|Climbing Type||Multi-pitch Trad|
Big wall trad climbing with many excellent routes of upto 12 pitches on good rock. A truly African setting worth the long drive to get there. Its best not to venture out here alone, you would certainly get lost.
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There basically two different walk-ins: African Ivory and Frans' Kraal. The African Ivory route tackles the mountain from the south and basically foolows the big watercourse, the source of which is the top pools near the cave. The Frans' Kraal route comes in from the east, and heads up a biggish river valley, then gets onto the ridge forming the valley bank. Once the big plateau is reached, the route goes clockwise around the southern Donjon, up to the top plateau.
General consensus is that Fran's Kraal is by far the better walk. You start ascending almost immediately on this walk, as opposed to African Ivory where it takes ages to reach the first steep bit. It is probably equally likely to get lost on either walk.
Parking is no longer at Frans' Kraal, but rather at Isaac's Kraal. Isaac is a relative of Frans (son? nephew? grandson?) and the road virtually runs into his place. (The Rondawels have gone). His property is guarded by a fence with "white metal gates". From the house walk down the road towards the mountain (i.e. in a westerly direction. You'll pass Frans' Kraal (a white house) on your LHS about 100m down the road. Cross the small river at some big smooth boulders. Carry on along the very big path until the big thorn trees start. Just after entering the thron tree forest, turn onto the well worn path that goes up the hill.
Follow the path up the hill until a kraal on your RHS. There should be a path veering left at this stage, following a contour. Follow this path until it veers right up the hill, next to the main river (usually running). The path becomes steep now, staying on the true left of the river, until it levels off slightly and crosses the river. It usually takes 15-25 mins to get to this point.
There should be a very well worn path on the other side, heading south (i.e. away from the river). Head slightly left through the trees to find a good path that gradually takes you onto a ridge. A bit up this path it suddenly opens up and you get a good view of the plain below. Shortly after this, stick to the right and (there are many paths splitting and joining here - they all go more or less the same way, except for the left most one which goes the wrong way). You should now be heading due west again, up a steady ridge. This path is very eroded at times. Eventually, it will level off, go through a small dip past a little stream, and then up a short steep, boulder hopping section through trees until a contour path running north-south is reached. Turn left (south) onto the contour path. It usually takes about an hour to get here.
From here follow paths - and there are more than one option - and head for the middle of the Donjan visible ahead. You are ultimately heading for the left side of the Donjan. If you start heading too far east i.e. towards the right side of the Donjan and the obvious saddle, then you have gone too far. Go back west.
You should be amongnst some massive yellowwoods. The perennial drip of clean water is just higher up. The biggest tree around marks the start of the next section of the walk. It usually takes about 1hr30 to get to the drip.
From behind the big tree, find the path over the boulders and over a big fallen yellowwood trunk. It start off heading south, then turns sharp right and goes very steeply up the boulders. At the top of the steep stuff is a big boulder cave. Follow the path into the thorn tree forest. You cant really go wrong here. After about ten minutes you should pop out the trees onto the beautiful Blouberg plateau.
Choose your own way across the plateau. There is one path that goes at a low level (left) and another easier one, if you can find it, at a high. contour, level (right). Just head in the general direction of the crags due south. You'll find the river immediately below the crags. Turn upstream (right) and follow the river up the little kloof. Climb out on the true right of the kloof. Follow the path up the little valley, veer rightwards over a small ridge into a second small valley, and climb onto the ridge on the other side. Follow this ridge up to a big boulder. Climb the boulder and contour right to the cave. The whole walk usually takes about 2hr30 if you are au fait with the route and anything up to 8 hours if you are not!
There is perrenial water in the main pool below the BAPM butress. From the cave, walk down the little kloof. Stick in the river bed (bare rock) and carry on downstream for a few minutes. The main pool is in the shade of a big tree.
If you don't want to walk that far, take a length of rubber tube with and use it to drain water out of the small pools that form in the small kloof below the cave. This is useful in the spring months when water is particularly scarce.
There is sometimes water on the summit, near the top of Hey Jude. Dont rely on it though cos its often dry.
Start of Routes
Walking down the ramp the first obvious good section of rock above is a big orangey/pink amphitheatre (Lost Tribe Area), about 120 m high. The ramp bottoms out just after walking over some exposed rock under a bulging overhang with a single tree root growing down it. Follow the path as it curves to the left, up then down the boulder hopping at the base of the obvious gulley (Great Gulley). Go up and leftish to the base of the big, steep, scary wall (Wall of White Light) with grass slopes beneath it. Wall of White Light starts approximately halfway between popping out of the bushes and the very obvious corner that leads to a sloping grass ledge 80m up. Psycho Reptile starts towards the right of Wall of White Light. Future Shock, Moonlight, Moonlight Direct, Crack of Adventure and Road to Nowhere all start up the obvious corner. Carry on past bad choss at base of wall until under a massive roof 70m up (Solar Eclipse). Scatterlings breaks through just to the right of the big roof. Eight Miles High starts up cracks just right of Scatterlings. Hey Jude (Bushpig, Tequila Sunrise and Moonshadow share Hey Jude’s start) starts in corner formed by big flake. Hey Jude climbs corner for 5m then steps right and up slabs. Last moon is the very obvious grey corner (40m high) with gnarly crack, about 30m right of big roof. Just around the corner to the right of this is the break taken by Something of Value. Look out for the two bolts on Wow Fuck just to the left of SOV (bolts are about 25m up on a very blank-looking headwall, above a groove). Moonraker starts 15m right of SOV, at big flakes.
25 Tequila Sunrise - steals a few pitches from other routes plus some new pitches. Pretty much a direct line with mostly great gear.
24 Eight Miles High - Awesome, probably the best route on the wall. The pitch off the grass ledge is stiff for 22 and gear isn't great.
22 Scatterlings - Suberb sustained route. The final finger crack is immaculate and technical.
21 Something of Value - Very direct route (if the Tequila Sunrise variation is used instead of the original pitches 5&6). Tricky offwidth at the top.
21 Teddy Bears' Picnic - Excellent sustained route. Bomber gear all the way with a very exposed traverse on pitch 7. Pitch 8 has 2 bolts (replaced in Sept 2005).
20 Hey Jude - Good technical climing on the crux, mixed with thrashing crack climbing higher up. Well protected route, and the off-width isnt that bad.
19 Last Moon - Hard, awesome first pitch (more like 20), and the higher pitches on chickenhead faces are absolutely brilliant. Mostly good gear.
21 Big Corner - Great climbing on excellent rock. It's worth doing the Maleboch scramble to avoid the original first pitches.
22 Moonlight Direct - Good climbing. Long and hard grade 22 pitch with some suspect rock on the easy pitch off the grass ledge
20 Bushpig - A fast route at grade 20 with some fun chimneys towards the top. Follows the rap ladder. The grade 20-pitch of Hey Jude forms the crux.
19 Moonraker - Crux pitch is long and awesome with varied climbing. Pitches up to the grassy ledge are tricky
There is a great bouldering area in the small valley thet heads up towards Avalon (bolted route, 26). When standing in the cave, Avalon is the striking yellow wall to the north east. To get to the bouldering, walk to the top pools. Head eastwards for a minute or two over the grassy meadow. The bouldering valley will open up on your right, with the Avalon wall forming the head of the valley.
Another good bouldering area is near the bottom pools. From the cave go down the little kloof. Stick on the true left of the river and find your way down to the bottom pools. About 150 m downstream of the big pot-hole pool, on the true left of the river is a 5 m high gently overhanging wall. The wall is maybe 50 m wide.
Cave Area Climbs
On the true right of the bouldering valley leading up to Avalon is a very nice 16 hand and finger crack, Grand Illusion, (about 30 m below Avalon) opened by Mike Cartwright in 1990. Theres a good 21 on the face just to the left of the crack as follows:
Start about 2 m left of Grand Illusion. Climb up then follow the grips up and leftwards to get gear on the arete. Finish up rightwards to top out. This was opened on pre-placed gear. Gear is minimal and not very good. FA: Steve Crowe, April 2005
All the bolts on Avalon, except the top one which is still ok, were replaced in October 2005 with 10 mm stainless. This is a great route. It is fully bolted, but has no top anchors so take a friend 1.5, friend 2.5 and a few big wires and some slings for the top. It is easy to scramble off from the top of the route. The original route breaks left at the last bolt (26). Carry on up and right for the direct finish (28)
Tips for Some of the Routes
Something of Value (21)
The 2nd pitch after the grass ledge goes up to a rail, then rails left to a corner. The original route climbs the corner for 3 m then buggers off left across an unprotected slab. This is hard and scary 21. Intead of traversing left, continue climbing the corner to the small roof that caps it. Step up and right to a peg, then some slab moves to another peg until able to move up and right into the main corner feature. Follow the corner to the overhang and pull this to get into the corner of the 6th pitch of SOV. Climb the easy (15) corner to the jumbo ledge. This pitch is from Tequila Sunrise and gets ***** with very good gear and wild steep climbing. Its also about grade 21.
Teddy Bears' Picnic (21)
The 5th pitch after the grass ledge (the precious mettle pitch) has 2 bolts on it. These were replaced with new 10 mm stainless steel bolts in October 2005. This is a great, well protected route.