South African rock climbing icon, Tony Lourens, sees the Western Cape as a climber’s paradise, rivalled by very few places on earth.
It’s gifted with excellent quality sandstone and quartzite crags that cradle nearly one and a half thousand established sport routes. From beginner to expert rock climber, the Western Cape is the Promised Land.
The Thrill of Rock Climbing
Only a climber knows the feeling… The complete mental reboot one experiences after a few intense hours of absolute tenacity and focus. Pushing through Elvis legs and pumped forearms to move past the crux and send — it is simply exhilirating.
There’s just a natural high from time spent in the wilderness. It allows you to test your skills in a breath-taking environment. Furthermore, it removes you from that constantly spinning hamster wheel. It definitely makes an afternoon spent on the mountain feel like a weekend away.
Places Where You Can Climb in the Western Cape
There are more than 25 climbing areas scattered across Western Cape. These include places like Plettenberg Bay, Oudtshoorn, Montagu, Du Toit’s Kloof, the Cape Peninsula and the Cederberg as well as Stellenbosch and Eland’s Bay. There’s so many tip-top climbing routes that they can keep any climber busy for a lifetime.
Best Western Cape Rock Climbing Spots for Beginners to Intermediate Climbers
Capetonians have good quality sandstone and quartzite crags, spread across a range of styles and grades. Moreover, they are right in their backyard.
Traditional climbers are able to get high on Table Mountain or Muizenberg Buttress. Meanwhile, sport climbers can indulge in what spots like Paarl Domes, Trappieskop, Hellfire (dwarfed by the Du Toit’s Peak massif in the background) and Kleinmond’s quartzite crags have to offer.
Some climbs mentioned above can be quite testing. Avid climber, Wesley New, knows the Western Cape mountains like the back of his hand. He recommends Silvermine Crags and Lakeside Pinnacle for beginner to intermediate climbers. Both are easily accessible with short walk-ins and easier grades.
With about ten single pitch sport routes, this sandstone formation is a great crag for beginners. However, there’s a couple of challenging routes for other climbers as well as a trad route (Crack of Dawn, located on Disney Wall).
Four good quality crags provide more than 80 routes with grades ranging between 13 and 28. Silvermine Crag has good all-around beginner and intermediate routes.
Silverminor Crag, a new craglet below Silvermine main crag, is also quite easy. It has a grade ranging between 17 and 23.
Just two hours from Cape Town, nestled in the Breede Rivier Valley, lay one of the best climbing destinations in South Africa.
With more than 600 quality routes, Montagu has become the epicentre of sport climbing in the Western Cape. Best of all, they can accommodate every level of climber, from beginner to expert.
Western Cape Rock Climbing Spots for More Advanced Climbers
On the South African climbing scene, the Cederberg Mountains are to rock climbing what J-Bay is to surfing.
The red sandstone walls of this wild and remote area are internationally renowned for offering some of the best trad climbing and bouldering on the planet. They also nurture an array of world-class sport routes.
“The Cederberg have some magical spots that make you want to just live there,” said New.
Located in the northern Cederberg, Rocklands is very isolated but also extremely safe. It’s only a two to three-hour drive up the west coast. This makes it the perfect off-the-grid getaway destination for adventurous Capetonians who love the feeling of chalk on their hands.
Blaze of Glory and Faulty Towers
While Silvermine Crag has good all-around beginner and intermediate routes, Blaze of Glory and Faulty Towers are a little harder.
Best Time to go Rock Climbing or Bouldering in the Western Cape
The Western Cape is rated as one of the top bouldering destinations in the world. Bouldering season runs from 30 April to 1 October. For climbers planning to explore the more than 2800 boulder problems at Rocklands, a good guidebook is essential. Rocklands Bouldering Guide, written by Scott Noy, is recommended.
Guided Tours in the Western Cape
There is no reason to feel intimidated or stick to the same crags all the time. Visitors or novices who are not familiar with the Western Cape’s climbing spots can contact Justin Lawson at Cape Town Climbing. You can also hit up Montagu Climbing to book guided climbing or hiking excursions. They provide a certified guide in Cape Town or Montagu – one of South Africa’s best climbing destinations (keep reading to find out more).
Detailed descriptions and topos of sport and trad routes in the area can be obtained from two excellent guidebooks. Both are authored by Tony Lourens. One is the Western Cape Rock (sport climbing) and the other is Table Mountain Classics (trad climbing).
Weather in the Western Cape
Silvermine Crags works year-round and gets a good amount of afternoon sun.
Similarly, Lakeside Pinnacle gets direct sunlight during the day and can get very hot. It is best visited in the early morning or late afternoon before lighting the braai and cracking open a few cold beers.
Montagu, being located in the semi-arid Klein-Karoo, barely gets any rain. This makes it the ideal weekend-getaway destination for when the weather is bad in Cape Town.
Accommodations When Rock Climbing in the Western Cape
Situated on the banks of the Kliphuis River and against the backdrop of the Rocklands bouldering site, Kliphuis’s upgraded campsite is the ideal place for climbers to rest their weary heads after a day filled with natural thrills.
The 14 campsites sleep a maximum of six people each. With the nearest town, Clanwilliam, being 20 minutes down the road, guests are advised to bring enough food for the duration of their stay. There is no electricity, so a portable solar panel kit and camping fridge would go a long way in securing a cold beer and juicy steaks when you descend.
Accommodation options in Montagu include two camping sites and a couple of bed and breakfasts and hotels. There’s also a number of child and pet-friendly self-catering establishments.
Mountain Safety Tips
New is the Convener of the Mountain Club South Africa (MCSA) Cape Town Search and Rescue team. He has compiled a short list of basic safety tips for mountain users:
- Always go in a group.
- Take a fully charged phone.
- Bring warm clothes (weather can suddenly change in the mountains).
- Take plenty of water.
- Save the emergency number.
Mountain Rescue in the Western Cape is managed by Metro Emergency Medical Services (EMS), in conjunction with Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR). The team provides a free rescue service to mountain users. This includes performing a helicopter extraction or simply assisting a lost hiker.
In case of any mountain related incident, please call Metro Emergency Call Centre on 021-937-0300.