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Cape Classics by Adele McCann

Adele’s pocket-sized, ring-bound book, published in 1993, is a varied selection of trad routes in the Western Cape. To her great credit Adele climbed all of these routes – a not-insignificant achievement for any local.
Joe Möhle, unplugged, on Roulette, Table Mountain
Joe Möhle, unplugged, on Roulette, Table Mountain
Joe Möhle, unplugged, on Roulette, Table Mountain. Photo by Jonathan Joseph

A silly little sport route called Delete Button has left me bitter for spitting me off on my onsight attempt.  I feel joy and freedom when I think of Cedar Rouge.  And my late brother David’s route Crocket Rocket  fills me with feelings of love and loss.  I have a relationship with many of the sport routes in Adele McCann’s book Cape Classics, but this story is about the other half of her book, the 46 trad routes that Adele has named and drawn.

Adele’s pocket-sized, ring-bound book, published in 1993, is a varied selection of trad routes in the Western Cape.  To her great credit Adele climbed all of these routes – a not-insignificant achievement for any local.  Having this past weekend climbed Grande Gul on Wolfberg and The Strainer on Cederberg Tafelberg, I have now climbed all of Adele’s 46 routes and can maybe offer something useful to other climbers.

Adele’s book does not contain route descriptions (RDs), star ratings or information about first ascents.  The book is a compendium of route lists, maps and topos.  Adele is a town planner by profession and her talents are well put to use here. As should be expected, aspects of the book have aged in 20 years, such as the map of the top of Table Mountain where the restaurant, paths and descent routes have changed. In the case of one venue, namely Lost World Crag at Montagu, access has been lost altogether.  I would say that users of the book should supplement Adele’s information with original RDs from MCSA journals or descriptions from current route books, particularly for finding the starts of routes.  A couple of months back Guy Paterson-Jones and I went up Cederberg Tafelberg to do The Strainer and accidentally did a new route instead. Sometimes with a bit of determination one can fit just about any part of a rock face to fit a topo when you can’t be sure of the starting point.

Cape Classics Rooibosch Topo
Example of a Cape Classic topo

Cape Classics is divided into five sections: Table Mountain, Cape Peninsula, Cederberg Country Routes and Montagu. If one was trying to come up with the best 46 trad routes in the Western Cape I would find this selection very deficient, even back in 1996, but all of these routes are classics and really worth climbing.  Most of the 5-star trad routes in the Western Cape are in the higher grades – think of Africa Lunch, Celestial Journey, Renaissance etc.  What ‘Cape Classics’ offer’s is a varied selection of excellent routes that is mostly in the moderate-grade area, with a few easy routes like Arrow Final and Tafelberg Frontal and a couple of tough ones like Apollo and Alone in Space, thrown into the mix.

A list of the Cape Classics trad routes and my brief comments follows:

Table Mountain –

Bust Up, 19: Top two pitches are excellent. Wild grade 17 top pitch.

Can Can, 18: One very good pitch, which I would grade solid 20.

Africa Crag, 13: Full value. One of the best routes on Table Mountain.

Atlantic Crag, 18: Excellent route. Groundbreaking in 1951.

Odd Shouters Outing, 21: One of the best on TM. I reckon proper 22.

Moonraker, 16: Actually ‘Moonrake’. Unusual and interesting.

Arrow Final, 11: Ground-breaking in 1897. Very good.

Touch and Go, 20: Brilliant. Exposed. One of the best.

Cableway Crag, 17: Awesome in 1949. Still very good.

Farewell to Arms/Magnetic Wall, 21: An excellent, solid combo.

Last Tango, 20: Great route.

The Dream, 21: One of the very best.

French Connection, 19: Interesting.

Jacobs Ladder, 16: Brilliant. The best at the grade.

Roulette, 20: Fantastic. One of the best routes ever.

Staircase, 12: Great classic. Clean, continuous, consistent.

Escalator, 17: Almost as good as Jacobs Ladder.

Last Laugh, 19: Good first pitch.

Fountain Edge, 17: Nice.


Cape Peninsula –

Huguenot Crag, 18, Lion’s Head Granite: Very good. Staunch at 18.

Tea Trolley Crack, 17, Lion’s Head Granite: Very good.

Splinter in the Mind’s Eye, 18, Paarl Rocks: Superb granite climbing.

Millions, 18, Lion’s Head Granite: Very good.

Nursery Gambols, 17, Nursery Buttress, Kirstenbosch: Super exciting.

Fingertip Face, 19, Barrier Buttress, Camps Bay: Great old route.

Valkan Surprise, 16, Valken Buttress, Camps Bay: Wiggly but interesting.

Bombay Duck, 16, Lower Buttresses, Table Mountain: Superb.

Elusive Pimpernel, 16, Muizenberg: Very good, clean.

Last of the Blacksmiths, 21, Elsies Peak: Very good route.


Energy Crisis, 20, Wolfberg: A Cape classic with a very interesting first pitch.

Alone in Space, 22, Wolfberg: Tough off-widths, impressive leading.

Knobless Robot, 18, Wolfberg: Excellent climbing, great rock, fun.

Le Grande Gul, 17, Wolfberg: Just one pitch, but very good, fun.

Tafelberg Frontal, 12, Tafelberg: Great old 1947 pioneering route.

Strainer, 18, Tafelberg: Committing chimney. Great situation.

Motopsychosis, 14, Tafelberg: Pretty good. Beyond Pillar Box.

‘64 Route, 22, The Spout, Tafelberg: Tough old leader’s route (i.e. run-out).

Big Groove, 20, Tafelberg: Excellent route on the southern end of Tafelberg.

Rooibosch, 19, Tafelberg: Superb route on the northern end of Tafelberg.

Short ‘n Sweet, 19, Tafelberg: Good. At bottom-right of descent gully.

Butternut Crisp, 16, Hope Buttress, Pakhuis: Actually ‘Butterfinger Crisp’. Good.


Country Routes –

Exposure in F Major, 17, Witteberg, Du Toits Kloof: Great old classic.

Fleurdemaus, 14, De La Bat, Du Toits Kloof: Very good easy Du Toits Kloof route.

Smalblaar Ridge, 16, Yellowood, Du Toits Kloof: Good route, great setting.

Apollo, 22, Castle Rocks, Mitchell’s Pass, Ceres: One of the best routes in the Cape.


Montagu –

Nuclear Waste, 20, Lost World: Superb single pitch. Closed to access.

Cape Classics has some little technical issues. There are no topos for Can Can, Arrow Final, Last Tango, Last Laugh and Fountain Edge. Alone in Space is missing its top pitches.  Some routes aren’t properly named (eg Butterfinger Crisp) or properly graded (eg Can Can).  Some routes require other information to find the starting points.  Background information and useful tips are absent.  One shouldn’t therefore expect Cape Classics to be equivalent to Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. But the topos are excellent!

Adele’s little book (just 15cm x 10cm!) modestly presents an excellent bit of work.  The selection of trad routes is superb and will give any decent rock climber a career’s worth of excellent climbing, touring, hiking and exploring in the Western Cape.  Unfortunately the book is out of print but Adele tells me that if there is sufficient interest she may update the book and do a re-print.  Meanwhile Tony Lourens and I are working towards a release date in September 2014 of my book.

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10 years ago

Guys and gals, I would really like to see who has climbed what, with whom and when – would be fun. Please could you list your first repeats of these Cape Classics (not the ten times you’ve climbed Touch and Go). I’ll kick off with my list:

Bust Up, 19: with Roger Georgeson-Cecil, 12 April 1980.
Can Can, 18: with Bruce Daniel, 7 August 2011.
Africa Crag, 13: with Andrew Lainis, 1977.
Atlantic Crag, 18: with David Davies, December 1979.
Odd Shouters Outing, 21: with David Davies, 29 November 1998.
Moonrake, 16: with Charles Edelstein, 8 December 2010.
Arrow Final, 11: with David and John Davies, 1977.
Touch and Go, 20: with Dave Kelfkens and Hans Graafland, 17 February 1980.
Cableway Crag, 17: unsure of first.
Farewell to Arms/Magnetic Wall, 21: unsure of first.
Last Tango, 20: with Andy de Klerk, 1983.
The Dream, 21: with David Davies, 3 October 1998.
French Connection, 19: with Bruce Daniel, 2009.
Jacobs Ladder, 16: with Dave Kelfkens, January 1980.
Roulette, 20: with David Davies, 27 March 1980
Staircase, 12: with David Davies, 1977.
Escalator, 17: with Chris Lomax, 1984.
Last Laugh, 19: with David Davies, 1977.
Fountain Edge, 17: with David Davies, 26 August 1987
Huguenot Crag, 18: unsure of first, maybe John, David, Alan Goldberg, 1970s.
Tea Trolley Crack, 17: unsure of first, 1970s.
Splinter in the Mind’s Eye, 18: with David Davies, 1980s.
Millions, 18: with Wendy Jenkin, 1979.
Nursery Gambols, 17: with Wendy Jenkin, 1979.
Fingertip Face, 19: with David Davies, 1978.
Valken Surprise, 16: with Kieren Davies, 14 April 2013.
Bombay Duck, 16: with David Davies, 1986
Elusive Pimpernel, 16: with Karl Hayden and Kai Fitchen, 6 February 2013.
Last of the Blacksmiths, 21: with Alan Ross, 1990s.
Energy Crisis, 20: with David Davies, 1992
Alone in Space, 22: with John Brown and George Mallory, 1979
Knobless Robot, 18: unsure of first.
Le Grande Gul, 17: with Karl Hayden and Deon van Zyl, 21 June 2013.
Tafelberg Frontal, 12: with Ward and Cathy Walkup, 3 November 1979.
Strainer, 18: with Karl Hayden and Deon van Zyl, 22 June 2013.
Motopsychosis, 14: with Ward Walkup, 4 November 1979.
‘64 Route, 22: with David Davies, 3 November 1979.
Big Groove, 20: with David Davies, 11 January 1998.
Rooibosch, 19: with Guy Paterson-Jones, 6 April 2013.
Short ‘n Sweet, 19: with Guy Paterson-Jones, 7 April 2013.
Butterfinger Crisp, 16: with Guy Paterson-Jones, 14 July 2012.
Exposure in F Major, 17: with Simon Vipond, 28 December 1980.
Fledermaus, 14: with David Davies, Terry Heaney and Liz Knox, 1990s.
Smalblaar Ridge, 16: with John Moss, Doug Jamieson, Paul Fatti, 1990.
Apollo, 22: with Neels Havenga, 8 January 2010.
Nuclear Waste, 20: with David Davies, 1980s.

mark morison
mark morison
10 years ago
Reply to  Hilton

Hi Hilton – notes from a hasbeen but i could not resist it!

Bust Up – 1st failed attempt with Aleck Mckirdy circa early 80’s then did it with Jamie Holden
Can Can – Andrew Lainis & Jonno Gordon – early 80’s
Africa Crag – Dave Cheesemond
Atlantic Crag – Alistair Martin – mid 70’s (took Davey D up it – his 1st “G”?)
Odd Shouters Outing – Scottini (MCSA meet early ’80s).
Arrow Final – solo (early 70’s)
Touch & Go – Jamie Holden (Early 80’s)
Cableway Crag – Bunked school with Greg de Castro. I was 15 & he was 14.
Farewell to Arms/ Magnetic Wall – Guy Robbins
Last Tango – Dave Baker
The Dream – ADK (he needed a belay bitch to retrieve some gear).
Jacobs Ladder – ? & then there was the epic with Gunther
Roulette – my main man Davey D
Staircase – Owen Pritchard & Clive du Toit (way back when)
Escalator – Greg de Castro (I think that we were the 1st to do the direct route to the ‘Scarecase’ traverse i.e bypass the smelly Elevator stance.

Fountain Edge – Peter Baker? Great climber but checked out early.
Lion’s Head Granite – big stories here. Parties, Jimmy Hendrix ens
Hugeunot Crag et al. (Is this the old aid route)? Although Ed may think otherwise i think that Greg de C & i did an early free ascent. I dropped the ring of pitons so basically we were effed. Carried on & it was okay. I did however have a recce with Kevin ‘Lanky’ Lancaster a while before that.
Tea Trolley Crack – Alan Goldberg
Millions – Gunther Zeppel
Nursery Gambols – Hans & Gill Graafland
Fingertip Face – Greg de Castro
Valken Surprise- Gunther Zep?
Bombay Duck – many moons ago but i do remember Davey D 7 i doing a solo visit to the lower buttresses. First up was Indian Giver, then Bombay Duck & then he did garden Boy & i wimped on Stonechild)/).

Energy Crisis – watched Richard Hess ‘cheat’on it. Climbed with Jamie Holden
Motopsychosis – solo way back when
Big Groove – Hans Graafland
Rooibosch – Hans Graafland
Short ‘n Sweet – Dave Baker
Exposure in F – some dude from Alaska who had climbed with Davey D way back when
Fledermaus – the late great John ‘Man or Moss’, Andre Dintheer & Aleck Mac.

Lovely list and there are a few tales to tell.

10 years ago
Reply to  mark morison

Very cool info Wally! Kinda stuff I’d been hoping to see. Lots of interesting stuff in there. And yip, you have Huguenot Crag right.
You’ve done most of Adele’s routes – perhaps on future visits you should do the others?? I rate Apollo was one of the best adventure routes in SA.
Great pity that the three Dave’s all died young. Awesome guys, all of them. And John, Gill and Hans as well. I miss all those peeps plenty.

10 years ago

Who do we contact to show interest in a re-print of “Cape Classics”
I have hade some of Adele’s topos for some years and would definitely purchase a copy.

Is the release date referred to for this reprint?

10 years ago
Reply to  Hann

Bombay Duck with Graham Tyrrel 2008
Atlantic Crag with Hilton 2011
Roulette with Hilton 2011
Jacobs Ladder with Hilton 2011

Energy Crisis, with Hector 2008
Alone in Space, with Julia (I completely cocked up the top pitch) 2011

Rooibosch with Nic Grech Gumbo 2011
Big Groove with Andrew Porter 2011

Adele McCann
Adele McCann
10 years ago
Reply to  Hann

Give me a call 0724176767

Warren G
Warren G
10 years ago

Call me a stickler for the irrelevant, but why does someone not release a “Complete Country Routes” Guide, and a “Complete Peninsular” Guide? what about the next Lions Head Guide include the Apostles, which seem forgotten and unfairly so. if we don’t have all opened routes stated then we expose ourselves for reopenings ad norsium.

tony Lourens
tony Lourens
10 years ago
Reply to  Warren G

Cape Peninsula Select: A guide to trad climbing on the Cape Peninsula, comes off the press end of August 2013. See SA Mountain FB and website for details of launch.
The book encompasses Elsies, Muizenberg, all of TM (including the Apostles) and Lion’s Head.
Hey Warren, you should know this, as you sat in the chair and helped me with your lines on Lion’s Head only a few months back?!

10 years ago

Cool Ian. Thanks.

Hann, The September 2014 release date refers to my book, not Adele’s. I’m doing a Great Trad Routes of the Western Cape book.

I was hoping that peeps would put up some of their ascents and experiences in the hope that I might pick something up. Seemed to me like the research-thing to do, since Adele’s book is one of only two books ever produced that offer a selection of Cape routes.

Warren, please go for it and produce those books that you want! I’ll buy a copy of each. (I’m sure you don’t expect someone else to do it for you!!)

Ross Suter
Ross Suter
10 years ago

I would if I could, Hilton! I may remember who I 1st climbed the routes with, but I wouldn’t know the year and certainly not the day/ month! All I can be sure of is the routes I have (or haven’t) climbed. There are 5 on this list that I haven’t climbed.

Guy Paterson-Jones
Guy Paterson-Jones
10 years ago

As I recall, we managed to fit the Strainer to about four different starting points! Gotta keep a careful eye on those topos…

So, my list, sans any dates, as I am a useless historian:
Africa Crag: with Andy Court.
Atlantic Crag: with Andy Court. Fun times on the crux.
Arrow Final: with Andy Court. Second trad lead ever, I think!
The Dream: with Hilton Davies and Andy Davies.
Jacobs Ladder: with my dad and Andy Court. And many times afterwards.
Roulette: with Andy, on one of the trad meets.
Staircase: with Hilton (? I think we soloed it to escape once)
Bombay Duck: with Andy Court. Also an early lead for me.
Energy Crisis: with Andy. Ah, I love the Cederberg.
Alone in Space: with Jed and Mark. Who convinced me to stop blot clipping. And yes, I spelt blot purposefully.
Butternut Crisp: with Hilton. On a bright day, talking about cows.
Smalblaar Ridge: with my dad. Wow, we made an epic out of this one. Never underestimate a country 16. Lesson learned.

I would put Strainer as well, but as it turns out we missed the route completely, Hilton and I.

10 years ago

Since I’m supposed to be working on assignments and you asked:
Experiences on Celestial Journey and Energy Crisis:
We were down in the Cape for a wedding and as a rule of thumb it is always a good idea to climb yourself into a stupor the day before a wedding. So Hector arrives at 10 pm on the at Cape Town international. We set of to Wolfberg at about 3 the next morning. Nothing like a rental Citi golf at 150 km’s per hour heading north. Get to Wolfberg by 7 am. At the base of Celestial at 8am. Start climbing, its end of October so it’s still a little chilly in the shade. Hector retro onsights the first pitch. I pull one out of the bag on the second. 21 my ass. I have a meltdown following the offwidth pitch. Top out for lunch. Scramble down and start climbing Energy Crisis. I onsight the first pitch, nothing like a nr 6 Cam to make you feel comfy on the crux. I have a moment following the top traverse pitch. hehe, 18 my ass. By this time we are slightly broken. We top out at 6:30, back at car by 7. Back in Cape Town by 11. Each of us managing about 25 minutes behind the wheel at a time before needing to swap drivers. Fun and games, couldn’t walk the next day but Graham and me did a quick morning out at on Bombay Duck. Still one of the better days climbing. Burnt a whole bunch of browny points in the process.


10 years ago

Some of the ones I’ve done:

Africa Bust-up. Sheldon Smith 2013
Africa Crag. Mikhaela Levitas 2013
Atlantic Crag. Mikhaela, Marcus Yong 2013
Arrow Final. Sheldon 2012
Touch and go. Jed Johnson 2013
Cableway Crag. Catherine Philips 2013
Farewell to arms. Riaan 2012
Magnetic Wall. Cath 2013
Jacobs Ladder. Sheldon 2012
Roulette. Charles 2013
Escalator. Shane Houbart 2013
Nursery Gambols. Andy Court 2012
Bombay Duck. Jed 2013
Energy Crisis. Jed 2013
Smalblaar Ridge. Neels 2013

Not sure why Klein-winterhoek Frontal isn’t on here, it should be. 🙂

10 years ago

Yoh, Ian! Big day. From experience I know how you and Hector can hammer it. You had me broken walking over the Magalies at a million miles an hour after doing five routes – eish..

Schweet stuff Ross, Guy, Brandon.

Brandon there are so many routes that could have been in Adele’s book and that should displace some of the others. (Just think of Krakadouw!) I guess the reason is simply that Adele hasn’t climbed them.

10 years ago

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