Did you know?
The highest point in South Africa is Mafadi Peak, which is 3 450m above sea level.
Cape Town's Table Mountain boasts some of the oldest rocks on the planet, but this monolith represents only one of many mountain ranges found scattered across the country’s nine provinces. And with mountains come the climbers, from all corners of the globe, ready to tackle the southernmost challenges of the African continent.
Mpumalanga province alone offers more than 500 climbing routes, courtesy of the magnificent Magaliesberg mountain range, Bronkhorstspruit and Emgwenya (formerly Waterval Boven). Between the highveld savannah of the Witwatersrand and the African bushveld, the Magaliesberg mountians are around 100 times older than Everest and attract climbers with some of the most picturesque cliffs and valleys in the country.
KwaZulu-Natal’s Howick Falls and Shongweni Nature Reserve are prime rock-climbing terrain just an hour’s drive from the coastal city of Durban (eThekwini). Then there’s the rural town of Harrismith, backed by climbing opportunities in the Drakensberg range and Maluti mountains, where Swinburne and Mount Everest Park collectively offer 48 rock climbing sites.
With its numerous mountain ranges, the Western Cape’s Cedarberg, Du Toit's Kloof and Swartberg Pass offer prime territory. Montagu offers prime climb time with around 400 single-pitch and multi-pitch sport routes of differing range to be found on its quality rocky crags in a spot where it hardly ever rains.
Quality bouldering and sport climbing of all grades is available in the aptly named Rocklands region near Clanwilliam in the Cape. Sport routes are single pitch and require a bit of walking to access. The climbs are mostly in Cape Nature Conservation (CNC) and so you will require a day permit.
The remote nature of Eastern Cape climbing destinations adds greatly to your sense of adventure. The most popular spots are to be found in the Hogsback or at the coast in Cape St Francis.
The Mountain Club of South Africa consists of 14 geographic sections. In the interests of security it is advisable to contact the section nearest to you to find out about climbing sites and potential dangers in the area if you intend setting out on your own.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
The Mountain Club Of South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)21 465 3412
How to get here
Most rock climbing destinations are accessible by car before a walk or hike is required.
Best time to visit
Climbing is best done outside of mid-winter (June-July) and mid-summer (January-February) when temperatures are extreme. Across the country rainfall is seasonal and it's best to avoid peak rainfall seasons due to slippery conditions and the risk of floods.
Tours to do
The Mountain Club of South Africa consists of 14 geographic sections, each of which has a list of recommended sites. Contact the relevant provincial section of the club for localised information.
To Montagu from Cape Town, get onto the N1 towards Paarl. You have the choice of taking the tunnel over the pass. On the other side of the mountain in Du Toit’s Kloof, keep on the N1 until you pass the Shell Ultra City. Turn right at the second set of traffic lights and take the R43 into Worcester, after going over the bridge, turn left at the high street traffic lights (2nd set) and follow the signs to Robertson and then onto Ashton and then Montagu.
Rocklands from Cape Town: Get onto the N1 towards Paarl, take the N7 turnoff towards Malmesbury. Follow the N7 north for roughly 200km, eventually you come across a large dam after which you take the R364 turnoff towards Clanwilliam. Turn right at the T-junction and continue straight passed the town and up a small pass reaching a dirt road which is followed for about 16km until you hit another tar road. This is followed to the top off the pass where you'll spot a dirt road on the right. Park here and walk.
What will it cost
If you choose to climb in conservation areas there is a permit fee payable. Check with the Mountain Club of South Africa for your chosen region.
Length of stay
If you're travelling to a particular location, it's best to camp overnight to enjoy a few different routes and varying degrees of difficulty.
What to pack
Dress for changeable outdoor conditions. Your tour operator will supply the climbing equipment required.
Where to stay
Many premier mountain ranges offer camping and self-catering accommodation. Each region has a dedicated tourism office where you will obtain a listing of local options.
A good-quality windbreaker is always a good investment, since weather in the mountains can change drastically within half an hour.