This part of South Africa has some of the most dramatic and beautiful landscapes in the country. Views from the crags are huge, sweeping vistas of mountains and the endless Highveld plains under constantly changing skies; it is a must-climb for any south African or visiting climber!
There are currently about 140 fully bolted sport routes at Mount Everest. These range in grade from 7 to 29 (up to 7c+), the majority are below grade 20 (6b) so this is the perfect place for beginner and moderate grade climbers. There are more than a dozen fully bolted multi-pitch routes with 2 to 6 pitches, and about 20 trad routes for the adventurous. Then there is the POTENTIAL; there are dozens of unclimbed walls and boulders, lurking futuristic 30 somethings and easy stuff, just waiting to be developed. All this is located in a private game reserve with over a dozen types of antelope! The rock is sandstone, much younger and quite a bit softer than the quartzites of Boven, the Magaliesberg or the Cape. It forms weird and wonderful shapes and is highly variable, from loose-ish shaley stuff to perfect pocketed solid and smooth walls. The climbing at the Dark Side is on dolerite, an igneous rock which forms columns and cracks, a very different experience.
Mount Everest is located in the Free State just north of Harrismith. It is about 300 km southeast of Johannesburg and about 350 km northwest of Durban.
- From Durban: Follow the N3 and by-pass Harrismith on the ring-road. About 4 km north of the town, just past the top of a hill, the N3 intersects the R722. At this intersection there is a well sign-posted turnoff to the right labelled, “Verkykerskop”. Follow this tarred road for about 13 km to a crossroad where it intersects with the S1204. At this intersection there is a “Mount Everest” sign. Turn right and follow the dirt road for about 5 km. The entrance to Mount Everest is a large, thatched gateway in a clump of trees on the right.
- From Johannesburg: Follow the N3 until you reach the small (hard to see turn off) for the S1204. This is a good gravel road, passable in all cars. Turn left onto this (toward the mountain!). After 500 m turn left again, then after 1 km turn right. Drive straight for 11 kilometres and you arrive at the cross-roads with the tar road (R722). Cross this and after 5 km you will arrive at the Mount Everest gate on the right. If you really don’t want to do the gravel or you miss the turn, continue to the R722 to “Verkykerskop” and follow the directions as from Durban. It is 17 kilometres longer.
The contact numbers are on the gate and you can ring one of these to gain access at any time. If you plan to arrive after dark, then please pre-arrange this with the owner.
ACCOMMODATION AND FACILITIES
Campsites, caravan sites and self-catering chalets are available at very fair prices. You can obtain more information using the contact details given above. The chalets vary in size and sleep between 4 and 12 people; they are all of timber and really comfortable, some tucked up in the hillsides amongst the rocks, with amazing views. Booking is advisable if you want to make use of a chalet, but is not necessary if you are only planning to camp. All buildings and chalets are “SMOKE FREE” zones !
Please note that the resort does not have a restaurant, pub or TV facilities or a shop; for all of these you will have to go to Harrismith or one of the service stations on the N3 highway. Apart from rock climbing, you can hike or ride along a variety of trails (with your own mountain bike) or fish for bass in the dams (with your own rods). The setting is magnificent and the views are stunning, especially from the tops of the mountains. The bird watching is excellent and there is a good stock of various antelope.
- The rock is soft and pieces do come off, small and large! Climbers and belayers should wear helmets. If you are watching don’t sit/stand below the climber and if you are belaying stay away from the ‘fall zone’ if you can, certainly if the climber is on a potentially loose section.
- Always double check your harness and knots and your belayer! And check your partners knots when it’s his/her time to climb.
- Walking along the top and reaching down to chains is dangerous; this is when accidents happen! If you are trying to retrieve gear or place draws from the top be very careful or reconsider.
- Some of the bolts are getting old, be wary with very rusty ones, especially chains!
- Never rely upon a single bolt. If you are unable to reach the chains and need to clean the climb, sacrifice two ‘bail biners’ and thread the rope through a bail biner clipped to the previous bolts as a back-up to the one you are lowering off.
- Watch out for others…if they are in a dangerous position tell them. Tell other climbers if they are doing something that is risky, they may be inexperienced.
The crags are NOT yours!! This special place must be treated with respect; not doing so could easily result in the closure of the crags. Please do your bit and stick to the following rules:
- Climbers must report to reception on arrival and again before leaving the resort. No climbing is allowed on the climbing wall unless the prescribed fees have been paid. No climbing is allowed after sundown. No climbing at all is allowed at the Bushman Complex.
- No pets (this is a game reserve, full of animals), loud music or open fires except in designated braai areas.
- Camping is permitted only in the designated areas.
- Do not drop any litter, however small, including cigarette butts, finger tape and tissue paper! Take all this rubbish home with you. If you find rubbish, please pick it up, you are helping us all.
- If you must take a crap at the crag, go at least 30 metres down-hill and away from the cliff and make sure you dig a hole and cover it with dirt, sticks, rocks afterwards. Never do your business in a cave or corner. Do not leave toilet paper lying around; it must be buried or carry it out.
- If you take a pee, do not do it close to the cliff, make sure it’s in a place that is not sheltered from rain, otherwise it stinks.
- Small tick dots are fine but tick marks over 3 cm are an eyesore and are unnecessary except for the hardest to see hand or footholds. Brush them off afterwards! Please brush chalk-caked holds after you have finished with a route, especially if it’s a route that is sheltered from rain.
- NEVER use wire brushes!! They will destroy this rock. A soft toothbrush is fine.
- Respect others; try not to be too loud and think carefully about smoking, bringing your dogs or crying children to the crags; these things can spoil the pleasure for others.
- ‘IP’ written on the rock in chalk or a piece of tape/plastic on the first bolt means the route is ‘In Progress’ and the route is a closed project. Do not try these climbs unless you have permission from the ‘’owner’’.
- Do not remove other peoples draws from a route even if they have been hanging there for weeks. Some locals like to leave projects clipped-up. You may of course climb the routes using the draws left up.
- If a section of rock is marked with an X, written in chalk, don’t touch those features as the X indicates that the rock is loose. Don’t try knock it off.
You can have perfect conditions all year-round by choosing the right time at the right crag and by having the right clothes. Mt Everest is at 2000 metres above seal level. Summer here is warm but up to 10 degrees cooler (15 to 25 degrees) than places like Boven or the Durban crags (25 to >35 degrees). During summer storms build almost daily, but the rock dries very quickly; just run for cover when the storm gets close then enjoy the show! Winters days are usually magnificent, cold but sunny days and cold nights; daytime temps as little as 10 degree in the shade and plummeting to zero or well below at night. Winter snowfalls are not unknown. Occasional cold fronts sometimes bring cold, wet weather for several days at a time, just check the weather. The weather can be unpredictable and can deteriorate rapidly, it has a real mountain feel. But this is Africa, not Europe or North America; despite the grumbles of south African climbers the weather pretty amazing really! The wind can sometimes howl for hours, even on otherwise pleasant days. Fortunately, the various climbing areas have different aspects and you can usually find somewhere to escape from the wind, the cold or the sun. Please go prepared for any eventuality!
The sandstones forming the cliffs belong to the 170 million year old Clarens Formation (or Cave Sandstone), belonging to the Karoo Supergroup. These rocks were laid down in an aeolian (desert) setting which arose during a period of climate warming and desiccation (imagine!). The cliffs were massive sand-dunes in a sand sea! Sometimes you will see funny grey blobs or pockets where these blobs have been dissolved; these blobs are carbonate nodules. The rock is mostly solid, especially up on the Eagles Head. However, always be slightly wary of loose looking flakes, large and small! Give them a tap; if it sounds hollow be very careful, expect the worst! Above the sandstone of the Mooinoek Mountain you will see a thick grey-brown cap of dolerite. This is younger than the sandstone and was ‘intruded’ as sheets of molten rock into the sandstone, feeding the massive lava flows that formed overlying basalts (now eroded but preserved in the Drakensberg, forming the big dark cliffs there). The dolerite is a very hard crystalline green rock and typically forms huge columns with cracks.
There is much good bouldering to be had at Mount Everest. Although bouldering at the resort is still in its infancy, over 120 problems have already been developed. The boulders are scattered throughout the resort but the main concentration is located in the vicinity of Cyclops Crag and Eagle Crag. There is a wide variety of problems from low roofs to high slabs. Grades vary from very easy (3) to very hard (7c) with some even harder open projects. Although a bouldering pad is required for some of the problems, many can be climbed with only a spotter. Climbing and bouldering in the Bushman Complex is strictly prohibited !
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