Stellenbosch Berg – Spare Rib

Nowhere like home – on top of the Rib

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.

Description:

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.

 

 

 

Starting up Spare Rib

 

 

About to pull the roof near the end of the 1st pitch

 

Spare Rib Banhoek

Spare Rib Banhoek 1974. Photo by Mike Scott

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7 Responses to Stellenbosch Berg – Spare Rib

  1. Bani van der Merwe Jun 30, 2017 at 11:08 am #

    Very nice article Johann. Like you I have also lived in Stellenbosch for most of my life, and have looked up at that arete many times. some time in the mid 2000s my brother and I went to climb it, though our route differed from yours in that we took the easier line leading left and into the orange roof. there is a big crack there where we found an old hex that had probably been there since the 70s. I never coulde find out who’s it was. Someone had clearly bailed there, which we soon found to have been a wise choice as the route out left from under the roof is chossy and loose in the extreme. After a sketchy traverse over a small ridge and along a face for a few metres the way out is a very easy and rather boring scramble. I think your line is the more interesting way up. We never went right because it looked scary and exposed 🙂

  2. Johann Lanz Jun 30, 2017 at 11:33 am #

    Hey, thanks Bani. Cool to know others have been there before. I wonder who the earlier visitors were, and if there have been others as well. The Rib is definitely a feature that will draw the eye of any climber looking up at the mountain. Yes, the right hand route keeps you on good rock all the way, and right on the edge of the arete. And its got good gear. You’ll have to go and do it sometime.

  3. Mike Scott Jul 1, 2017 at 10:18 am #

    Well done opening some new climbing in the area, There is a lot that deserves more attention around Stellenbosch.
    Only one problem with your new route is that there is already a climb at Banhoek with the name ‘Spare Rib’.
    Was opened in 1976 by Henri Snijders and me (cf 1976 MCSA Journal page 81).
    Regards.

    • Mike Scott Jul 1, 2017 at 10:19 am #

      OOPS, should be 1974 Journal and opening ascent date.
      Mike

      Spare Rib Banhoek 1974.  Photo by Mike Scott

  4. Johann Lanz Jul 1, 2017 at 10:36 am #

    Thanks Mike for the heads up on that. I will have to suitably amend the name – a modern twist perhaps. And I will go and check out your route of that name in the journal.

    I love the way that scratching around in a forgotten area, brings out all the old stories. You don’t perhaps know who it could have been that left the hex?

  5. Bani van der Merwe Jul 2, 2017 at 11:51 pm #

    Back in the day I asked Paul Verhoven, Ernst Lotz, Uli Deutchlander and a few other mountain men who had climbed the area in the 60s 70s and 80s, and no one knew who had left the Hex. It is still a cherished part of my rack, after re-slinging it of course. I gave up on finding the owner a long time ago. but I still wonder. I suspect that like us whoever climbed that route on the left of the arete also just kept it to themselves. I only ever climbed it twice; the first time with my brother Jeroen, and the second time with Kobus Botha, we were both in the HH section of the MCSA at the time. He lives in the US now. It is quite a walk in for what you get. I still have the route description penciled into an old notebook somewhere, I’ll try to find it. Informally we called our route ‘die ou heks’. Kobus wanted to exit the roof to the right, which would have taken us onto your route, but I vetoed it as the rock looked to weak to me on the traverse for good protection. Incidentally, there is an overhang a little up and to the right of the ‘rib’ that makes a nice overnight spot, and below the rib to the left there is a shallow cave with a drip where water can be replenished if it has not been too dry a summer.

  6. Kobie Jul 20, 2017 at 2:36 pm #

    Hey Bani yes the climbing in the Rockies is quite something.

    Good to see people opening new lines.

    Has anyone checked out the massive split running up the face. I imagine it must be quite dank, but who knows…

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