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CCape Town’s Table Mountain is much, much older than the Himalayas or the Rockies, but this monolith represents only one of many mountain ranges found scattered across the country’s 9 provinces – some with even older geology. 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 and the mountains around Bronkhorstspruit and Emgwenya (formerly called Waterval Boven). Lying between the highveld savannah of the Witwatersrand and the African bushveld, the Magaliesberg mountains 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 over an hour’s drive from the coastal city of Durban in the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality. Then there’s the rural town of Harrismith in Free State, close by endless climbing opportunities in the Drakensberg and Maluti mountains, where Swinburne and Mount Everest Park collectively offer 48 rock-climbing sites.
With their numerous mountain ranges, Western Cape’s Cederberg, Du Toit's Kloof and Swartberg areas offer superb climbing territory. Montagu also 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 Western Cape. Sport routes are single-pitch and require a bit of walking to access. The climbs are mostly in Cape Nature Conservation (CNC), 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 around Cape St Francis.
The Mountain Club of South Africa divides the country into 14 geographic regions. 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.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Best time to visit
Climbing is best done outside mid-winter (June-July) and mid-summer (December-February), when temperatures are extreme. Across the country rainfall is seasonal, so check when the rainy season occurs in the region you wish to visit – it’s best to avoid peak rainfall due to slippery conditions and the risk of floods.
Self-driving is the most convenient – and often the only – way to access most sites; if you are visiting from abroad, fly in to the closest airport to your destination and hire a car.
What to pack
Sunscreen and seasonal weather protection. Your tour operator will supply the climbing equipment required.
Where to stay
Many premier mountain ranges, and the nature reserves they house, offer camping and self-catering accommodation. Each region has a dedicated tourism office where you will obtain a listing of local options.
- Mountain Club of South Africa
- Climb ZA
- Mpumalanga Tourism Authority
- Western Cape Tourism
- Tourism KwaZulu-Natal