Use of fixed anchors within SANParks areas approved

After much debate and negotiations fixed anchors may now be legally placed on Table Mountain. 

The first route on TM has been proudly bolted by Matt Tibenham and Warren Gans.  The famous, (and sometimes dangerous) ‘Jacobs Ladder’ has finally been made safe.

Bolts on Table Mountain

Table Mountain

In bolting such a TM classic they said that the decision wasn’t made lightly, but was inspired by the actions of locally sponsored athletes who see bolting as the future and progression within climbing.

With both Warren and Matt serving on the newly appointed ‘Table Mountain Bolting Approval Committee (TMBAC)‘ they have been the first to start the process of making the mountain safer. Hopefully other members of the community will follow suit and put right other existing areas + open new routes allowing routes to the masses out there who lack the ability, funding or inclination to climb such routes in the style of the first accentionists.

Bolts on Table Mountain

Warren on the First Ascent of Jacobs Ladder (17) with the new bolts - Click to enlarge. Photo by Johnny Miller

During the recent Tradathon on Table Mountain a climber who was seconding on Jacobs Ladder took a long pendulum off the traverse, leaving them stranded in an open void. After some time the second was rescued, but once again this illustrated the danger of the route, and potential dangers that can occur.  As with the mandate (below) they also installed a lower off in the middle of the section should a party not be able to climb through.

Many thanks to Matt Tibenham of Drifters and Warren Gans of Ram Mountaineering for placing the bolts.

Bolts on Table Mountain

Warren on the First Ascent of Jacobs Ladder (17) with the new bolts - Click to enlarge. Photo by Johnny Miller

The MCSA steps forward into the future…
We are in the 21st century and cannot be expected to be of the same calibre as the 19th century hero’s who boldly put up these routes: we have had no war, no suffering and live a comfortable life of heated towel racks, dynamic ropes and ABS.
We cannot assume that all mountain users are able to lead such a traverse?  After all, there is a reason we do not climb with hemp ropes and hobnail boots any more!”

Dave Jones
MCSA President

Bolts on Table Mountain

Climber abseiling back down to the ledge by means of bolts. Photo Justin Lawson


The recent bolting incident on Table Mountain, whereby bolts were installed on Arrow Final brought the matter into the spotlight and after talks between the various stakeholders and role players (The Cable Car Company, Abseil Africa, The Mountain Club of South Africa, South African National Parks, Cape Nature, Western Cape Nature Conservation Board, local guiding companies, Anchor Replacement Fund, SA Mountain Magazine and Climb ZA) the decision was made to allow fixed anchors on Table Mountain (within strict guidelines).

The main emphasis was for the safety of mountain users (Lions Head and Table Mountain already have bolts/chains installed).  The cable car could not exist without mechanical anchors, Abseil Africa rely on bolts as do trad climbers to a large extent for abseiling back down to the ledge.

Another major factor was getting more people into the mountains to carry out adventure sports.  Naturally there will be a large financial gain for companies, clubs and land owners doing business in such areas.

There is a Management Plan that will follow shortly for the installation of fixed anchors on Table Mountain (within all of SANParks land).

Climbers will need to make submissions for retro bolting and new routes, to a committee (consisting primarily of MCSA members, but also consisting of least two SANParks representatives) for permission.

Below are some of the conditions set out in the new bolting guidelines for Table Mountain:

Applications for new and retro bolting of routes must be made in writing, supported by pictures of the route.

  • When retro bolting, route names may not be changed.
  • Only <10mm 316 Stainless bolts may be used / preferably glue in’s, but this is not mandatory.
  • Routes are to be made 100% safe, with any boulders smaller than 500mm x 500mm and other loose rock to be trundled (removed).
  • Suitable paths to be installed to new areas, with an emphasis on preventing soil erosion and creating minimal impact.
  • Climbers to wear bright clothing when on the mountain so as to be seen by tourists (thereby creating extra excitement for visitors to the mountain).
  • Bird nests, other wildlife and archaeological finds to be avoided and/or reported to SANParks.
  • Climbers to be ambassadors of the country and to speak (positively) to tourists/gapers (only when approached).
  • Once bolts have been placed on a route, they become the property of SANParks, thereafter SANParks will be responsible for the upkeep of said routes.
  • Routes to be made easily retreatable i.e. lower offs must be placed at each stance which will enable users to retreat from the climb should it be necessary.
  • Writing or graffiti is not permitted in any form on any rock, cliff face, tree or other natural surface.
  • Tick marks on routes and bouldering problems should be brushed off.
Bolts on Table Mountain

Climbers coming up Indian Venster with the aid of fixed anchors (Via Ferrata style). Photo Justin Lawson

Bolts on Table Mountain

Via Ferrata on Indian Venster. Photo by Justin Lawson

Application Process:

An application to establish a new bolted sport climbing route must be submitted to the MCSA in writing by email, fax or letter.  The application should include:

  • A description of the location of the new route. Maps, topo’s or photographs must be included. The description should be such that the route can be found by a person reasonably well acquainted with the area. Photographs should be sufficiently detailed that the nature of the area can be discerned;
  • An indication of the nature of the new route including its length, style of climbing and nature of the rock
  • A description of the environment surrounding the route, including: The nature of the base of the route e.g. presence of vegetation, rock platform, steep slopes;

– Whether any rock art /wild life is located in the vicinity of the route; and,
– Whether these is an established access path / route and if not, the nature of the required access path.

The Table Mountain Bolting Guidelines document will be released in the coming week.

24 Responses to Use of fixed anchors within SANParks areas approved

  1. Daa Future Apr 1, 2012 at 5:25 am #

    I have always dreamed of climbing these routes. Now at last someone has been brave enough to bolt them. Thank You.

  2. Andy Davies Apr 1, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    Woohoo! About time. Couple of us sportclimbers have been waiting tooooooooo long for this.

  3. Glen Morris (London UK) Apr 1, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    As an English trad climber (who as attempted Jacobs ladder & failed) I am shocked the classic trad routes are being retro bolted. This is a backward step in my eyes. If someone isn’t competent to climb it or has the neccessary skill then they shouldn’t climb it. Don’t make it easier by bolting. Trad & sport routes are seperate in the UK & that’s how it should be. The UK climbing fraternity would never allow classic trad routes to be bolted & shame on MCSA for agreeing to it.

    I was planning on returning to Cape Town this year to have another crack at Jacobs ladder (to once & for all beat it) & a few others, if they are now bolted then why bother. Might as well go to the US or Australia & tackle their classic (unbolted) trad routes.

    Retro bolting classic trad routes is a ver bad idea & shame on the SA climbing fraternity for allowing it. If you want more people to climb, bolt NEW routes, don’t ruin classic trad routes.

  4. Justin Apr 1, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    Have to say that I’m all for the bolting of existing trad routes.
    At least we don’t have to pay to go and walk in the mountains like people in the UK will be doing under the new scheme there –>
    Peak Fares for Walkers

  5. Micky W Apr 1, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    I hope they do Staircase next, then I might feel safe enough to lead it. Also a scary route, no natural protection at all!

  6. Lizelle Makovini Apr 1, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Lol 😉

  7. Tony Lourens Apr 1, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    Awesome. And soon Africa Crag, Atlantic Crag and all the other classics should also be bolted. Let’s all go out with drills smoking and bolt all the classic trad lines. Maybe we can start a movement so that all those pithy trad routes in the Peak and Wales can also be bolted so Gumby Snetherswait can go tick ’em off!!
    Hey Glen, check your calendar!

  8. wesley Apr 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    All that saving for a trad rack for nothing. Interestingly my friend in Townsville Australia climb most of their routes on top rope. They can’t bolt due owners not wanting to be liable for injuries. I suggested she does single pitch trad climbing.

  9. Stewart Apr 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    Love it!

  10. Glen Morris (London UK) Apr 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    Red faced englishman here.

    I can’t believe I am such a numpty to fall for an April Fool, i need my head examined 🙂 good one guys.

    Looks like I will be back out to CT to have another crack at Jacobs Ladder after all 🙂

  11. wesley Apr 1, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    Lol 😀

  12. Arno Apr 1, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    Absolutely Brilliant!

  13. Brent Apr 1, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    great photoshop work…well done!!

  14. Sheldon Apr 1, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    they are not photoshoped…

  15. Brent Apr 1, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    what did you do temporarily stick them on?

  16. Hector Apr 2, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    Word of the week: “Numpty”.
    Now where did I put that drill… ?

  17. Justin Apr 2, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    The bolts were stuck on using double sided tape (I’m quite surprised they stuck considering a draw was hanging off them).

    Job well done by Warren, Matt and Johnny – special mention goes to Sheldon who fooled Snort (on the forum) at 5 in the afternoon 🙂

  18. Brent Apr 2, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    you okes are LEGEND!
    best stunt I have seen this april 🙂

  19. Snort Apr 2, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    The reason I was fooled is that a lot of people have found it difficult to find the rap anchors above the Staircase ledge which is the closest lower off to Jacobs. I was under the impression that a new anchor was placed where Jacobs ends which would seem to be a good idea. I have often rapped off from there BUT with Blue water ropes that are longer than 60m! And they just reach the ground and you have to abseil to the left. So an anchor there would not work!. The minute I saw the article it all made sense. I am pleased you were entertained – I could have deleted my post.

  20. Pierre Joubert Apr 2, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    Ja Short…if only the markets were as predictable as you 😀

  21. Ernesto Apr 2, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    My Warren, what big hexes you have…

  22. Jeremy Apr 3, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    Jeez guys, only read it today 3 April, almost gooi’d my toys and my trad rack out of the portaledge. F*k I really do hope its an April Fools joke because I was warming up my grinder and spanners and was ready to flame anything that moved. Don’t touch that mountain wif a drill!!!!!!

  23. glob Apr 6, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    Defs the best stunt I saw this year. Top marks.

  24. Dylan Sep 9, 2013 at 7:19 am #

    Such a shame us trad climbers are running out of places to climb.

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