|Rappelling down after some Table Mountain cragging|
The grading is a number system from 5-38. Depending where you look the conversion can be off by a few grades. We found the sport climbs to be very sandbagged but the trad seemed to be pretty comparable to the Canadian Rockies grading.
|Breaking out the ropes|
The best way to find information about climbing in South Africa is the Climb ZA wiki and forum, where you can gather info about crags and find climbing partners in the area. Through the forum, Kyle was able to meet a number of fellow climbers (mostly Canadians!) who were eager for partners. As a result, we developed a small posse of foreigners to hang out with while we were in Cape Town. We also stopped by Drifters Xtreme Sports in Cape Quarter to pick up the local guide books, Western Cape Rock (Sport Climbing R360/$36) and Cape Peninsula Select (Trad R300/$30). The friendly staff eagerly shared their favourite routes and local gems, as well as practical advice on how to not get mugged. There have been violent robberies relatively recently in the National Parks, including Table Mountain and Silvermine where we were climbing. Everyone seems to have a story of friends that were robbed. Their advice: carry pepper spray, don't let people sneak up on you and pay attention to your surroundings. We bought ourselves each a tiny bottle of pepper spray for dirt cheap at Drifters and made sure to always keep an eye out for suspicious looking folks while we were out in the parks. We never had any incidents.
|Clouds rolling down Table Mountain|
Here is a list of some of the more memorable climbs:
Grade 13 (5.7)
Length: 130 m (5 pitches)
Grade 13 (5.7)
Length: 130 m (5 pitches)
|Map of the hiking trails on the north side of Table Mountain (see Africa Ledge and Fountain Ledge on upper right)|
From Cape Town, we took and Uber to the base of Table Mountain. To access the climb, we took the Table Mountain cable car to the top of the mountain and hiked down the India Venster hiking trail to Fountain Ledge. Traversing Fountain Ledge around the big buttress under the cable car, we stayed high and right to gain Africa Ledge (going left would take you down the India Venster trail). It took about 30 minutes of walking to get to the start of the climb. Realistically you could walk up from the base in almost the same amount of time when you factor in the gondola ride, but it is a hard, steep slog that we were happy to avoid in the hot sun.
|Access to Fountain Ledge via the India Venster Trail|
Kyle had injured his hand a few days prior so I was leading this route which was easy climbing but challenging route-finding. The less than obvious route follows the path of least resistance up the face, zig-zagging its way to the top. As with most of the climbing on Table Mountain, the route doesn't get much traffic and the guidebook doesn't have detailed topos to guide you. Off the start, I opted to skip a 5.8 and 5.6 in favour of an easier 5.7 single pitch but it was dirty and meandering, causing me to wonder if I was off route. Things were a bit strained as we climbed the first few pitches but as we climbed higher up on the route, we started to feel more confident we were in the right place and really enjoyed the position and views of the city below. Half ropes were key on this route due to the amount of rope drag from the traversing. The route tops out right at the cable car station and descending via cable car was a nice treat! The surprised look on the tourists faces as we pulled over the top was also a highlight. Overall, this was a fun adventurous route that was a good introduction to Table Mountain.
|Soaking up the sun on Africa Crag below the Cableway Station|
|Leading up up and away on Africa Crag|
|Laughing or crying? Maybe a bit of both|
|Cable car and Lions Head with views out over the Atlantic Ocean from Africa Crag|
Grade 16 (5.9)
Length: 70 m
|Base jumpers flying off Table Mountain|
This is a classic moderate Table Mountain route that came highly recommended. Again, we avoided the long trudge up the mountain by taking the cable car to the top and walking down to Fountain Ledge to start the route. The route starts from a small ledge to the left of where Abseil Africa has it's ropes hanging. You need to scramble up a corner then traverse left along a narrow ledge to the bottom of the first pitch. Despite being one of the most popular routes on the mountain, it still wasn't obvious and the route felt dirty. It had rained the night before and we spent a long time deliberating whether the sandstone would be dry enough for us to climb. As we discussed our options, a few base jumpers leapt from the cliffs above, pulled their chutes and flew away. Very dramatic. Eventually we decided to just go for it. Kyle took the first lead up the left facing corner. It was steep and awkward especially near the top of the pitch. The multi-pitch book we had bought had next to useless topos and had confusing beta about where to build our anchors or which line to follow (what the heck is a bollard?). Kyle built a hanging belay at the top of the corner from a rail that cut across a steep face to climbers right, the iconic second pitch.
|Kyle moves through the crux of the first pitch on Jacob's Ladder|
|High above the clouds on Jacob's Ladder|
|Views of Camps Bay from the top of pitch 1|
The second pitch is the "money pitch". It starts with a 15 meter airy traverse high above Camp's Bay that is easy to protect and has massive jugs. Before reaching the corner, the pitch takes a turn straight up the face with thinner holds that get better as you climb, with intermittent protection in horizontal cracks. I lead this pitch and and took a long time working up the confidence to move up out of the safe traverse onto the more exposed face. I used up my useful gear early and had to get creative slinging small chicken heads because the pitch kept going and going. Apparently it is easy to get off route into more difficult climbing to either side, but following the path of least resistance will get you where you need to go. I topped out on a ledge where I built an awkward belay at my feet but had amazing view out over the Atlantic Ocean.
|Big, exposed traverse on pitch 2|
|Climbing the face on the money pitch|
|Kyle on his way up the face to the 2nd belay station|
|Just hanging out on Table Mountain|
The last pitch was straight forward and took us up to a big ledge just below the hiking trail at the top of Table Mountain. Hikers peering over the edge were pretty surprised to see us appear below them. We had lots of space to coil ropes and pack up, then scrambled up using a strategically placed rope to pull through a prickly corner and top out by climbing over the fence onto the walking path.
Silvermine was about a 30 minute drive from our condo in Cape Town. It is part of the national park and I had to pay an entrance fee each time we went. There are rules about climbing in the parks and you are supposed to buy an activity card but we never had anyone check. There are also different fees for South African's vs. Tourists to enter their parks so be prepared to pay at least double the local rate! Some only take cash which caught us off guard the first time we tried to go to Silvermine, because everywhere else took credit card.
We went to Silvermine a few times to do some sport cragging. The approaches were short, the crags were nicely shaded and we were shocked at how few people were out climbing, even on weekends! There is also a reservoir in the park so swimming after climbing is also an option, as long as you are out of the park by 7pm when the gate closes.
|Steep walls and views of False Bay and Muizenburg|
|Fun sandstone cragging|
|Doing some leading on sandbagged sandstone|