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Hot Rock - South Africa

9:59:41 PM
Mark (Ashy) Ashmore and I left these sunny shores in December for a little climbing adventure from Nairobi Kenya to Cape Town South Africa on the Hot Rock truck BiRT (Big Red Truck). I was planning to keep you chockstoners updated on our progress, but the internet proved to be quite horrible, not helped by the fact that we managed to pull down a few telegraphs poles in our own rite.

So returning after 7 months on the road to this western decadence of flushing toilets, soft couches and high speed internet I can give you the run down. I would bore you all stupid in one post, so included is update from South Africa:


The local South African climbers had warned that if you fall off the crux of 'Energy Crisis' (20) you would hit the deck. This made me feel tentative, but I negotiated the tricky entry to the layback crack with no problem and the sharp edge provided a solid grip, as I reached the crux, the edge rounded slightly as the foot holds slickened, a split second later I was plummeting toward the ground.

Energy Crisis (20), Wolfberg, South Africa

The long drive south out of Namibia had us first spending a few days in Swakermon, a very pretty German town on the coast surrounded by huge sand dunes. Where we snowboard down sand dunes, quad biked around sand dunes and jumped out of perfectly serviceable airplanes over sand dunes. South to watch the sun set, then rise at Sesriem Park, which has the largest dunes in the world that rise 400 meters above the rocky plain. Further South to Fish River George, which is only second in size to the Grand Canyon.

Hotrockers on Sand, Sesriem, Namibia

These 5 long days of travel are very dry & dusty, with dirt roads most of the way. Dust into everything, thick in lockers, hair like wire, skin dry, lips chaffed. But BiRT plods on with only a single flat tire to slow us down for a few minutes. Finally after days of travelling the sand thins into Rocky Mountains and lush valleys. As we cross over the boarder into South Africa the valleys are irrigated and we find that it is very western, modern, convenient, this is not the real wild Africa we have got to know over the last 6 months!

Tom, Bouldering, Rocklands, South Africa

We have travelled so far south in these few days that we have driven into winter, with days much shorter, colder and we even start to get rained off climbing days, the first for the entire trip. Our first climbing in South Africa is at the hard sandstone crag of Rockland’s. The rock has excellent friction, great features, bouldering and well-bolted sports routes. We camp at the closed campground among huge pine trees, many fallen so we have massive supply of firewood for a change. We throw huge logs on the fire that burns continuous for 4 days, until the rain chases us off.

Shona, Legoland, Montaqu, South Africa

Escaping the rain we head to Montague, which is a mixture of Hunter Valley and Blackheath. Great climbing, wine country, with excellent local produce, great cheese, olives, wine. To us the land of milk and honey after the simple food of the north. Here there are thousands of well-bolted sports routes, on many small crags. The rock is fractured sandstone, but slick, so that you must watch where you put your feet, unlike Rockland’s where you can smear anywhere and walk up the wall like Spiderman. My foot blows off the rock several times, but I manage to hang onto the good crimping holds. We spend 3 days climbing excellent sport routes, grade 17 to 25's.

From Montague we head back north to Wolfberg to climb on the classic big trad routes. Wolfberg is in the spectacular Cedarburg Mountains in the north west of South Africa. BiRT climbs up the steep passes to the high valley plain and we even see some snow on the high peaks in the distance. It's now very cold and the morning sees all the tents frozen and with everyone slow to rise out of their warm sleeping bags. The climbing if fantastic with Brent, Sarah and me doing 'Quite Something' (17) a 5-pitch classic on the first day. With great gear, moves, exposure, rock and belay ledges.

Martin, Jacob's Ladder (16), Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

Second day we spend at the local sports crag which is 30 meters of 5 start classic lines from grade 19 to 24, where we tick almost the entire wall in a day. The final day has us on Energy Crisis (20) the classic route up a dramatic prow. Brent leads the first pitch in style moving through the crux with no problems. Sarah & I being on second had little chance in hitting the deck. As I fell from the crux my 8mm lifeline stretched and brought me safely to a halt 3 meters above the ground. Embarrassed I only had to swing back to the wall and climb it all again.

Dan, Silvermine, Cape Town, South Africa

From Wolfberg we spend two days at Paarl on its bolted granite domes, and then onto Cape Town, which is only 100km from as far south as you can go in Africa. We sports climb at Silvermine, close to our campground at Minzberg then onto to classic trad routes on Table Mountain. I lead the 3 pitch classic 'Jacobs Ladder' (16), with Heather and Peter following quickly behind. It has great exposure and you can see all the way down the coast to Cape of Good Hope.


After such a trip we had photo overload (over 30,000 photos taken). Here is a tiny selection for your viewing pleasure:

If you are interested in Hot Rock, I can highly recommend it. Suggest you quit your job, leave your partner (or better take them along) and get your arse on the truck for heaps of fun and climbing adventure.



10:45:08 PM
thanks for posting that Martin, i'd be interested to know some of the other areas/regions you visited in SA.

11:27:01 PM
Hi Sabu,

The full list was:

Rocklands, bouldering and sports climbing.
Wolfberg, big scary trad climbing and one excellent sport wall.
Montague, thousands of sports routes.
Paarl, sports climbing on granite domes.
Cape Town Table Mountain trad climbing.
Cape Town; Silver Mine sports routes.
Cape Town; Lots of other small excellent sports crags around.
Mt Everest, sports and trad climbing.
Drakensberg, Mountaineering.
Watervale Boven, “The restaurant at the end of the universe's”, Hundreds of sports climbs.
Magaliesberg, Small very hard sports crag and trad climbing

The post above refers to our first month in South Africa to Cape Town, where we picked up more climbers. Leaving Cape Town for another month we then visited Rocklands, Wolfberg and Montague for a second time as well as taking in the crags on the Eastern Cape.

My best pick would be Rocklands and The Restaurant. But it’s all good, depending on what you are after.


9:59:59 AM
Ha! What did you do in the Drakensberg?! A fantastic range hey?

10:45:55 PM
Hi Sabu, next installment, including Drakensberg, Cheers Martin


Heather shouted "Oh my God it's not going to stop!!" as the boulder the size of a Ford Escort engine block we had dislodged turned into a deadly missile. Leaping 50 meters at a time down the gully toward Henry & Liana who were climbing 1000 meters below us.

Since leaving Kenya 6 months ago our direction of travel had been mainly south, sometimes east, sometimes west, but mainly south. Reaching the Cape of Good Hope we had hit the end of Africa. So we returned north for a grand tour of South Africa's best climbing venues. They prove to be all world class fantastic climbing. Lots of bolted sports climbing, several big trad venues as well as big mountains routes.

We first head back to the majestic Ceaderberg Mountains to the sport climbs of Rocklands and the trad climbs at Wolfberg. I had my eye on the spectacular 'Orange Plasma' (21), which I missed out last time due to poor weather. I was pleased to red point it on the first attempt as it is a long and very powerfully overhanging line on a fantastic orange wall. The weather was perfect for climbing this time, cold with clear blue skies. We climbed many other sport lines (some only bolted weeks ago), too many to describe in this fantastic location.

Emma, The Fortress, Rocklands, South Africa

Then onto Wolfberg where it was freezing overnight, so 6 of us took the soft option and upgraded to a cabin. I got to sleep in a bed with real sheets for the first time in 6 months. I lead the well named classic 4 pitch trad route 'Satisfaction Guaranteed' (18) with Tom. No problem with the tricky roof pitch after Dan had managed to get a nut stuck at the crux a few weeks ago, that I happily clipped!

Team sampling the local beer on another long drive day.

Then 2 huge drive days has BiRT over the Eastern Cape where we first headed to Mt Everest (Not the big one!) where Dan, Penny and I put up a new trad route that we call "Goggles Required” (VS 5a) due to the large amount of dusty moss on the 2nd pitch that meant I had to lead most of it with my eyes closed! After a days sport climbing, Pei and I finish off our 3 days with the 6 pitch sports route 'Fight the feeling' (20) up the big wall, then onto a big photo shoot location on Cyclops wall.

Nick and Lucy, Cyclops Wall, Mt Everest, South Africa

The Wall of Spears is so named due to the dramatic ridge line that gives the impression of a shear impenetrable wall. We are in the Drakensburg where the mountains rise up to snow covered peaks, offering big treks and long mountain routes. We have come to climb Cathedral Peak (3006 meter's) via the normal route, which rises 1500 meters over a 10km tough walk with easy climbing for the last few hundred meters.

The first day has 12 hot rockers leaving at 4:30AM for the attempt, but it turns into a farce as they get lost in the dark and only 4 make it to the top. Luckily Nick and I had taken the 'strategic' decision to sleep in and spend the day lounging around the 4 star hotel up the road, where we had no trouble finding the beer and climbing the huge mountain of cheese cake.

Nick, Lucy, Martin, Heather top of Cathedral Peek

Learning from the first party mistakes we head off at 7:00am, so we don't get lost and summit by lunch. The only excitement when we dislodge a huge rock that bounces down the gully toward Henry and Liana. But after travelling for 500 meters the gully narrows into larger blocks and the block vanishes in an instant like a cheep magic trick.

Martin, Who’s your Daddy (19), The Restaurant, South Africa

We drive to Watervale Boven, known to climbers as “The restaurant at the end of the universe” for world class sports climbing. There are 100's of very well bolted sports routes scatted around the many small crags around the town. We all stay in the backpackers for climbers only in town and climb non-stop for 4 days over the fantastic rock.

We turn to the west and south stopping at the small hard sports crag of Magaliesberg for a few days before heading back to Montague for its hundreds of sport routes.

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