Yellowwood Amphitheatre

From South Africa Rock Climbing Routes Wiki
Revision as of 08:45, 22 June 2014 by Snort (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search
Ad climbza directory.jpg

Yellowwood Amphitheatre
Loading map...
Climbing TypeMulti-pitch Trad
Rock TypeSandstone
SeasonAll year but winter days are short and conditions can be cold and wet if it has rained recently
ProvinceWestern Cape
AreaDu Toits Kloof


The prevailing ethic for Yellowwood is tread lightly.

"Tread lightly" means no bolting of belay stances unless all possible alternatives have been completely exhausted. No placing of bolts for running belays that are not absolutely essential. No use of pitons, unless necessary. No use of power drills is accepted!

Climbers are asked to respect the prevailing ethic which is intended to preserve the aesthetic appeal of Yellowwood as a world-class Trad climbing destination.

It is essential for first time visitors to do an ascent of one of the existing classic trad routes to appreciate the committing and adventurous nature of the climbing at Yellowwood. Older routes such as Armageddon Time (and the direct), Blood is Sweeter than Honey and Time Warp are all test pieces for their grade. And newer routes such as Prime Time (and the direct) and Fantastic Time as well as "routes in progress" of which there at least 3, are no less demanding at the grade. Most, if not all the trad routes on the main wall have at least one "R" (run-out) pitch but none are "X" rated. None have bolts. There is only one piece of fixed gear on all these routes (a peg on Blood is Sweeter than Honey) and there are no fixed stances!

A new route on Yellowwood, Fighting The Dark Side Of Gravity, has had all its bolts removed, except for two that are essential for the leader on Pitch 3. Two non-essential pitons have also been removed.

There has been much debate about Yellowwood and the most active Yellowwood climbers have talked extensively so as to settle the ethos of this high-value cliff.

In a recent meeting Adam Roff, Jeremy Samson and Hilton Davies distilled the following:

Yellowwood is a very special Trad climbing venue and there have been some mis-steps in route development at the crag. Newborn was bolted many years ago before locals had given much thought to bolting and ethics. It is a legacy that shall remain, but should not be seen as guidance for route development at Yellowwood. More recently four new routes have been established by visitors who have made extensive use of non-essential bolting. Whilst route development is encouraged, non-essential bolting is not; and these new routes are getting their non-essential bolts removed. They will remain as good adventurous routes.

2014: There have been no less than 10 new multi-pitch trad routes established at Yellowwood in the first 5 months of this year. Together they constitute no less than 60 pitches or, combined, more than 1500m of climbing. All the routes have been free-climbed with the vast majority of the pitches of being moderate grade and only 2 pitches of grade 22 and one of grade 24. The routes are all well protected and no fixed gear was necessary.

All these new routes are on the buttresses to the left of the Main Wall. High quality High resolution Photo Topos are being regularly updated and if you down-load them to a smart phone with a good screen the actual detail of the rock can be seen if you magnify the image. These topos are far more accurate than written descriptions and line drawings. They are also better viewed on a smart phone screen than by printing them. In this way route finding is effective and the epic potential much reduced.

Further Signatories:
Willem le Roux
Karl Hayden
Stephen Davis
Andy Davies
Andy Wood
Bruce Daniel
Keith James
Douw Steyn
Ross Suter
Rik de Decker
Dirk Versfeld
Paul Fatti
Carl Kritzinger
Rob Zipplies
Scarre Cilliers
Mark Berry
Anthony Hall
Mike Scott
Kevin Smith
Stewart Middlemiss
Nic Good
Charles Edelstein
David Vallet
Andy de Klerk
Richard Behne
Tienie Versfeld
Alan Ross
Chris Lomax
John Alexander
Evan Wiercx
Ed February
Andre Vercueil
Bryant Roux
Stuart Brown
Dave Shewell
Johnathan Gordon
Stewart Noy
Paul Schlotfeldt
Clinton Martinengo
Bobby Woods
David Mercer
Neels Havenga
Justin Lawson
Brian Weaver
Johann Lanz
Guy Paterson-Jones

How to get there

Yellowwood Amphitheatre is in Du Toit's Kloof on the Worcester side of the Hugenot Tunnel, approximately an hour's drive from Cape Town. The amphitheatre is on the south side of the road (the N1). (It's on the right hand side if you are coming from Cape Town.) A path winds up the right-hand side of Yellowwood Ravine to reach the foot of the Amphitheatre. The walk-in is steep and takes about two hours. There is a water drip near the base of Yellowwood that is unreliable and seasonal - June to December

Fees & Permits

Accommodation & Food

Attractions & Activities


Route Beta, Tips and Tricks and relevant discussion of Grades

Grading routes at Yellowwood is, to say the least, more an art than a science. Weather conditions and the actual temperature play a critical role and can vary from arctic to tropical on the same day and can convert the grade of a route like Prime Time from 23 to 26 in a few hours.

All the routes at YW, even the newer shorter ones on the East Buttresses, are full-on "Big Wall" country climbs with lots-n-lots of very steep climbing. On that basis, fitness and more particular YW fitness is critical to success. Conditions make all the difference!

Some examples:

Divine Time may be grade 20 or so overall. Grade 19 is so difficult to define in the Western Cape context as there are so few routes of the grade, especially on TM. I think there is nothing harder than Last Laugh on Divine Time and it is not as hard as Touch and Go. The problem with the 19's on TM, is that they all have short cruxes or "tricks" preceded by and followed by straight-forward easy climbing. So they are not comparable to YW where even the "easy" climbing is steep and tiring.

Prime Time and Fantastic Time are supposedly graded 23. However, on both routes the 23 pitches do not have an actual move harder than 21 if you know the moves. But don't think you can go on-sight either even if you can climb Africa Arete (grade 25 on TM). As a total experience they are both solid grade 25 or to use the British Grade E56a. And that is in good conditions! Saturday the 21 June 2014 (the middle of Winter!) would have been way too hot to climb either of those routes!

Prime Time Direct is, (or rather was) graded 24. But it is actually probably harder to on-sight than Uber Huber on TM which is grade 26!

The crux pitch of Armageddon Time is solid 24 and or even 25 to on-sight!

So Yellowwood can be very challenging at any grade especially if you have little experience climbing there.

Extra Time and Good Time are probably correctly graded for any context and especially as the hard pitches are so easy to protect. Unlike the other newer routes, most of the climbing on these two routes is straight-forward and not too strenuous and tiring. The cruxes are, like TM routes, short, fair at the grade, and very easy to protect to the extent that they are almost like sport routes. And the cruxes are graded for the on-sight! Extra Time is a lot easier to on-sight or, at least repeat, than Armageddon Time or Prime Time.

The last two pitches of Good Time is 70m of the most continuous, consistent, varied and well protected 19 grade climbing you will find anywhere on Sandstone and it is worth doing the route just for those pitches even if you have to pull on a piece of gear on the 22 crux which is very easy to aid and is very short. The rest of the climbing is easy and quick.

Du Toits Kloof

Getting There

Descent: Walk right(looking in) to reach a system of gullies beyond the ridge. Scrambling and two rappells over short vertical sections gives access to a traverse line that leads back left to the bottom of the amphitheatre.

PLEASE NOTE TOPO PIC OF THE MAIN WALL IS INACCURATE! Watch this space for a better version AND HIGH RES version soon.

Yellowwood topo small3.jpg

Divine Time, Tea Time and Extra Time buttresses viewed from Lekker Time.jpg (click image for larger size)


EITHER walk right to the gulley between Smalblaar ridge and the chesspieces. This involves three short abseils.

DOWN TIME Rap Route OR use the rap route (affectionately dubbed "Down Time"):

ZIP TIME Rap Route

This rap route is situated on the west side of the Tea Time buttress. It has been recently improved to include another thread point which makes the rope handling easier especially in high wind. It also allows for less strenuous pulling down of the rope.

Zip Time Rap Route with Tea Time, Extra Time and Fine Time.jpg (click image for larger size)