Situated right at the tip of the continent, South Africa is known for its amazing landscapes and wildlife. Climbing here is a fantastic way to experience this, bringing you to games reserves, UNESCO world heritage sites, high-altitude grasslands and even the middle of Cape Town. The majority of the rock is a distinctive red quartzite-interlaced sandstone with very few features, meaning that the climbing is crimpy, technical and powerful all at once. It can be quite humbling at first, especially when a baboon decides to sabotage your onsight attempt! Safety-wise there are a few things to consider before heading out to climb. In some areas it may be sensible to travel in a group, leave valuables in the car and avoid being at the crag after dark. Renting a car to travel to the crags is essential, and we recommend staying in each area at least a few days to get the most out of the climbing.
Waterval Boven, about 200km east of Johannesburg, may not exactly be off-the-beaten track by South African standards. Yet with over 800 routes 4a to 8c+, it remains THE must-visit destination for sport climbing. The sectors are located on a 10km long cliff on the edge of an escarpment. With routes 30 to 40m long, the climbing has a Siurana-like feel, except fewer features! We particularly recommend a visit to God No Wall, the steepest section of the cliff boasting some of the hardest routes in the country. Even if the climbs are beyond your ability, it’s worth walking up to the top of the cliff where you can gain breathtaking views of the climbing and surrounding highlands. On rest days, head for a safari at Kruger National Park, about 2 hours away.
Around Harrismith, halfway between Johannesburg and Durban, you’ll find a distinctive monolite of red African sandstone situated within a private nature reserve: Mount Everest. With over 140 sport routes, some multi-pitch routes, trad lines and around 120 boulder problems, this is a great destination for beginner and expert climbers alike. Those looking for something more adventurous should head to the Drakensberg mountains nearby, an iconic collection of peaks over 3,300m high and UNESCO world heritage site. Here you’ll find some fantastic mountain routes and the best views in South Africa – so good, they’re said to have inspired the Lord of the Rings.
The climate in the area around Durban is much hotter and more humid, but ideal for climbing in winter. For some fantastic steep climbing in the recently re-bolted Wave cave, head to Shogweni about 40 minutes from the city. The routes are long, powerful, and committing, suitable for those climbing 7a+ to 7c. If you fancy something a bit more laid-back, great routes have recently been developed in the Umgeni Valley, a game reserve just north of Pietermaritzburg. There are no predators here, but you might acquire an audience of perplexed zebras and giraffes. The nearby Howick Falls offer some remarkable single and multi-pitch routes right by the cascade.
Limestone fanatics, Oudtshoorn is the place for you! Here you’ll find the best (and only) tufas in South Africa. Climbing here feels like being in Kalymnos, but as it's situated high in the Swartberg Mountains you also get fantastic views and no polish. The two crags in this area offer steep, long, juggy lines between 6c and 8c+. The climbing is super physical, so we recommend you stay at least 3 days to allow for some rest – why not go horseback riding and see the ostriches in the area? For more information about this area and climbing in the Western Cape more generally, we recommend getting in touch with Rowan and Siobhan Toselli, a husband and wife team who in 2017 combined their love for storytelling and the great outdoors to bring Be Bolder to the world. Be Bolder endeavours to bring their creativity and individual talents together to produce content with a special focus on the outdoors and climbing.
Finally, Cape Town offers a huge amount of fantastic climbing in different styles, some of it right in the city. For sport climbing, the Silvermine Reserve offers good routes up to 7b, while the nearby Mine and the Hole have some fantastic steep test pieces 7a and up. For trad climbing, we highly recommend the top quality routes on Table Mountain, which are generally steep and exposed, with horizontal cracks that take gear very well and fantastic ocean views. There’s also plenty of bouldering in the region – you’ve probably already heard of the Rocklands! For something closer to the town, we recommend visiting the granite boulders at Llandudno beach. This is a fantastic place for an evening session, with beautiful ocean views and some of the world’s best sunsets.