South African rock climbing icon, Tony Lourens, sees the Western Cape as a climber’s paradise, rivalled by very few places on earth.
Gifted with excellent quality sandstone and quartzite crags that cradle nearly one and a half thousand established sport routes, the Western Cape is the Promised Land for any rock climber, from beginner to expert.
With more than 25 climbing areas scattered across the province in 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 are ample tip-top climbing routes to keep any climber busy for a lifetime.
Top Western Cape Summits
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.
The natural high from time spent in the wilderness, testing your skills in a breath-taking environment, far removed from that constantly spinning hamster wheel, makes an afternoon spent on the mountain feel like a weekend away.
Capetonians have good quality sandstone and quartzite crags, spread across a range of styles and grades, right in their backyard. Trad climbers are able to get high on Table Mountain or Muizenberg Buttress, while 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 and he recommends Silvermine Crags and Lakeside Pinnacle for beginner to intermediate climbers, as they are easily accessible with short walk-ins and easier grades.
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 or Montagu Climbing to book guided climbing or hiking excursions with 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, authored by Tony Lourens: Western Cape Rock (sport climbing) and Table Mountain Classics (trad climbing).
Silvermine Crags (beginner to intermediate)
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, while Blaze of Glory and Faulty Towers are a little harder. Silverminor Crag, a new craglet below Silvermine main crag, is also quite easy with grading ranging between 17 and 23.
This spot works year-round and gets afternoon sun. Mostly vertical with a few slightly overhanging sections, Silvermine Crags have a couple of easy routes for beginners.
Lakeside Pinnacle (beginner to intermediate)
With about ten single pitch sport routes, this sandstone formation is a great crag for beginners but with a couple of challenging routes for other climbers as well as a trad route (Crack of Dawn, located on Disney Wall).
Because this crag 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.
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, accommodating every level of climber, from beginner to expert, Montagu has become the epicentre of sport climbing in the Western Cape.
Located in the semi-arid Klein-Karoo, it rarely rains in Montagu, making this the ideal weekend-getaway destination for when the weather is bad in Cape Town.
Accommodation options for climbers include two camping sites, a number of child and pet-friendly self-catering establishments, as well as a couple of bed and breakfasts and hotels.
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 while also nurturing an array of world-class sport routes.
“The Cederberg have some magical spots that make you want to just live there,” said New.
The Western Cape bouldering season runs from 30 April to 1 October and for climbers planning to explore the more than 2800 boulder problems at Rocklands (no wonder it is rated as one of the top bouldering destinations in the world), a good guidebook, like Rocklands Bouldering Guide, written by Scott Noy, is essential.
Located in the northern Cederberg, Rocklands is very isolated but also extremely safe. Only a two to three-hour drive up the west coast, this is the perfect off-the-grid getaway destination for adventurous Capetonians who love the feeling of chalk on their hands.
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 decend.
Mountain safety tips
New is also the Convener of the Mountain Club South Africa (MCSA) Cape Town Search and Rescue team, and 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, be it performing a helicopter extraction or simply assisting a lost hiker or
In case of any mountain related incident, please call Metro Emergency Call Centre on 021-937-0300.