Taking a Stand: Our Right to Boulder on the Peninsula

Bouldering in Table Mountain National Parks

Mountain Club of South Africa Rock Climbing Committee Notice


Table Mountain Bouldering activity permits

Rachel Strate on The Nooner (7B+) at the Bright Lights area, CBD Boulders on Table Mountain. Photo by: Margherita Introna

There have been a few reports of people being chased out of Echo Valley by South African National Parks Board (SANParks) Rangers.  This is concerning given that no access issues have ever been raised by SANParks regarding bouldering in Echo Valley with the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA).  Even more concerning are the threats of arrest that some climbers have reported.

Let it be clear that SANParks have no legal grounds to stand on, in this regard.  There is no legislation that prohibits bouldering in Table Mountain National Park and certainly none that sanctions arrest.  It is important that the climbing community take a stand on this matter and resist intimidation by rangers.  Should you be approached by any rangers in Echo Valley, or any other areas for that matter, we advise you to stand your ground and refuse to leave as giving into their demands sets a bad precedent.

The bouldering EMP which SANParks requested was submitted to SANParks in July 2012 and despite several attempts by MCSA to finalise this there has been no word from SANParks.

The only area which MCSA designated a self-imposed moratorium on was Redhill.  However, this has been lifted since 1st July 2013 and SANParks was notified about this.  The only area where the self-imposed moratorium remains is Easter Island in Redhill due to the sensitive nature of the environment.

We advise that you also carry the official letter signed by MCSA attached here.

In the unlikely event that you are arrested, or if you are faced with a fine (which you should not pay), report the incident immediately to MCSA (contact Delaney Carpenter on Delaney@rock-chicks.co.za or 083 355 9933) and we will do our best to assist you.


Maintaining access to our climbing areas is paramount- we need to take a stand!

Bouldering in Table Mountain National Parks activity permit


Coppermine, Redhill bouldering

Andrew Wood working Pandemonium at Coppermine, Redhill. Photo by Calvin Kemp.



Our Right to Boulder on the Peninsula

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11 Responses to Taking a Stand: Our Right to Boulder on the Peninsula

  1. Andy Davies Nov 11, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    LIKE! Maybe we should organise a bouldering meet at echo valley and let SANP know?

  2. Cuan Nov 12, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    Andy, great idea! 🙂
    Perhaps sooner rather than later, what about arranging a mass gathering for Saturday? It shouldn’t be too difficult as most ppl will be bouldering around that area on Sat anyway

  3. Riaan Vorster Nov 12, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Do boulderers use recognized routes / trails to get to their boulders?

  4. Cuan Nov 12, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Yep, almost 100% of the time. However, there are maybe 20 regular boulderers around CT but hundreds, if not thousands of other mountain users having a much higher combined impact.

  5. paddy Nov 12, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

    Support the sentiment. It would however be useful to know the legal basis of this stand. Could you share this with us.

  6. Jeremy Colenso Nov 13, 2013 at 3:11 am #

    Please see my old post below.

    This was a post I made in 2010 about the situation. I don’t believe the legal situation has changed and I would adopt the same approach today WHEREVER I was bouldering within the TMNP. I am no longer the MCSA representative on the UIAA but I am sure they would be interested to know what is happening as I used to report to them twice a year. The last paragraph in my post is particularly relevant as it isn’t necessarily the act of bouldering that is likely to land you a criminal record (and make your next trip to the States or Europe a bit awkward) but rather the breaking of plants and disturbing of the soil whilst engaging in the activity. This could be proven by the testimony of a ranger . They would for example take a video and/or photograph of you landing on a bush or breaking a bush to get to the boulder, a sample from the site and exhibit it along with with their sworn witness statement. As someone with a reasonable grasp of the law ( I am qualified and have practised both in South Africa and the United Kingdom) I can tell you it wouldn’t be that difficult for a reasonably able prosecutor to convince an executive minded magistrate to convict you. Recent events in the Drakensberg tell us that climbers are not immune and I remember back in the 90’s a certain MCSA member being prosecuted for bolting on the Lions Head granite.

    The 2010 post was as follows:

    “Dear All,

    To find out what the access situation is at Coppermine you need to take the following steps:

    First go to the following link:


    This should take you to Sanpark’s official website.

    Then click on the following link which is on the right hand side of their page:


    If you go to page six of the 2006-2011 Conservation Development Framework (CDF) report you will see a map of the Peninsula setting out the various zones which range from High Intensity Leisure to Remote Wilderness. If you then go to page 9 you will see an activity versus zone matrix. It shows bouldering permitted in ‘Remote’ but not ‘Remote Wilderness’.

    The next step is to correlate the location of your particular boulder with shaded areas of the zoning map to see whether it falls in the dark green ‘Remote Wilderness’ or lighter green ‘Remote’. If it is in the light green area you can boulder if it is in the dark green area you cannot. (You could do traditional climbing though or move the boulder – not recommended).

    Being the MCSA’s representative on the UIAA Access Commission I tend to leave domestic access issues to the local coordinator. However, since I live in Scarborough, and have had a confrontation with Rangers at Coppermine I decided to research this problem and came to the conclusion described above. My problem is that I am abroad a lot so I have not had time to map the exact location of the boulders and go to SANPARK HQ at Westlake to see where they are located on a larger scale zoning map. It would be helpful if someone with a bit more time on their hands could carry out this exercise and let me know what they find out.

    What I would also say is that park regulations forbid breaking plants and moving rocks around so if the rangers can’t fine you for bouldering they could give you a ticket for bashing a new path or moving a pointy rock out the way. Something worth bearing in mind.”

    • Delaney Nov 13, 2013 at 10:02 am #

      Thanks so much for all the info and research, Jeremy, and you are quite right that there is currently no EMP for bouldering in the peninsula. We (MCSA CT Rock Sub Com) started working with SANP in 2012 on an EMP and we were very close to finalising it before SANP suddenly started ignoring our emails to them. There are a number of boulders on Topside and Echo Valley that do fall into the “highly sensitive” zones you mention and they were excluded from the draft EMP. The only areas in Topside and Echo Valley which were allowed were the ones that fell in the “open, less sensitive” zones. This we know from a meeting we had with SANP when mapping the boulders together and these were the boulders that had site visits done by SANP.

      Yes, we can probably be prosecuted for damaging the environment but not for bouldering as bouldering is permitted in the “open” zones I mention above as per the TMNP CDF report (again, this was conceded in meetings we had with SANP).

      Nowhere has SANP or MCSA said that there is a moratorium on bouldering in the peninsula while the EMP is being finalised (before, since and after the lifting of the MCSA-imposed moratorium on Redhill). So why are the rangers under the impression that bouldering is not allowed or that a permit is required for it?

      We really, really would like SANP to work with us in finalising the bouldering EMP but we are pretty powerless at this stage until/unless SANP starts talking to us again. However, as long as we are bouldering responsibly in the peninsula without breaking the environment, there doesn’t appear to be any legal issues with bouldering in “open” zones according to the TMNP CDF report.

      An EMP would sort all of this out and we have one: SANP just needs to finalise it.

  7. Jeremy Colenso Nov 13, 2013 at 3:24 am #

    The new links as of 2013 are as follows:



    As people are aware the activity EMP refers to sport climbing and trad climbing there is no EMP for bouldering yet.

    • Henk Nov 13, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

      P 54 to 56

    • Delaney Nov 14, 2013 at 9:26 am #

      Thank you Henk, this is very useful 🙂

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