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South Africa offers some of the most diverse rock climbing in the world

South African Rock Climbing

By J.F. Kloppers

South Africa's cliffs are big, wild, often remote – and still being discovered. And ours is a climate for being out in. South Africa offers some of the best, and most diverse, rock climbing in the world. Gear up, chalk up, and start cranking!

Ever since the German climbing magazine Rotpunkt published an article about Waterval Boven in 1993, foreign visitors have been flocking to this Mpumalanga town for some of the best sport climbing in the world. The Restaurant (officially known as "The Restaurant at the end of the Universe crags") offers more than 500 routes, and there are still numerous untouched rock faces in the area.

With routes ranging from scramble-easy to a superhuman 33 – and a number of natural or "trad" (traditional, or unbolted) routes – there's something for everyone here.

Outside Durban, there are also a lot of sport climbs, and a few close to Johannesburg. En route between these two major centres, you'll find some wonderful bolted routes in good hard sandstone in the eastern part of the Free State – notably at Eagle Mountain Game Lodge (formerly misnamed Mount Everest Nature Reserve) near Harrismith.

If you're more of a traditionalist, don't worry. You can revel in miles of unbolted rock in the fantastic, virtually pristine Blouberg in the Limpopo, the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal, the Magaliesburg in North West province – in close striking distance of both Johannesburg and Pretoria – or in the miles and miles of fantastic mountain ranges in the Western Cape.

One of these deserves special mention. The Cedarberg, two-and-a-half hours' drive north of Cape Town, is a world-class bouldering area – and boasts some of the best trad rock climbing routes in the country.

But for a close-to-city experience, nothing can beat Cape Town, with hundreds of sport and traditional routes within the city limits. The city is built around Table Mountain, a national park consisting of two great, hard rock types – Table Mountain sandstone, which gives nice positive edges, and Cape granite, which offers fantastic friction climbing.

** Mountain Club of South Africa – Founded in 1891, and one of only two clubs in Africa to be affiliated to the world mountaineering body UIAA, the MCSA offers climbing, mountaineering and hiking opportunities to its members and is involved in mountain search and rescue, training, conservation of mountain areas, procurement of access for mountaineering, and competition climbing. The club has 14 autonomous sections. Click HERE for more info.

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