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MMpumalanga’s Emgwenya is one of South Africa’s best rock-climbing destinations. Explore over 600 sport climbs ranging from easy to very difficult on mostly vertical rock faces, some with overhangs and overlaps. Unlike climbing destinations elsewhere in the world, here you’ll find good weather nearly all year round.
Waterval Boven ('above the waterfall' in the original Dutch), now renamed Emgwenya ('place of the crocodile' in Zulu), is a place of vertical quartzite crags and cliffs, perfect for technical endurance climbing. For 'Boven, you'll need precision footwork and strong fingers for most of the 600 climbs.
Unlike many other climbing destinations, the mostly ideal weather conditions make for enjoyable rock climbing all year round. As Emgwenya is nearly 1 500m above sea level, it rarely gets too hot. An added bonus is that most of the crags are in shade by midday as they are east and south-east facing.
The evocative names of the climbs will soon get your adrenalin flowing.
Within a short walk from Tranquilitas Adventure Farm lies the Crèche area, a fantastic cliff for beginners with grades ranging from 9 to 19. Crouching Tiger (12), Jackie Chan (14), Feel Good (14) and Consistency is Fashion (17) are some of the longer easy routes to start with.
The Waterfall Crags, as the name suggests, lie alongside the waterfall and offer some exhilarating climbs. Sorcery (25 trad) and Urisk the Rustic Brownie (23) are 2 very popular climbs because of their Kodak moments with the dramatic Elands Falls in the background.
Madiba Magic (19), a new easy route, was opened in December 2013 and is a popular warm-up before attempting the harder routes further into the winding Elands Valley.
For longer routes (up to 35m) get to The Last Crag of the Century which has several 5-star climbs. Insiders say that the very best quality routes here are 19, 22, 23 and 26.
The more seasoned climbers can head to Baboon Buttress in the Wonderland area.
International reviews of the climbing surrounding Emgenya has particularly praised the accessibility and quality of easy, moderate and difficult climbs packed in such a geographically small but scenic environment.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Roc 'n Rope Adventures
Tel: +27 (0)13 120 4600
Cell: +27 (0)82 753 3695
Tranquilitas Adventure Farm
Tel: +27 (0)82 388 0100/1
How to get here
From Johannesburg or Pretoria take the N4 east. The turn-off to Emgwenya (Waterval Boven) is on your right.
Best time to visit
April to October is usually dry with perfect climbing conditions.
Things to do
There is hiking and biking in the area. The nearby Kruger National Park is a perfect getaway for your rest days.
Footwork and fingerholds!
Length of stay
This depends on the number of climbs you intend to try. Plan for 2 to 5 days at least.
What to pack
Your usual climbing gear, sunscreen and warm clothing for the evenings (even in summer Emgwenya can get chilly at night).
Where to stay
Roc 'n Rope Adventures cater specifically to climbers in the area.
Roc 'n Rope, the climbing heart of Emgwenya, sells and rents climbing equipment.