm. • Decide on a plan of action. • Phone Search and Rescue (021 937 0300) if there is cellphone reception. • Never move the patient unless you are absolutely sure that there are no spinal or neck injuries. • Do not attempt to evacuate the patient over treacherous or steep terrain. • Never leave the patient alone unless this is an absolute last resort, and if you must, then secure the patient and mark the area well. If there is no cellphone reception send one of your group (with a cellphone) to alert the rescue services and it is prudent for them to have the following information: • Name and age of patient • Nature of injuries • Nature and seriousness of situation • Nature of the terrain • The location of the patient • Weather conditions Numbers to call in an emergency: Program these 24-hour numbers into your cellphone (preceded by AA to keep them at the top of your contacts). • AA Search and Rescue 021 937 0300 for medical assistance and rescue services. This is the direct number to Metro Control for Wilderness Search And Rescue (WSAR) and MCSA Search and Rescue. • AA Mountain Security 086 110 6417 to call for help and/or report all crime-related incidents. • AA Ambulance 10177 only to specifically request an ambulance (do not rely on this number for rescue, although they are meant to re-direct your call to WSAR). Note: In addition to calling the Mountain Rescue number, it is advisable to directly call any rescue personnel member that you may know personally, so keep a cell number or two handy. It is also often possible to get an SMS through where no call is possible. Remember to send your SMS to yourself as well, to verify that it was transmitted. ICE (In Case of Emergency) numbers are what emergency personnel will look for on your cellphone, should you not be able to speak. Enter ICE1, ICE2, etc. into your cellphone, each with the name and number of a next of kin or personal contact. Rest-day activities: I could write an entire book on what you can do in the Western Cape on rest days. Cape Town is a city of many cultures. It has stunning beaches (beware: the sea is freezing), awesome scenery, mouthwatering restaurants, thousands of acres of wine farms, incredible shopping opportunities, beautiful mountain walks, world-class coastal drives, not to mention Table Mountain, Robben Island, Cape Point (where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet) and many other attractions. Further inland, prospects are not as great, but there will always be stunning mountain scenery with lovely walks and rivers to cool yourself in on those hot summer days. Wine farms also abound along the scenic R62, from Robertson all the way up to Calitzdorp. Up the Garden Route coast the touristic towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are well worth a visit, while the Cango Caves near Oudtshoorn is also an attraction worth checking out. You will be able to pick up brochures and get information on just about anything at information centres and kiosks around Cape Town and in any of the little towns or villages you may be visiting. See more information in the various sections, or just Google what you’re looking for and off you go.
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