Waterval Boven – ‘Boven (aka The Restaurant at the End of the Universe crags) – is one of South Africa’s best sport climbing areas. These crags attract year round international visitors ever since articles were published in 1993 in the German magazine Rotpunkt as well as in other media. It has become famous for its good selection of great quality routes (over 700 of them!) of all grades that are easily accessible. The wide variance in grades allows beginners and hard-core climbers alike to climb for months on end! Good quality rock, cheap camping facilities and chalets all within walking distance from the crags make this an excellent area.
How to get there
Best is by car but see bus info below. There is actually no need at all to venture into Johannesburg itself (not that it’s such a bad place, most people love it!).
From Johannesburg airport (O R Tambo International): take the R21 south for a few kilometers then the N12 east towards eMalahleni (Witbank), which becomes the N4. These are excellent highways and within two hours (several kilometers after the second toll gate) the turn-off to Waterval Boven is reached on the right.
Note: the highway splits into two 1.5 kilometres after the second toll gate. Both are still signed N4 Nelspruit (!?), but only one of them passes Boven! Keep straight, don’t take the left fork, many first time visitors make the mistake of going left which leads in completely the wrong direction!
Tolls are paid in cash or with a South African visa card. The expensive toll gate just before Boven can be fairly easily avoided by turning off (right) at Machadodorp, approximately 15 kilometres before Boven (see map on page 11). Drive into Machadodorp then take the tar road towards Badplaas (signed) for approx 13 kms, then turn left towards ‘Nkmomati Mine’. After 3.2 kms turn left onto a gravel road signed Waterval Boven. Keep on this, keeping left at the fork at 6.5 kms, the road leads past the Tranquilitas Adventure farm and the Wonderland crags and after another 8 kilometres or so into Boven town, about 10-15 minutes later than if you had gone through the toll. If it’s been raining very heavily this road can be unpassable in a normal car, however it dries very quickly (within a few hours).
If you go into town, Roc ‘n Rope Adventures is easily found, on the opposite corner is the Shamrock Arms Irish pub. Stop in (at Roc n Rope) and say “howzit” and get directions, either to the Climbers’ Lodge or to Tranquilitas. While in town pick up some beer and some cheap (but excellent) steak and boerewors from the butcher (Slaghuis), be sure to ask for the climbers’ discount.
PDF Topo DownloadWaterval_Boven_Guide-August_14.pdf (2830 downloads )
Accommodation / Where to Stay
The Roc n’ Rope climbers’ lodge (see advert above) is in town and is the original climbers hang-out in Boven. It’s a few kilometres from the Wonderland crags but a great base for a long stay or if you are alone. It has a fully euipped large kitchen, balcony/braai area and comfy lounge. You can walk to the Waterfall crags from here. Good value dorm beds and inexpensive small double rooms are available.
There are normally a handful of road-tripping foreigners around (especially June to August) and the odd local. Roc n’ Rope Adventures (www.rocrope.com) (+27 (0) 138257 0363) own the lodge and they are extremely helpful (Gustav wrote the 2004 Guidebook so he knows his way around the crags!).
Or, if you want to stay up in the hills, 5 minutes walk from the crags you can stay at Tranquilitas Adventure Farm (www.tranquilitas.com). (See advert below). It must be one of the most pleasant climber campsites on the planet! Some of the best crags at Boven are not more than a 5 to 10 minutes walk; there is a swimming pool, hot showers, fridges and great fire sites. It can be very quiet during weekdays unless it’s a holiday so if you are alone or like a bit of company, the climbers lodge in town may be a better option. Mornings are spent drinking coffee and relaxing on the lawns until 11-ish (when the crags go into shade) and climbers gather around camp-fires during the evenings. If you book in advance you can stay in one of the small but well equipped chalets or safari- tents. Roc ‘n Rope also manage Tranquilitas so direct enquires to them. At the time of writing, MCSA members get a discount on safari-tents anytime, and 40% off chalets at non-peak times (weekends and holidays); but this may change, ask Roc n Rope.
Tegwan Retreat is a hidden gem. There are two large cottages, the larger one sleeping up to six. It’s spacious and set in a lush shady garden with a trout stream babbling past. For a big group it works out cheaper than the other self-catering options. Tegwan is half- way between town and Wonderland so it’s a bit far to walk to those crags but it’s only few minutes in a car. Book it through Roc n Rope. In case you were wondering, Tegwan is the local name for a Hammerkop bird, the bird with a hammer-shaped head..beware, this bird has magical powers in local beliefs, amongst other things, if the Tegwan crosses your path you will fail in whatever you plan for the day, but if it flies straight ahead….you will surely send!
Safety & Medical
Take care when parking or climbing away from the Resort at “The Gorge Area”, “Railway Crags” and “Wonderland” areas. Make sure you lock your car and leave nothing visible in the car. When at “The Gorge Area” don’t leave anything at the top of the crags, clip it into a bolt on the cliff, petty theft is common here. All other crags are generally safe and no-one should steal your gear. A first aid dump is usually kept at the main gate to the resort. There is a fairly good clinic a few hundred metres from the resort on the way to the town for minor injuries. For serious accidents call the MCSA Metro Rescue on 011 315-0203 or call the local police (10177).
If you are opening new routes please make sure they are safely and adequately bolted. 316 Stainless steel only and make sure there are two lower offs. Avoid creating led out routes as they are usually avoided later on, this being unfair on other climbers. Remember too that led out routes are often unsafe at The Restaurant since there are sometimes ledges etc. that you will hit on the not so steep routes when you fall. When you bolt a route please do it safely.
Waterval Boven New Routes Wiki
The route info in the Climbing Areas below is from the old SACIN website (A big thank you to Barbara Curson for providing all the original route information) and is here for general interest & search. If you want the up-to-date route info & topos for Boven, then download the PDF topo above.
The cliff just below and going around half of the campsite. Some good long lines. There are 59 routes here, mostly bolted, ranging from 11 to 28.
The most spectacular crags are here with views of the waterfall and in a beautiful setting. Classics like Unlimited Power are found here. Tricky access in places with bolted & trad lines. Take great care here due to the long routes, (30+m) please tie knots in the end of the rope! There are 21 routes here, mostly bolted with a few trad lines at The Junkyard, grades range from 13 to 29.
These are mostly undeveloped and are the continuation of The Gorge Area moving rightwards for a few kilometres along the railway lines. The Toon Town area has many trad lines and a few bolted lines. There is still scope for hundreds of good and long bolted lines here and development has started again on The Last Crag of the Century. Some crags are quite a distance from the campsite. There are 56 routes here, both bolted and trad lines, ranging from 3 to 26. An open project can be found here too.
The crags in the small valley on the town side of the campsite. These crags include some excellent beginner crags with many easier lines. There are 79 routes here, almost all bolted, ranging from 8 to 27. There are also a few open projects that will be pretty hard.
When looking out from the campsite back towards the town and slightly right you will see an island of rock close to the main road (N4). There are one or two natural lines here as well. There are 49 routes here, almost all bolted ranging from 13 to 28.
|Triple Tier Crags
When looking out from the campsite you will see a valley with crags starting at the river. The crags are spread out, starting from The Gym, He-Man Area, Foundry then Acid House and finally The Far Side. Many of these routes require abseiling. There are 56 routes here, all bolted, ranging from 12 to 28.
This is one of the best areas at The Restaurant with some of the longer (30m+) routes including many classics like Snapdragon & Jabberwocky. The property was purchased by the MCSA recently and they have opened access to all climbers. Over a kilometre of cliff face exists and there is a great deal of new route potential here. There are 135 routes here at present ranging in grade from 12 to 33. The Theatre & Left/Right Wings also have a few trad lines. So far a few open projects exist that will be both hard and awesome.
Waterval Boven Gallery