South Africa – the short version!

Many of you will know that in March of this year (that’s 2008 if you’re reading this in the future) Steve Culverhouse, Christina and I joined an international climbing meet organised by the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA), Johannesburg section.

It’s not often you get an opportunity to visit a climbing area that you haven’t climbed in before and have ten days of dedicated hosting by local climbers, so the first duty this article must undertake is to thank all our hosts – in particular Ulrike Keifer for organising the meet and keeping her cool when the weather did its damndest, and Sakkie for his excellent hosting and driving us around for the last seven days of the trip.

We also decided that it’s such a long way to go for a ten-day climbing meet that we ought to add some time on to see some of the vast country. Unfortunately, my work commitments meant we had to add a week to the beginning of the international meet rather than the obvious choice of staying on after gleaning local knowledge.

So, very briefly, this is how it panned out:

  • Spent a few days in Cape Town then drove eastwards to Port Elizabeth taking in some of Route 62 and The Garden Route;
  • Flew from PE to Jo’burg to meet our designated driver and taken to the first campsite in The Magaliesberg mountain range for three days;
  • Driven to Magapansgrat wild camp for two days;
  • Then to Waterval Boven for two and a half days sport climbing;
  • Finally to Blydepoort resort for the remaining three days before returning to Jo’burg airport.

To carry on with some sort of travelogue at this point would only get long-winded and guarantee to put you off. What I would say is that should you get the opportunity to go, take it! The place is a true experience, not just a holiday or a climbing trip. Obviously there are many political and cultural issues requiring serious discussion, but that’s for another time and place. In the meantime, here is something to whet your appetites – my potted A-Z of the trip (OK, not totally complete, but what’s a missing Nquxy between friends?)


Addo Elephant National Park Set up as an Elephant sanctuary in the 1930s. Now a National wildlife park with many species.
Blyde River Canyon Too many superlatives and too many pictures for this article

BaboonBe wary of climbing too late into the evening and watch out for Baboon poo on those ‘thank God’ ledges!Cape TownSuperb tourist city bound by the Atlantic ocean and Table Mountain. As safe as any other major city in the world providing you keep your wits about you. A great base to see lots of The Cape Peninsula and surrounding Winelands.

Cogman’s KloofEn route to Montagu. Apparently, a major climbing area of SA – although we didn’t find this out until a week later when we met up with our MCSA hosts :(Cango CavesDo the ‘Adventure Tour’. UK HSE would have apoplexy!Devil’s PeakThe true summit of Table Mountain (left in the picture above)Dung beetleHave right of way in Addo Elephant Park

ElephantYes, we did see some at Addo and I’m sure you all know what one looks like.Foxy boardwalkSounds vaguely saucy, but actually is the walkway constructed to see the penguins at Boulder Beach.God’s WindowLooks out over the low veldt from the edge of the high veldt

Homestead’Step-back-in-time’ B&B/self-catering accommodation a few miles from Addo National Park.Informal settlementNot a shanty town – really. Mandela’s vision was to give all residents of SA access to water, sanitation and electricity. Currently around 30% of the population are still denied these basic facilities.Jo’burgOr, more precisely the rather disturbing sign we saw in at the airport.

Kloof Corner RidgeThanks to Steve’s pre-departure research, our brilliant route up Table Mountain. A four hour walk/scramble (including three pitches aided by steel-link chains!) as opposed to a seven-minute cable car ride.Loslyf CragUnusually accessible climbing in Blyde River Canyon. But, see “Baboons” earlier!Magaliesberg – Cedarberg KloofSeventy-two hours of constant rain. What a shame ‘coz the kloof (gorge) looked a stunning place to climb on excellent compact sandstone.

MagapansgratBeautiful wild camping and fantastic climbing AND only our party there

OudsthoornThe self-styled ostrich capital of the world!!ProteaThe South African national flowerRed wine!mmm, hic!Star Wars WallAt Blyde River Canyon. This is the flake pitch on Chewbacca’s Traverse

Table MountainNo report on SA would be complete without at least a mention! See Cape TownVervet monkeyAs seen in Addo Park, but apparently a tad pesky in many regions – like nicking your lunch!Waterval BovenWell-developed sport climbing area about 6km outside the town of WB along a very bumpy track.

ZebraNo, not the horse like critter, but the name of our first backpacker hostel in CT. Although we did see some of the stripy fellas in Addo.


Leave a Reply