One of the most iconic lines in the Rocklands. Shozoloza, 8a+. Photo: Peter Crane
The Rocklands is a magnificent bouldering area located in the Cedarburg Mountains, just 200km outside of Cape Town, South Africa. For the last couple of years I have been drooling over the idea of climbing here and last summer a few friends and I from Ireland were lucky enough to get a chance to sample the delights. The Rocklands is home to some of the best Bouldering in the World with Sandstone boulders stretching as far as the eye can see. As soon as you arrive it becomes easy to see how the area got its name. There are just thousands of sandstone boulders; everywhere you look, you find proud arêtes, big roofs, outstanding highballs and even some excellent low balls (if you’re into that)! It is clear to see why it draws in the best climbers from all over the world. This article aims to highlight a few recommendations about the climbing, what to do on rest days and a few other bits and pieces in between.
Irish tricolour in the Rocklands.
Each sector of the Rocklands has its own unique feel, although the style is mainly gymnastic, with good holds and big moves, you don’t need to look very far to find something to suit you. In our time bouldering here we managed to find a bit of everything- arêtes, grooves, highballs, lowballs, roofs, dynos, slabs, crimps, slopers, pinches and even jamming cracks, all of which were of the highest quality.
The spread of grades is something that was mentioned before my trip. I arrived thinking that to get the most out of the trip I needed to be pulling hard and looking at high grades but in truth that’s not completely accurate. It’s not uncommon to stumble across a 5+ right next to an 8a, both of which of high quality and offer up their own unique challenges. Often you would see mixed-ability groups all climbing on the same boulder but on different lines and different grades, all wearing big smiles and sharing the psyche. This was a part of the trip which I really loved. Regardless of whether you were crushing your 8c project or climbing your first 6a outdoors, people are happy to help and are always encouraging.
The brilliant ‘Girl on Our Mind’ 6b+
That being said there are an incredibly high amount of outstanding boulder problems in the 7’s and 8’s but with so much rock all around you, whatever grade you climb you will be able to find something, especially those who are keen to explore and open new boulder problems. As for grading, take grades with a pinch of salt, like anywhere grades can be subjective, morpho, soft or hard. Arrive there only with an open mind and appetite to climb and you will leave very satisfied.
In this section there should be a mention to the top outs and walk in’s. Both of which are fantastic if given due care and attention! At the top of the large majority of boulders there are big holds, jugs, threads and chicken heads. Just take your time when topping out, don’t go swinging around on these holds like a Neanderthal, they have been known to break off if no care is given! As for the walk in’s they are to a large degree, a delight. The walk in’s range from 10 minutes to 30 minutes and often have a flat path surrounded by beautiful scenery, so for this reason try and stick to the paths as best as you can and keep the landscape as untouched as possible, avoiding any possible future access issues!
If you are planning a trip out to the Rocklands a guide book is really helpful, if not necessary. The Rocklands bouldering guide was published in 2010 so is rather outdated but regardless, over 1,000 boulder problems are described ranging in grade from Font 3 though to Font 8C. The guide includes maps, directions and a lot of useful information!
Kev Marnane on ‘Springbok’ 7a+
One of the classics ‘The Rhino’ 7b+
Passing the crux on ‘Ulan Bator’ 7b+
Selected Areas and classic problems
Sassies: Shozoloza, La Linea negra, Springbok, Splash of Red, Pinotage, Un Petit Hueco dans La Rocklands, Leap of Faith.
Campsite: Girl on Our Mind, Minki, Witness the Sickness, Zanzibar, Black Velvet, Hole in One.
Roadside/Roadcrew: Roof is on Fire, Sunset Traverse, Out of Balance, Cedar Spine, Caroline.
Rhino Boulder: The Rhino.
Accommodation in the Rocklands offers a selection of great places to stay with nice accommodation, close proximity to the boulders, friendly staff and great food. Our group stayed at the Travellers Rest and would happily recommend it to any climber. The Travellers Rest houses a huge climbing community from all over the world, great food, spacious accommodation and super friendly staff and is nearby many of the main Bouldering Areas. The staff at the Travellers rest go out of their way to make sure everything is in place to ensure a fantastic trip. Prices range (£7-£15 per night) depending on where you choose to stay, how many of you are staying and what you need. Wi-Fi isn’t included in the accommodation but it is available at a small fee at the restaurant. The food at the travellers Rest is fantastic, great breakfasts, good coffee and all sorts of different nourishing foods after a long day of climbing.
If you are after a slightly cheaper option De Pakhuys campsite offers camping for £3 per night (ensuring you bring your own gear) and £7 pounds a night if you stay in one of the cabins. De Pakhuys campsite also has a bar with a buzzing climbing community around it and holds ‘Rockstok’ one of the biggest climbing parties of the year!!
Where ever you choose to stay, it is a must to call into the Hen House, next to the De Pakhuys campsite- the owners James and Becky are very friendly and it is home to one of the best lunches in the Rocklands, The Rhino. The coffee is fantastic and everything on the menu is superb.
Rest day activities- Lamberts Bay, Elandsbay, Cape Town and Muizenburg
Anyone who has been to Rocklands has probably made the pilgrimage to Muisbosskern, South Africa’s first outdoor restaurant located in Lamberts Bay. You need to gather about 15 people to book but when you arrive you are treated to a 3 hour long buffet with some of the best, fresh seafood that the South West Coast of Africa has to offer. I’d highly recommend arriving before sun down to see the place in all its beauty as the sun sets into the ocean. Bring your down jacket as it can get pretty chilly in the night. Just down the road from lamberts Bay is Elandsbay. Elandsbay offers great surfing and with it only being an hour away from Clanwilliam, it is perfect for a rest day activity for a keen surfer. Local accommodation and surfboard hire is available but I’d highly recommend phoning in advance to insure availability.
Cape Town is a couple of hours away so not ideal if you only have a single rest day available but there is so many things here to enjoy, it is a beautiful city. If you’re a big coffee fan ‘Truth’ in Cape Town is a great place for coffee and Lunch, located across the road from the district 6 museum. Table Mountain, boulder beach and Cape of Good Hope are also great things to do if you have time.
Muizenburg beach is located just outside of Cape Town and offers great surfing and good food. Hire is available from the Surf Emporium at the beach where board and wetsuit hire cost just around £7 for an hour and a half. If you’re hungry after, Tiger Milk is a great restaurant with good food, nice ambience and fantastic music!
Safari, bungee jumps, dirt biking and sightseeing are all close to Cape Town but once you arrive in the Rocklands it’s hard to want to do anything else other than boulder!
Sunset at Muisbosskern restaurant.
Sun setting picking up the hire car.
The easiest way to get there from Ireland is to fly into Cape Town, there are a variety of different airlines, airports and prices to choose from so the best thing to do is research, return flights can range anywhere between £500-£1000.
From Cape Town it is 200km away, just a few hours’ drive north towards Clanwilliam. The best recommendation would be to hire a car, it would be very hard to do the trip without one. There is a wide range of models, sizes and types of insurances you can go through so the prices vary depending on your needs. If you are planning on strapping pads to the roof of the car and driving off road a lot, a steady car and full insurance wouldn’t go amiss.
When to go?
The best season for climbing in the Rocklands is during our summer months, May-September with the optimum time being in June, July and August. The temperature and weather fluctuates a lot, from mid-twenties to five degrees from day to day, so make sure to pack your down Jacket but also your shorts and sun cream. As it is their winter you can get a lot of rain and sometimes you will encounter all the seasons in one day. Basically prepare for a summer day of climbing in the UK!
Don’t take my word for it, Rocklands is a fantastic bouldering destination, save up, book as much time off as you can and get training! It’s a true boulderers mecca and an area of immense natural beauty, it’s the only place I have yet to come across to rival Fontainebleau!!
Danaan Markey doing his best chameleon impression on the famous highball ‘Cedar Spine’ 7c. Photo: Peter Crane