The rough sandstone formations of Rocklands in the Western Cape of South Africa have fast become some of the world's foremost bouldering problems. For more than a decade, climbers have been flocking to the northern Cederberg mountains during the unforgiving local winter months to send these routes - and to find more among the endless fields of boulders.
For anyone planning a trip to Rocklands for the 2018 bouldering season, here are some pointers to get you started:
The entire Western Cape of South Africa is experiencing a drought. Water restrictions are in place in Cape Town as well as Clanwilliam town, but all of the accommodation offerings in Rocklands central have independent water sources and are not affected by the restrictions. Almost all (if not all) tap water in Rocklands is safe to drink. Despite having no water restrictions, all accommodation owners are appealing to visitors to use water responsibly.
Where to stay
Accommodation in Rocklands central has always centered around the "Big 3", namely Traveller's Rest (www.travellersrest.co.za); De Pakhuys (www.depakhuys.com); and Alpha Excelsior (www.alphaexcelsior.co.za). Over the years, three smaller accommodation businesses have also opened doors, namely Die Poort (www.bushmanspoort.com); The Storytellers (www.thestorytellers.co.za); and Kleinfontein (www.kleinfonteinrocklands.com).
As of 2014, no climbing is allowed in Rocklands without a valid climbing permit. Land owners often conduct inspections in the climbing areas and anyone found without a permit will be asked to leave the climbing area. Permits can be obtained online - www.quicket.co.za - or purchased at CapeNature's Kliphuis campsite office; De Pakhuys campsite office; or Traveller's Rest farmstall and restaurant.
There are some crash pads to rent in Rocklands. These can be booked through De Pakhuys from the beginning of May. Alpha Excelsior has a limited number of pads solely for rent to their guests - inquiries can be made when booking.
Scott Noy, author of the Rocklands Bouldering guide book (2010), is set to release an updated version of the guide in April or May of this year (date to be confirmed). These will be available to buy in Rocklands, usually at the De Pakhuys campsite office; The Hen House @ Alpha Excelsior; and Traveller's Rest farmstall. Guide books can also be purchased online directly from the author by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the Rocklands bouldering areas have been mapped for 27 Crags (www.27crags.com) and these topos can be downloaded to a smart phone. While accurate online topos for Rocklands are still in their infancy, the routes to get to the climbing areas have been well documented for the Maps.Me app - which can be downloaded to a smartphone before heading out to climb.
There is only coverage from one cellular service provider in Rocklands - MTN. If you have an MTN enabled phone, then you will have full access to calls, texts and data-based apps such as WhatsApp etc. Otherwise, both the Hen House @ Alpha Excelsior and the Travellers Rest farmstall and restaurant have wi-fi coverage, as does De Pakhuys. Some guest houses offer wi-fi, others offer fixed internet points - for more information, contact the accommodation providers directly.
Where to eat
There are two restaurants in Rocklands central that have been feeding hungry climbers (and selling them great coffee) for years now: The Hen House @ Alpha Excelsior Guest Farm and Winery; and the Traveller's Rest Farmstall and Restaurant. Both offer wi-fi. Die Poort also hosts a traditional West Coast fish braai on a Friday night, booking essential! Otherwise, accommodation in Rocklands is self-catering, with the supermarkets in Clanwilliam - the SuperSpar and Shoprite - stocking the bulk of general groceries. There is also a new shopping mall scheduled to open doors to Clanwilliam in June, bring with it a promise of a Pick 'n Pay - another large supermarket - as well as several fast food outlets.
Getting to Rocklands without a car
If you don't feel like renting a car, there is always the Rocklands Lift Club Facebook page. There is a lot of traffic between Cape Town and the Cederberg during bouldering season, so you're bound to find a ride there. Otherwise, contact your accommodation provider for contact details of the bus service or the weekly shuttle service. Clanwilliam town is about 25 kilometers away from Rocklands central, so planning for hitching rides to the shops is essential.
On 23-Feb-2018 Doug wrote:
>On 22-Feb-2018 JamesMc wrote:
>>Never heard of needing a permit to boulder!
>The historic bouldering venue of Hueco Tanks has had a permit system in
>place for a number of years:
Though was more of a formality back in 95 where you could tick the whole area on the days permit and no limit on people or cars.
1998 the restrictions were for no more than 100 cars in the park.
Just checked now and see it is far more restrictive again with only 70 people allowed on North Mountain unguided and all other areas requiring a booked guide! If camping you aren't allowed after the gate is locked unless there is an emergency, where back in 95 we were given the combination and could come and go as we pleased!