I have lived in Stellenbosch for 25 years. When I first moved here from Cape Town I walked the mountains flat looking for climbable rock, but I eventually grew tired of having my hopes dashed. Then a few years ago my backyard surprised me in the discovery of Reverence on the Cathedral in Jonkershoek. And I began to look at the mountains around my home with renewed hope and a perspective gained in experience. The one thing I learnt is that when looking for the best rock in an area of generally dodgy rock, one must look to the arêtes.
There is a rib of rock on Stellenbsoch Berg above Coetzenberg that stands out, especially when highlighted by the late afternoon sun. I began looking at it every time I drove past, and its appeal grew. It was one of those pieces of rock that I planned to check out, long before I eventually did.
Spare Rib is not a great climb in comparison to what is available on TM or Yellowwood, but if you live in Stellenbosch and you’re tired of always driving elsewhere to climb, it’s a very worthwhile half day outing (and is it not better to expend energy resources on walking rather than driving?) Some of the things that make it worthwhile are: a pleasant walk-in on a very good path; an aesthetic line, perched on an arête; pretty decent rock with decent gear; a long, fairly steep and consistent pitch with several sections of pretty cool moves; on the 2 crux sections, one or two fortuitously positioned cool finger pockets make all the difference between a route and a blank, unclimbable face.
Approach: Walk up the main Stellenbosch Berg access path above Coetzenburg. At the top of the slope above the communications mast, when the Spare Rib feature comes into view, traverse off the path to the right, taking the best line to reach the bottom of the route (approximately 1.5 hours).
The total rib is about 60 metres high, and the route could be done in one 60 metre pitch, or broken into 2 approximately 30m pitches, with the best place to stance recommended on the topo. This would make a grade 19 pitch followed by a grade 21.
Start on the arête, climb straight up for about 10 m and rail 2m right around a corner above a roof. Pull through an overlap and higher into a clean corner. Go right onto the sharp arête and pull up into a finger crack running up to the right of the arête. Pull through the roof above on good holds. Stance, if desired.
Pull through the roof above using pockets to gain a good hold higher up (1st crux). Move slightly left on the thin ledge and climb the face on its left edge, using thin holds and a tiny pocket to reach a crack above (2nd crux). Follow the crack and then a layback corner crack to a small ledge. Follow the easy break and faces above to the top.
First Ascent: Johann Lanz & Gabriel Ravenscroft, Feb 2017.
If you’re a trad climber based in Stellenbsoch, I reckon it’s a must do. It gets morning shade and afternoon sun, and so is probably suitable for both summer and winter.