Smalblaar Ridge

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Smalblaar Ridge (F), Du Toits Peak

M. P. Mamacos 1952 (MCSA Journal 1952)

To the east of and overlooking the Forestry Non-European camp site between Molenaarsberg and Du Toit's Peak rises a ridge which has probably been looked on as a prospective by most rock climbers who have passed that way, and who realize that ridges like that of the Klein Winterhoek do not sprout from every peak. From some angles the ridge appears to culminate in a very sharp knife edge, while from others it appears to be merely the left hand end of a series of white turrets which in themselves seem to offer ample scope for rock climbing.

We parked the car about half a mile beyond the camp site and made our way up to the lower part of the ridge which includes a certain amount of rock scrambling and since their is no obvious line of ascent, a description of of the one followed would be of little interest. Suffice it to say that we eventually arrived at the foot of a gendarme which was the last obstacle between us and the final steep rock; and having reached this point, we stopped to survey the impossibilities ahead. The ridge was indeed a knife edge and a well honed one at that. Near the bottom was a smooth grey slab about 80ft high containing two very vertical cracks the left hand of which looked perhaps wide enough to admit a piton but hopelessly inadequate for hands and feet. Some 200 feet higher, our only hope was a bottomless crack which would have to be approached from below via a smooth slab on which it seemed, one would hardly be able to gain a hold, let alone lean out in order to pull oneself into the crack - which did not seem wide enough anyway. The prospect looked so hopeless that we were all but unanimous that we should turn back while there was yet time to spend the rest of the day wallowing in the pools below. However we skirted the gendarme to the left and climbed up to the neck between it and the knife edge, at which arbitrary point we started roping. Some mild climbing brought us to the bottom of the grey slab. The crack was about 6 inches wide and easily climbable, the main difficulty of the pitch being near the top where the crack peters out. The next pitch, although easy, was most spectacular; an 800ft sheer drop was to be noticed under the right arm and one of 1200ft under the left. There was a stance at the foot of the bottomless crack and although very exposed, the crack was sufficiently wide to accommodate the average body comfortably. At this point there exists an excellent chock stone belay, but a piton was driven in lightly to hold the packs. Unfortunately, the efforts of the last man to extricate it were even lighter and the piton remains to supplement our beacons. There was little further hindrance to our upward progress and and we arrived at the top of the ridge about 3.5 hours after leaving the gendarme, the standard of rockwork having nowhere exceeded mild F with leader belays everywhere. A stone pushed gently outward from our last stance could be seen to fall freely for fully 1200ft.

It was now apparent that the easiest approach to the foot of the knife edge is up the ravine on the Worcester side of the ridge, which would be a pure slog and therefore probably much less interesting.

We descended the backs of the ridges in the direction of Worcester and covering easy ground fairly quickly, arrived at the nearest farm 1.5 hours later. A short walk to the National Road and a diligent plying of thumbs soon had us back at the car.

Detailed description of the climb from the neck behind the gendarme

1st Pitch, E, 70ft: Up the prominent fault to the left of the crest.

2nd Pitch, F, 80ft: A grey face with two prominent vertical cracks. Up the left hand crack.

3rd Pitch, D, 50ft: Up the crest of rib.

4th Pitch, E, 40ft: Up to overhang, straddle around rib to left and continue to foot of bottomless crack.

5th Pitch, F, 40ft: Up bottomless crack to stance at foot of chimney.

6th Pitch, E, 80ft: Up chimney past a large chockstone and scramble to stance at top of climb.