A silly little sport route called Delete Button has left me bitter for spitting me off on my onsight attempt. I feel joy and freedom when I think of Cedar Rouge. And my late brother David’s route Crocket Rocket fills me with feelings of love and loss. I have a relationship with many of the sport routes in Adele McCann’s book Cape Classics, but this story is about the other half of her book, the 46 trad routes that Adele has named and drawn.
Adele’s pocket-sized, ring-bound book, published in 1993, is a varied selection of trad routes in the Western Cape. To her great credit Adele climbed all of these routes – a not-insignificant achievement for any local. Having this past weekend climbed Grande Gul on Wolfberg and The Strainer on Cederberg Tafelberg, I have now climbed all of Adele’s 46 routes and can maybe offer something useful to other climbers.
Adele’s book does not contain route descriptions (RDs), star ratings or information about first ascents. The book is a compendium of route lists, maps and topos. Adele is a town planner by profession and her talents are well put to use here. As should be expected, aspects of the book have aged in 20 years, such as the map of the top of Table Mountain where the restaurant, paths and descent routes have changed. In the case of one venue, namely Lost World Crag at Montagu, access has been lost altogether. I would say that users of the book should supplement Adele’s information with original RDs from MCSA journals or descriptions from current route books, particularly for finding the starts of routes. A couple of months back Guy Paterson-Jones and I went up Cederberg Tafelberg to do The Strainer and accidentally did a new route instead. Sometimes with a bit of determination one can fit just about any part of a rock face to fit a topo when you can’t be sure of the starting point.
Cape Classics is divided into five sections: Table Mountain, Cape Peninsula, Cederberg Country Routes and Montagu. If one was trying to come up with the best 46 trad routes in the Western Cape I would find this selection very deficient, even back in 1996, but all of these routes are classics and really worth climbing. Most of the 5-star trad routes in the Western Cape are in the higher grades – think of Africa Lunch, Celestial Journey, Renaissance etc. What ‘Cape Classics’ offer’s is a varied selection of excellent routes that is mostly in the moderate-grade area, with a few easy routes like Arrow Final and Tafelberg Frontal and a couple of tough ones like Apollo and Alone in Space, thrown into the mix.
A list of the Cape Classics trad routes and my brief comments follows:
Table Mountain –
Bust Up, 19: Top two pitches are excellent. Wild grade 17 top pitch.
Can Can, 18: One very good pitch, which I would grade solid 20.
Africa Crag, 13: Full value. One of the best routes on Table Mountain.
Atlantic Crag, 18: Excellent route. Groundbreaking in 1951.
Odd Shouters Outing, 21: One of the best on TM. I reckon proper 22.
Moonraker, 16: Actually ‘Moonrake’. Unusual and interesting.
Arrow Final, 11: Ground-breaking in 1897. Very good.
Touch and Go, 20: Brilliant. Exposed. One of the best.
Cableway Crag, 17: Awesome in 1949. Still very good.
Farewell to Arms/Magnetic Wall, 21: An excellent, solid combo.
Last Tango, 20: Great route.
The Dream, 21: One of the very best.
French Connection, 19: Interesting.
Jacobs Ladder, 16: Brilliant. The best at the grade.
Roulette, 20: Fantastic. One of the best routes ever.
Staircase, 12: Great classic. Clean, continuous, consistent.
Escalator, 17: Almost as good as Jacobs Ladder.
Last Laugh, 19: Good first pitch.
Fountain Edge, 17: Nice.
Cape Peninsula –
Huguenot Crag, 18, Lion’s Head Granite: Very good. Staunch at 18.
Tea Trolley Crack, 17, Lion’s Head Granite: Very good.
Splinter in the Mind’s Eye, 18, Paarl Rocks: Superb granite climbing.
Millions, 18, Lion’s Head Granite: Very good.
Nursery Gambols, 17, Nursery Buttress, Kirstenbosch: Super exciting.
Fingertip Face, 19, Barrier Buttress, Camps Bay: Great old route.
Valkan Surprise, 16, Valken Buttress, Camps Bay: Wiggly but interesting.
Bombay Duck, 16, Lower Buttresses, Table Mountain: Superb.
Elusive Pimpernel, 16, Muizenberg: Very good, clean.
Last of the Blacksmiths, 21, Elsies Peak: Very good route.
Energy Crisis, 20, Wolfberg: A Cape classic with a very interesting first pitch.
Alone in Space, 22, Wolfberg: Tough off-widths, impressive leading.
Knobless Robot, 18, Wolfberg: Excellent climbing, great rock, fun.
Le Grande Gul, 17, Wolfberg: Just one pitch, but very good, fun.
Tafelberg Frontal, 12, Tafelberg: Great old 1947 pioneering route.
Strainer, 18, Tafelberg: Committing chimney. Great situation.
Motopsychosis, 14, Tafelberg: Pretty good. Beyond Pillar Box.
‘64 Route, 22, The Spout, Tafelberg: Tough old leader’s route (i.e. run-out).
Big Groove, 20, Tafelberg: Excellent route on the southern end of Tafelberg.
Rooibosch, 19, Tafelberg: Superb route on the northern end of Tafelberg.
Short ‘n Sweet, 19, Tafelberg: Good. At bottom-right of descent gully.
Butternut Crisp, 16, Hope Buttress, Pakhuis: Actually ‘Butterfinger Crisp’. Good.
Country Routes –
Exposure in F Major, 17, Witteberg, Du Toits Kloof: Great old classic.
Fleurdemaus, 14, De La Bat, Du Toits Kloof: Very good easy Du Toits Kloof route.
Smalblaar Ridge, 16, Yellowood, Du Toits Kloof: Good route, great setting.
Apollo, 22, Castle Rocks, Mitchell’s Pass, Ceres: One of the best routes in the Cape.
Nuclear Waste, 20, Lost World: Superb single pitch. Closed to access.
Cape Classics has some little technical issues. There are no topos for Can Can, Arrow Final, Last Tango, Last Laugh and Fountain Edge. Alone in Space is missing its top pitches. Some routes aren’t properly named (eg Butterfinger Crisp) or properly graded (eg Can Can). Some routes require other information to find the starting points. Background information and useful tips are absent. One shouldn’t therefore expect Cape Classics to be equivalent to Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. But the topos are excellent!
Adele’s little book (just 15cm x 10cm!) modestly presents an excellent bit of work. The selection of trad routes is superb and will give any decent rock climber a career’s worth of excellent climbing, touring, hiking and exploring in the Western Cape. Unfortunately the book is out of print but Adele tells me that if there is sufficient interest she may update the book and do a re-print. Meanwhile Tony Lourens and I are working towards a release date in September 2014 of my book.