Makapansgat has lain dormant on the climbing scene for the last 2 decades. The palaeontological sensitivity of the place has meant we have been denied access for that time. A more progressive approach is now being taken Limpopo Provincial Government and they have given the MCSA fairly easy and unrestricted access.
The place lies en route to Polokwane and is an ideal weekend trip, or a handy alternative if you’re rained off Blouberg. Its an all-trad venue with a super easy walk-in, very exposed, wild and beautiful camping, deep pools, high waterfalls and easy-to-access cragging. There is lots of new route potential.
Access is granted based on the goodwill of the Limpopo Provincial Government. The hard work of the MCSA JHB Section, and in particular of Neil Margetts, has paid off and the MCSA has been granted pretty much full access. These are the access conditions. Please don’t screw it up for everyone else:
1. ONLY MCSA MEMBERS AND GUESTS ALLOWED. Each party must have at least one MCSA member. 2. Before visiting, phone the MCSA JHB Section to find out the latest access arrangements and to get directions 3. NO BOLTING 4. No littering, including cigarette stompies 5. No unnecessary damage to plants 6. No animals (i.e. dogs) 7. Fires are allowed but bring your own wood and keep it controlled 8. Swimming is allowed
Directions are not given here. Please obtain these from the MCSA.
Camping is right on the lip of the cliffs. There are many flat spots here in a superb position. Apparently there is also an old campsite near the river in the forest below the crags. This sounds like an unnecessary mission.
The river is perennial but the water quality is not guaranteed. If you’re worried its best to bring your own water.
NO BOLTING ALLOWED!!!!!
Routes are listed from right to left, looking up. The location of some routes could not be pegged down. These RD's are given under the heading HOMELESS ROUTES. If you climb them or know where they go, please update the wiki. The map below shows the main climbing areas:
At the western end of the amphitheatre is a descent gulley. The routes in this area climb the pinnacles, slabs and cracked blocks around the gulley.
20 to 50m.
From the campsite walk west for about 200m until the cliff-edge becomes broken and curls north. Scramble down into the cracks on the right (looking up), then head down and left (looking up) over stacked boulders and through some chimneys. Finish off down a steep gulley blocked by a tree. Don’t screw it up here – you will hurt yourself. The scramble is probably a grade 10 (E). A more pleasant descent is to abseil off a tree to the left (looking up) of the gulley. This takes you down some grey slabs, basically down the route EAGER EAGLETS.
Due to the cracked and broken nature of this area the climbs face in all directions and one will usually find shade.
PUMPING PIG 22 **** [N] About two thirds of the way down the main descent gulley is a very large tree growing out of the face on the true right. Climb rightwards past the tree and over large blocks. A corner with an obvious crack is visible. The crack goes around an overhang about halfway up and finishes up an overhanging section. Start from the top of a large block. 1. 25m 22 (G3) (or G1 A1) Climb the crack to the overhang and crank through. Climb the crack above until it thins and starts to overhang. Crank through to good holds and stance on the left. 2. 15m 13 (F1) Climb the crack to the top. Notes: 1. Opened with 3 points of aid. FA: H.P. Bakker, J. Brown, Paul Schlotfeldt, September 1983. FFA: Unknown.
UP YOURS 15 [N] Situated to the right of the pinnacles (NELSON’S COLUMN et al). This is in the mouth of the large, western descent gulley. Start below a small overhang. 1. 25m 15 (F2) Climb up to and pull through the overhang. Continue up the break to the top. FA: Darryl Margetts, Martin Seegers, M. Townsend, 1988.
BUNGELJUNNY 19A1 **** [N] Situated on the obvious pinnacle downstream of the descent gulley / climb. Obvious jam crack. 1. ??m 19A1 (G1M1) Climb the recess until it narrows. Use aid (one point) to get over the bulge. Free up crack to easier rock and large ledge. Continue up left hand wall to stance on a small ledge. 2. ??m 15 (F2) Move left around the corner onto sloping rock. Move up through overhang and follow crack line to the top of the pinnacle. Descent: Step across to the main rock band FA: P. Douglas, L. Chambers 1982-08-15.
NO NAME 18 [N] No route description available. This climb is to the right of VUIL ONDERBROEK. FA: M. Brunke, Peter Lazarus, March 1984.
VUIL ONDERBROEK 18 ** [N] Starts 2m right of DABULLA. 1. 30m 18 (F3/G1) Climb the open book to start with, up to a good ledge. Climb the layback crack (crux) to another ledge. Continue up face to the top. FA: M. Richter, Paul Schlotfeldt and party, 1984-02.
DABULLA 19 ** [N] Starts on a flat block 100m to the right of the nek between NELSON’S COLUMN and the main face. Climb a series of steps, the last one being up a crack between the face and a large block. The start is a single crack which turns into a dual crack system. About 5m up the 1st pitch. 1. 10m 17 (F3) Climb the single crack, which turns into a dual crack, to a large ledge. 2. 25m 19 (G1) Climb the crack at the left hand side of the ledge. Some of the original description is missing here… Traverse right about 2 or 3m the final section to the top. FA: M. Richter, Darryl Margetts, Neil Margetts, with G. Margetts on pitch 1 1984-03.
NAMELESS 19 [N] No route description available. This climb is to the left of DABULLA. FA: M. Brunke, Peter Lazarus, March 1984.
REDLEG 17 *** [N] This climbs the east face of the highest free-standing pillar, to the right of the pinnacle ascended by NELSON'S COLUMN. Start at a 3m open book, below the obvious chimney. 1. 20m F3 (17) Ascend the crack to a good ledge and a friendly tree. Purists will climb the chimney above behind the chockstone to emerge on a large ledge. Slim climbers may chimney the 4m crack above, whereas our large brethren will have to perform a bold layback. A huge belay block waits to welcome you. 2. 20m 15 (F2) Climb above the block and step right to a ledge. Step up onto the nose on the left and so back into the crack line. Good crack climbing leads to the summit. Descent: Down climb the gulley on the left. FA: J. Holding, Clive Ward, 1981-10-25.
NELSON’S COLUMN 19 **** [N] Ascends the north-eastern face of the prominent pinnacle visible from the descent gulley and accessed from the bottom of the gulley. Scramble across to the left arête of the pinnacle. 1. 20m 19 (G1) Climb the stacked blocks just left of the pinnacle to a ledge. Traverse right and climb up the middle of the pinnacle face to a good jug. Straight up to top out. Descent: Two options: EITHER drape a rope (or two) over the top of the pinnacle so a tail with knots hangs each side (down the SE and NW faces) and simul-abseil off. OR get someone on the mainland to lower a rope and make a swing for it. Notes: 1. Gear is just adequate. FA: Neil Margetts and S. Brown 1984-04-06.
ZEE ROUTE 15 *** [N] The climb ascends the same pinnacle as NELSON'S COLUMN and was contrived solely for the purpose of making the first ascent. Begin by scrambling onto the pinnacles that stand between the pillar and the main wall, on the left of a gulley. 1. 20m 15 (F2) Take the obvious finger-and-foot traverse to the left edge of the pillar. Pull up and around to some small ledges and climb the groove above to poised blocks. Descend onto the face on the right and traverse right on the slab until a thin crack leads to the top. Notes: 1. An abseil descent can be made to the pinnacles using a block on the right hand side of the final slab. Flick the rope off. FA: J. Holding and Clive Ward, 1981-10-25.
SKRIK 19 ** [N] Starts about 10m right of THE LOVLIEST LADY IN THE LAND. There is a narrow steep crack on the left and a wider crack to the right. SKRIK takes the wider right crack (1m right of VICTORY). 1. 25m 16 (F3) Climb the crack to a small ledge. Continue up over easier ground to the right of a large offwidth. Continue up past a ledge with a cactus on it. Up further to a broad ledge with a steep face to the left. 2. 10m 17 (F3) Traverse left out across the face to the arête. Climb the arête to the top. FA: Darryl Margetts, H. Spencer-Wilson 1988-07-20.
VICTORY 19 ** [N] Starts about 10m right of THE LOVLIEST LADY IN THE LAND. There is a narrow steep crack on the left and a wider crack to the right. VICTORY takes the steep left crack (1m left of SKRIK). 1. 40m 19 (G1) Climb the steep crack to a small stance. Continue up over easier ground, keeping the offwidth crack (some of the original description is missing here…). At 25m a good ledge is reached with a large bush in the recess above. Traverse left around the corner and climb a short crack to a large ledge. Climb easier rock rightwards to the top. FA: Darryl Margetts, Neil Margetts, Petruska Zaal, Dean Martin 1988-07-17.
THE LOVLIEST LADY IN THE LAND 21 *** [N,2P] Takes the steep face on the true left of the steep descent gulley just after the tree-squeeze-through. This is to the right of GAMATS CHIMNEY. Look out for 2 fixed pegs. 1. 30m 21 (G2) Climb the steep face to the fixed peg. Move up and right to a small stance, passing another fixed peg. Continue up over easier ground. Move leftwards to climb the slab to the right of the arête. At the top of the slab continue up, moving left to make an exposed stance on the top of the arête. FA: Neil Margetts, Darryl Margetts 1988-07-20.
GAMATS CHIMNEY 16 * [N] Takes the obvious chimney on the true left of the descent gulley just after the tree-squeeze-through. This is to the left of THE LOVLIEST LADY IN THE LAND 1. 15m 16 (F3) Climb the chimney up to the chockstone (crux). Continue up easier ground to top out left into the descent gulley. FA: Darryl Margetts, Dean Martin, 1988-07-19.
ASOLO 9 ** [N] Starts half way down the descent gulley from a flat area above the gulley tree. There are overhangs above. It climbs the true right wall of the gulley. 1. 20m 9 (E1) Climb the corner to the left of the overhangs and up the slab to the top. FA: Darryl Margetts, T. Truter and party, July 1987.
EAGER EAGLETS 9 *** [N] Ascends the slab to the left of ASOLO (i.e. on the true right of the descent gulley), and starts lower down, after the tree-squeeze-through. 1. 45m 10 (E2) Climb a steep section initially and then up the pleasant slab to the top. FA: Darryl Margetts, Neil Margetts, G. Margetts, M. Richeer, March 1983. BARBARA’S BONUS 17 *** [N] Start to the left of EAGER EAGLETS at the base of a chimney. 1. 20m 12 (E3) Climb the face to the left of the chimney initially, then move into the chimney to bypass a chockstone. Stance on top of the chockstone. 2. 10m 17 (F3) Climb the crack system on the left wall of the chimney. Notes: 1. There is an easier finish to the second pitch around the corner to the left of the stance. FA: Darryl Margetts and party, July 1987.
I’M THINKING 13 *** [N, R] Start 10m left of BARBARA’S BONUS. The climb ascends the face to the left of the cacti-recess. 1. 40m 13 (F1) Climb the face left of the recess, avoiding the cacti higher up. Move diagonally left to the middle of the face. The final steep section s bypassed by moving slightly left. FA: Wayne Coetzee, Darryl Margetts, H. Spenser Wilson, P. Zaal, C. Spencer Wilson and party, 1987.
TWIN CRACKS AREA
50 to 100m.
Descend as per The Gulley Area. Continue walking leftwards past some pillars to get to ON EDGE. The wall above gets big and reddish. The Twin Cracks are obvious, SNAAI CRACK being the left-hand of the two. The Twin Cracks lie towards the left-hand side of this Area.
These climbs face north and therefore get a lot of sun. Look out for wasps.
ON EDGE 16 *** [N] Walk past the free-standing pillars on the right-hand side of the crag. There is a ramp which slopes from right to left just beyond the final pillar. Scramble up to a tree belay. 1. 40m 15 (F2) Climb the slab and crack to a belay block, after a barndoor layback. 2. 30m 16 (F2) Continue up behind the belay, following a crack, then step left to the obvious footledge and final slab. Up the slab, thin for 4m, and finish directly. Notes: 1. This route was “re-opened” in 1981 by Clive Ward and J. Holding who named it the name “THE RAMP”. FA: Duncan Peters and Carl Fatti, 1979
AUSTRALUPITECUS ROBUSTUS 19 [N] When entering the climbing area from the right, low krantzes are passed at first. Walk past a rock pinnacle until reaching the first very high faces. The climb starts 15m to the left of a gulley which becomes a chimney higher up, and about 20m to the right of an impressive chimney which overhangs at the top and goes initially up a slightly overhanging recessed corner. 1. 20m 19 (G1) Climb a smallish pinnacle at the face then traverse 2m to the right. Climb up then move diagonally left. Make a delicate move to the left to a detached boulder. Climb up and mantelshelf onto a small ledge. 2. 25m 17 (F3) From the left side climb up on the ridge to the level of the first overhang. Move to the left and climb a steep recessed crack into a small niche and below a small overhang. Climb to the right around a corner and up to a comfortable stance. 3. 35m 17 (F3) Traverse right at the level of the stance around the corner. Climb up to the top of a flake. Move delicately left then pull up left onto a face. Climb up then slightly left. Continue to the base of a big reddish open book. 4. 20m 19 (G1) Climb the open book until standing on a small, loose chockstone. Swing across the smooth face to the left to the corner of the ridge. Climb to the top. FA: R. Eastman and E. Haber, 1981-01-25.
COLD SHOWER 19 [N] About 30m to the right of the twin cracks. The climb begins in a recess and is distinguished by a curved crack line through white rock on the upper buttress. 1. 25m 17 (F3) Climb the recess and pull overhang on good holds. Continue up the thin crack line to a sloping ledge on the left (loose flakes). 2. 30m 19 (G1) Continue up the crack using the left-hand face. At one point traverse slightly left around a protruding block. Continue up crack to the overhang. Below the overhang traverse left on broken rock to a stance. Scramble to the top. FA: L. Chambers and P. Douglas, 1982-08-14.
ZUNGLEBLAT 17 [N] Start at the base of an arête 10m right of the twin cracks. 1. 40m 17 (F3) Climb onto the 3m gendarme and traverse right for 3m. Climb diagonally up left to the base of a 1m open book (crux). Continue up book (except for a 2m section where the arête is used) to a stance with loose blocks. 2. 15m 15 (F2) Traverse left from the stance to the arête and climb up 2m to where one can move left around onto a steep exposed face (crux). Climb up the face for 2m then back onto the arête. Finish on large blocks. FA: George and Steven Mallory, date unknown.
SNAAI CRACK 17 [N] This is the left-hand of the twin cracks. 1. 20m 17 (F3) Climb the crack to belay in the second cubbyhole. 2. 35m 17 (F3) Climb the crack (sometimes there are hornets) to the top. FA: Charles Edelstein and Kevin Smith, 1982-08-14.
SPIDERMAN 17 **** [N] Start just left of the twin cracks. 1. 30m 13 (F1) Climb the easy black face for 5m, swing left onto the projecting corner and continue up trending leftwards to a flake with a chockstone behind it (at 15m). Move left to the corner and continue up to a good ledge where the corner steepens. 2. 15m 17 (F3) Climb the steep corner for 5m, swing left (crux) and gain a small ledge. Traverse back right to the corner and continue up to a small ledge below the final smooth red corner. 3. 43m 17 (F3) Climb the corner to the top, finishing just left of a tree on the skyline. FA: D. Peters, P. Heidstra, A McGarr, 1970.
LONG DROP 17 [N] Start in the obvious break 20m left of the twin cracks. 1. 40m 15 (F5) Climb break to ledge (35m) with 2 pegs (dubious). Move right around the corner to ledge with peg belay. 2. 45m 17 (F3) Climb the open book. Move left at the top then back right into the open book above the overhang. Follow this to the top. FA: D. Hunter and R. Norman, 1982-03-15.
WATERFALL AREA – TRUE LEFT
EITHER descend as per The Gulley Area. Continue walking leftwards past The Twin Cracks Area. Keep going until near the waterfall. OR alternatively set up a fixed abseil anchor from the top.
These climbs face north and therefore get a lot of sun. Look out for wasps.
DICKIEPOOH 17 * [N] 'DO NOT DO THIS ROUTE BETWEEN MARCH AND SEPTEMBER TO AVOID DISTURBING BLACK EAGLE CHICKS!' Situated in the obvious break/chimney with a tree growing out halfway up. Belay on the left of a large block near the face. 1. 40m F2 (15) Climb/scramble to tree. Climb chimney to below blocks in the crack. 2. 25m 17 (F3) Climb up on left hand side of blocks and move slightly right. Continue up steep rock on good holds. Notes: 1. The 17 (F3) section can be avoided by climbing easier rock 2 or 3m further right. FA: R. Norman, I. Beaton and B. Coppin, 1982-08-14.
THE RAMP ROUTE 19 *** [N, 6P] The route takes the prominent left-leaning ramp. 1. 35m 11 (E2) Climb leftwards up the ramp to stance at a peg a few meters below the overlap. 2. 33m 19 (G1) Climb up to the overlap and traverse about 10m left to a good foothold over the trees below. Step around left into the small corner and pull through the overhang to reach easier rock, passing 5 pegs in the process. The obvious break is followed to the top. Notes: 1. First Ascentionist’s comment: “Finding 6 pegs on the climb led us to believe that the route had been ascended before – about 5 years previously judging by the pegs age. However 5 pegs in the space of 3m through the crux is a definite indication of some trickery, so we decided on a free ascent. Accordingly the route is written up in its free form, especially since no previous route description is known.” 2. A likely RD was found for the first Aid ascent: STUCK UP F2, M1 This route goes slightly leftwards up a steep grey ramp just before the crag turns towards the waterfall. As I recall the route was graded F2 with a few aid moves near the top. The leader’s ropes got jammed while he was on the aid moves and he could go neither up nor down and had to be rescued by a rope thrown down from the top. 3. The pegs will be dubious by now. FA: P. de Kock and party, 1970. FFA: Charles Edelstein and Kevin Smith, 1982-08-14.