Environmental Management Plan: Bouldering in the Red Hill Sector of Table Mountain National Park

Redhill mapENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT PLAN OVERVIEW – (Click on the link below to download the full EIA Plan)

Environmental Management Plan_Redhill_For Approval_vs3

Click here to read the Redhill/Coppermine access closure thread on the Forum

History of Bouldering in Red Hill

Bouldering is a sub-sport within rock climbing that was first practiced in the early 1900’s in France as a way of training for bigger climbs in the Alps. It is a sport where the climbers do not use ropes or any permanent climbing protection and instead choose boulders that are low enough to jump down from. In order to prevent injury, the climbers place a foam mattress below their climb and will have another climber spot them to ensure that they land feet first.

Bouldering areas usually consist of a cluster of boulders with a trail leading between each of the individual boulders. During a bouldering session, a climber will spend anywhere from a couple hours to a full day working through different problems in the area. However, often the climber will spend a majority of the day focused on a “project”, a single problem he or she is trying to climb.

Although traditional rock climbing has been practiced along Cape Peninsula mountain chain for centuries, bouldering in this area can only be traced back to the 1960’s. During the 1980’s climbers like Andrew de Klerk and Chris Lomax made bouldering more popular, especially at the Silvermine Boulder. In the 1990’s bouldering in South Africa became known across the world when a group of the world’s top climbers developed the boulders around the Clanwilliam area of the Cederberg, naming it Rocklands. Rocklands is now considered one of the top bouldering destinations in the world, with climbers travelling from all continents to this remote part of South
Africa. In August 2011 local media sources stated an expectation of at least 500 climbers travelling to Rocklands for the winter season.

The bouldering at Red Hill was developed from the late 1990’s, with Grootkop being the first area to be developed. At the time, there was a Management Plan that regulated rock climbing in Table Mountain National Park. The plan covered / covers traditional rock climbing and sport climbing, but it is silent about bouldering (neither allowing nor disallowing it).
In the Cape Peninsula there are currently approximately 500 climbers, with approximately 50 who focus on bouldering. The main climbing user group of Red Hill are specifically boulderers, though all climbers might visit the area.
It is expected for bouldering to remain a recreational activity in the Cape and perhaps see an increase in climbers during the next few years for the following reasons:

1) Rocklands is a large climbing tourist attraction with the climbing tourist numbers already seeing an increase over last year due to the recent release of the first Rocklands guidebook in December 2010. In August 2011 Reuters and the Cape Argus expected 500 tourists in the 2011 climbing season, resulting in an expected 4 – 5 million Rand to the Clanwilliam economy. 4
2) A Cape Town bouldering guidebook is anticipated for release in 2012.
3) Climbers consider bouldering a good training for longer climbs even if they are not specifically boulderers.
4) The sport is being taught at schools and universities around Cape Town.


Niel Mostert on Elfen Lied (8A) at the Vajra area, Redhill

Niel Mostert crushing Elfen Lied (8A) at the Vajra area, Redhill. Photo by: Margherita Introna

Environmental Management Plan: Bouldering in Red Hill

Current Status of Bouldering in Red Hill
To date, Red Hill is the most developed climbing area in Cape Town and houses many of the best bouldering problems. Previous to June 2011, it was being accessed by a wide range of climbers from locals, tourists, beginners and world class athletes. During early 2011 the boulderers started to be turned away by a South African National Parks (SANParks) ranger who stated that the activity was not allowed, even though neither the website nor park signage stated it was illegal.

Climbers continued to go to the area due to the mixed communication until June 2011 when the Mountain Club of South Africa stepped in and put out a request to the bouldering community to refrain from using this public area until access was resolved. Representatives from the MCSA rock climbing sub-committee and the local bouldering community met with SANParks, and SANParks requested for a bouldering specific Environmental Management Plan to be put forward to assess the sport’s impact on the area. The local climbing community has respected this request while this document was being drafted (although it is inherently more difficult to inform foreign tourist climbers).

Document Methodology

This management plan was drafted utilizing the Environmental Management System (EMS) Model. This methodology was chosen due to it being qualified as the world standard for Environmental Management and follows a cycle that continuously ensures land protection. EMS can be viewed as a three step process of 1) Planning 2) Implementing 3) Assessing.

Step 1: Planning

The first step within EMS can be broken into a sub-set of activities, all of which were undertaken in preparation of this document.

  • Gathering of information regarding Environmental Management Plans in general.
  • Defining the stakeholders and clarifying their needs.
  • Meetings with the different stakeholders.
  • Desk Research around the impacts (positive and negative) associated with the sport of bouldering.
  • Drafting the Environmental Management Plan by a group of local boulderers with the support of the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA).
  • Review of the document by the MCSA, specifically the rock climbing and access sub-committee.
  • Distribution of the EMP to the climbing community at large for a period of 2 weeks in order to gather feedback.
  • Final distribution to the community for climbers to sign in approval. Supporters of the EMP are listed on pages 28.

Step 2: Implementing

Upon approval by SANParks, the plan will be executed and managed by the team of climbers that drafted the plan, in accordance and collaboration of SANParks.
Environmental Management Plan: Bouldering in Red Hill

Step 3: Assessing

An Impact Assessment and / or other types of exercises should be completed by SANParks as they deem necessary. Any results or findings should be communicated to the bouldering community through either the MCSA Rock Climbing and Access committee or the group of climbers that wrote this document in order to ensure any negative impact is being addressed.

Environmental Management Plan Objectives

The Red Hill Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for Bouldering is specifically focused on the Red Hill sector of Table Mountain National Park.

The EMP has four main objectives, namely:

  • To document the positive and negative impacts resulting from bouldering in the Red Hill areas.
  • To create, document and distribute a plan for boulderers to adhere to in order to minimise negative impact in the Red Hill area, ensuring that the needs, objectives and policies of SANParks are met.
  • To grant access to bouldering in the Red Hill areas, increasing positive impact and use of public land.
  • To create an understanding between SANParks and the bouldering community on continuous activities that need to take place to protect the land while ensuring positive experiences for the climber user group.

Stakeholders and Needs

Stakeholders in this EMP include SANParks, Mountain Club of South Africa, the local bouldering community, and climbing tourists. The needs of these stakeholders are as follows.

South Africa National Parks’ mission is “to develop and manage a system of National Parks that represent the biodiversity, landscapes and associated heritage assets of South Africa for the sustainable use and benefit of all.” The Red Hill area is part of Table Mountain National Park which is managed by SANParks.

Mountain Club of South Africa
The Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) strives “to promote the sustainable use of our mountain resources, and to facilitate access to our natural heritage in a friendly and supportive manner through 1) sharing expertise, and learning 2) partnering with key stakeholders 3) connecting mountain lovers to similar-minded people and to the mountains they love.” The MCSA Rock Climbing and Access sub-committees are involved in the drafting of this EMP, providing necessary resources and advice.

Local Climbing Community
The South African climbing community is made up of a diverse group of people in terms of age, ethnic background, education, profession, etc., all brought together via the recreational sport of rock climbing.

Climbing Tourists
South Africa has a high density of rock and is internationally recognized as a climbing hub. Hundreds of climbers visit annually to explore Cape Town and surrounding areas. The 2011 season was expected to bring approximately 500 tourists and an increase of 4 – 5 million Rand to the Clanwilliam economy.

Click the following link to download the EIA Plan –>  Environmental Management Plan_Redhill_For Approval_vs3


11 Responses to Environmental Management Plan: Bouldering in the Red Hill Sector of Table Mountain National Park

  1. Neil Margetts Aug 16, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    Great job, looks very professional.

  2. Myburgh Aug 16, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    Thank you for making the effort and taking the time to draft this document.
    Your efforts are appreciated by all parties involved, and hopefully the process of ensuring access will gain further traction as a result.

  3. Rachel Strate Aug 16, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Hey Justin,
    Thanks for posting this up. If anyone has feedback or wants to add their name of support, please email me directly at rstrate27 at gmail.com.

  4. Andrew Aug 16, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    soooo can we climb there or not at the moment?

  5. Paul Aug 16, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Andrew, No, i believe not. Patience dude
    thanks to Rachel and her team for leading this initiative.
    Much appreciated indeed.

  6. andrew p Aug 16, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    Wow this is great news, well done those involved – who is involved, massive respect. Andrew P

  7. Julia Wakeling Aug 16, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Rachel has really been driving this, with support / advice from the MCSA Rock Subcom and a bit from the MCSA Access Subcom…Marius, myself, Douw, Guy Holwill, Andy Davies, Alison Hughes, Brent Jennings, Mark Johnston, etc etc…oh and Niel Mostert at the beginning too! So glad this is hopefully going to be resolved.
    To re-iterate…please stay away from the area for just a bit longer. Thank you!

  8. Donovan Craig Aug 16, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    The link to the EMP doesnt work… can we have that fixed?

  9. Donovan Craig Aug 16, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    Oh nevermind, the one at the top works, but not the bottom one 🙂

  10. Justin Aug 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    Sorry about that, both links are now working.

  11. Rachel Strate Sep 7, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Hey everyone,
    I have had conversations with the rangers and they have already read the EMP and are moving into analysis stage. 🙂 🙂 🙂 I have offered to help with this process in order to push it along further and am thinking things are looking positive. One comment they have iterated many times is how they appreciate the substantial decrease in boulderers going to Red Hil, a sign that we respected their request.
    Just an update!

Leave a Comment/Reply/Review