Skip to content

Report: The 2013 Annual Rocklands Clean Up

Rocklands, Western Cape

It is no surprise to the climbing community that Rocklands is being devastated by human faeces and litter.  A number of articles regarding the crisis in Rocklands were published in July and August of this year.  After several successful meetings between the MCSA Rock Climbing Committee and the private landowners in Rocklands, a plan was formulated. One of the agenda items was an annual clean up of the bouldering areas in Rocklands.

For several years, Thys Kruger from de Pakhuys has been organising clean ups of his areas with the help of the children from Elizabethfontein Primary School.  It was agreed that the bouldering community should now start helping out at these annual clean ups since they are arguably the leading cause of the problem.

Since the final Rocklands Stakeholder meeting was only held towards the end of September 2013, the annual clean up was advertised for the 1st weekend of November and notices were sent out to most climbing communities, including the Climb ZA website, the notice board at CityROCK and UCT.
De Pakhuys even generously offered free accommodation to all climbers who participated in the clean up.  With a community of 50+ boulderers, the organisers were already considering how many teams they would send to each of the private bouldering areas and estimated that each team would probably be finished their area in under an hour, depending on how many climbers were in the team and how many boulders their area had.

One climber arrived on Saturday 2nd November.  One.  And he’s not a boulderer, he’s a sport climber.  From Pretoria.

Thys organised his kids from the Elizabethfontein Primary School to clean up the most popular areas of Agterpakhuis, namely Fields of Joy and Arch Valley while Delaney and Nico (the one climber who did show up to help) tackled Tea Garden and 8 Day Rain.  In an hour, Delaney and Nico had cleaned all of Tea Garden boulders and made it back to Klein Kliphuis for some welcome fresh water and oranges.  Delaney and Nico then headed to 8 Day Rain and, after spending nearly 2 hours trying to locate the first boulders after not finding the correct parking lot as neither one had been to the area before, they managed to clean up half of 8 Day Rain (up to Lower Valley).  The following morning, Delaney and Nico headed back to 8 Day Rain and finished it within 3 hours.

Rocklands Clean Up 2013
What we found at 8 Day Rain – definitely the cleanest of the bouldering areas.


Aside from the usual cigarette stompies, broken glass and tinfoil, the most prevalent piece of litter was toilet paper.  Tea Garden was riddled with glass and toilet paper and two unburied human faeces.  Fortunately, a team of graffiti and rock-art specialists had been to Black Shadow a few weeks earlier and had found a pile of human faeces and toilet paper which they had so kindly removed.  8 Day Rain was by far the cleanest area but the most popular pieces of litter were toilet paper (again) and finger tape.  Arch Valley and Fields of Joy had a mixture of toilet paper, finger tape, broken glass and a few cigarette stompies.

Rocklands Clean Up 2013
Bag 1 of 2 from Tea Garden – definitely the filthiest of the bouldering areas.


Rocklands Clean Up 2013
And another one…


In lieu of the spotlight on Rocklands this year, it is incredibly disappointing to find that not one boulderer was willing to sacrifice a few hours of their time to clean up after the rest of their community.  It is no wonder then that Rocklands is in the state it is if even those who are not the cause of the problem are not prepared to help solve it.  If we can’t stem the tide of litter and human waste that has started darkening this once pristine landscape, then what hope is there? If we fail and years from now when the blame-game begins, will the bouldering community finally accept the responsibility for what they have allowed to happen to Rocklands?

The MCSA and Private Landowners are open to suggestion on how to encourage more boulderers to assist with these annual clean ups.  We do realise that this one was rather late in the year but due to circumstances mentioned above, the earliest we could do the clean up this year was the first weekend of November.  We are hoping to have a mid-season clean up around Rock Stock time in 2014 as well as a post-season clean up around the Spring Equinox (21st September 2014).

One can only hope that Year One will not be the true reflection of the bouldering community and that next year will see far more climbers arriving to share in the responsibility of cleaning up their bouldering Mecca.  It is difficult to maintain hope when so many good people do nothing to stop the bad.

– Article by Delaney Carpenter (Chairperson of MCSA Rock Climbing Committee)

Related Articles:


2013 Annual Rocklands Clean Up


  1. Good work for you and Nico on getting in and doing as much as you could. You deserve big thanks from the climbing community.

  2. Fcuk me!
    One person! A Sport climber! From Pretoria?
    Seriously !!!? WTF boudering community? (honestly I expected about 6 people to pitch up – not including the organiser).

    Many thanks to Nico, Delaney (for organising the clean up + dealing with other Rocklands issues) and the school kids for their efforts.

    So what kept everyone away? Would boulderer’s be willing to help out the during the winter season?
    Would people prefer to donate money to employ locals to deal with the clean up’s?

    The unburied faeces bothers me the most – crazy and gross.

  3. Firstly well done to Delaney, Nico and all the school kids who helped out with the clean up – thank you for your time and effort.
    On why no boulderers turned up – pretty shameful, and I am amongst those who didn’t come – I think there are several reasons why attendance was so poor:
    Firstly the time of year – it’s hot in Rocklands right now – certainly too hot to boulder, so getting people to drive 3 hours from Cape Town out to Rocklands to pick up rubbish is going to be tricky. Secondly this is the time of year when everyone is feeling stressed – exams, thesis hand-ins, end of year reports etc – so time is precious. Thirdly I think a lot of boulderers feel that the rubbish is largely due to the foreigners (from what I’ve seen local boulderers do seem fairly conscious of not littering, and foreigners definitely don’t display the same level of awareness about maintaining the pristine Cederberg environment).
    I think the clean-up idea is a good one – however I think it would be more successful, better attended, and have a bigger impact if it’s done mid-season, when loads of people are there anyway; advertise it, get locals and foreigners involved, increase awareness of the issue – have an event around it, even sponsored prizes for picking up the most rubbish or something – sadly most people need incentives to do good things, altruism is rare.

    • Thanks for the insight and suggestions Zoe.

      IMO one thing that we locals have to accept is that ‘other people’ are going to be the majority of the offenders and that we (locals) are going to have to clean up after them – unfortunately it’s just the way it is (perhaps signs in popular EU languages will help).

  4. Simple, close Rocklands for a year to start with….

    • I do not advise that, judging by the amount of income the scene brings to Thys, also this will most likely make the community extremely pissed off and will most likely lead to some form of defiance and anyway how would you propose to enforce that no one climbs in Rocklands for a year? Pretty far fetched if you ask me… Thats my 2 cents though.

      • It would piss off the community? Cry me a river! It’s THEIR problem and they don’t lift a finger to help?! Close it. If I was a landowner I would.

  5. Hi Delaney
    I just want to say thank you so much to you for organising this and to Nico and all the school children for cleaning up! I am horrified at the state of Rocklands and the lack of respect shown by the bouldering community! I am sorry I was not there unfortunately I was working otherwise I would have been there! There are decent ablution blocks why do people find it necessary to pollute the climbing area! This is a reflection of the whole bouldering community are we going to run the risk of the site being closed to climbers due to lack of respect for the environment?


  6. thanks delaney & nico!! at least this is now in the spotlight…. the situation is rather shocking. and no, we can’t blame the ANC.
    an annual clean-up is useful, but if every (local) boulderer simply clean-up the area they bouldered for the day, no organised clean-ups would be needed. no excuses for not doing that. (pop taught us always leave a place in better shape than we found it).
    and what’s Cape Nature’s involvement? the permit prices are soaring. surely they should get in on the act?
    hope this can be sorted before rocklands gets closed down. and do confront the A-hole you see littering.

  7. If the climbing community takes your lead Delaney, access issues will never be on the table! Well done and thank you for your efforts, the Rocklands landowners appreciate this. I cannot agree more with Willem B: “(pop taught us always leave a place in better shape than we found it).” If only we can get this instilled in the psyche of all climbers, local and foreign.

    Walking through Field of Joy on Saturday with the kids from Elizabethsfontein, seeing them climbing and trying boulders, using the right moves and the vocab to go with (!) again affirmed our decision to open the land to climbers. Climbing (climbers) opened a window to the world for the local kids, with a profound positive effect on their and he whole communities vision and aspirations for the future.

    The children learn and mimic what they see every bouldering season, lets raise the bar of the example we set!

  8. Thank you to everyone for your comments and suggestions. A few answers to your questions:

    Multi-language signs are on their way. We are finalising wording and design and once the private landowners have approved the signage, the MCSA will be ordering and paying for them.

    The 2014 clean ups will hopefully take place around Rock Stock end July and a post-season clean up around 21st September. We will be looking at sponsorship help to promote these events.

    We have not yet heard anything from CapeNature who has not replied to my emails but we are first focusing on sorting out the private land in Rocklands and hopefully can start liaising with CapeNature in January/February 2014.

    Tea Garden remains closed for the time being. Historical rock paintings and rock art have been identified and confirmed by the SA Heritage Site Council on a recent study of the graffiti at Black Shadow so even if Tea Garden is re-opened by the landowner, Black Shadow may be closed permanently to bouldering if declared a Heritage Site. I will hopefully have more news on this later this year or early next year.

    Thank you again for your comments.

  9. Yosemite has an annual week-long cleanup. Its a big event, and if you’re a climber its a “cool” thing to be involved in. There are slideshows every night and a real community vibe. If you’re a foreigner its easy to get swept along with enthusiasm. Something similar might work mid- to late- Rocklands season. Make foreigners feel part of the solution.

    A question: are there any local suppliers of the poo-bags you can buy in the states? They have chemicals which (sort of) neutralise the smell, and it becomes a real option to carry your kak out. Make the poo-bags readily available at the campsite and make it a rule that you have to pack your shit out. This is the norm overseas and it works well – even in big wilderness areas like Alaska.

  10. Great idea, Hector. Yes, there is a local supplier and there are poop bags available at de Pakhuys office already. I will work on a plan to publicize this more pre Rocklands season in 2014 and have these poop bags available from Klein Kliphuis and Traveller’s Rest as well.

    Thanks again for the suggestions.

  11. I am no boulderer, so my say probably doesn’t count for much, but I second what Hector said. During the busy season, make one day a compulsory rest day and groups can be sent to all the different areas to clean up. And yes, make a big fuss over it by having a party/slideshow/event that evening, or the night before, to get the psyche up.

  12. hi guys,
    i am over here in c.t for a wile and would like to offer my help in your clean up of rocklands
    as i have some free time i would like to pitch in, i dont have any transport but at any time
    anyone one is going up there and could get me there i would be only to glad to help,
    thanks keiron,

  13. The more I think of this, the more I come to the conclusion that it’s absolutely revolting that a clean-up in a national park is at all necessary! There should never have been a mess in the first place.
    Delaney, thank you for doing this. Thanks for leading by example.

  14. I rest my case.

    Bouldering is the LCD of climbing followed by bolted areas…..

    Alex Honnold, is of the view that by preventing bolting at places like Blouberg and Yellowwood I am stifling progress. The last time bolters were at YW I found shit and toilet paper just meters away from the start of Prime Time Direct. Now one of the premier climbing areas in the world is in crisis and just one climber pitched up to help clean up the place. Meanwhile poor kids for the local community are commandeered to do climbers’ dirty work. WTF.! If this is progress I am happy to stifle it.

  15. let me reiterate the points given by Zoe. Timing! The timing was REALLY REALLY REALLY BAD! I know most of the bouldering community would have loved to go, if they could!!!! Work requirements at this time of year are generally really tough, kids like Sheldon etc are writing exams at school, students like myself have major make it or break it thesis’s due around about now, etc etc etc etc…also please before making any form of assumptions on the integrity of some of us ‘boulderers’ take a look at this.. …note comment 2 dated 10 December 2012.

  16. Thanks Nico for pitching up and representing Pretoria in the Cape:) Shows how much they care for bouldering compared to us:)


  17. The above comment was from Ebert, not Explo***


  18. Timing is no excuse NicT (I assume this is Nic Telford?): if you were at Rockstock on 27 July, you would have learnt of the issues regarding litter in Rocklands. This was within the bouldering season enough for CTN and campsite locals to have organized a clean up a month from then-which would have still been within season.

    This news was one of the largest stories to have come out of this Rocklands season: publicly displayed by websites and magazines the world over. Do you think that the excuses provided above justify the local bouldering community’s actions regarding it? Lets repeat the reasons quick:

    1. I’ll get hot that time of year
    2. I’m stressed with exams/studies/kids (they’re all new to me and I don’t know how to handle them)
    3. Other people made the mess: why should I clean it up?
    4. I didn’t hear about the litter/clean up
    5. Its far from Cape Town and I am only willing to drive there in winter (its closer in winter)

    The only excuse that might be entertained is point 2, however this one is negotiable if one plans one’s life, and if Rocklands is that important to you, wouldn’t a day be worth it? Perhaps the exam is unavoidable, and perhaps money is tight, but you still wanted to help: South Africa has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world…hire someone to do your work, while you study. This could easily have been done if Rocklands is so dear to you, and even at R200* it would have been cheaper than the trip out there.

    * this is a thumb suck number, but you get the point.

  19. hmmmm…you raise valid points. I have been avoiding this but here goes as I was trying not to make personal excuses…I could not make it that particular weekend. A weekend before that would have been fine but to hold this 13 days before my thesis was due was just never going to be possible for me. A thesis isn’t really a small thing and my career is far more important than anything else at the moment. So there we go, there is my excuse.. Oh, I also couldnt afford to go up…R200 is far from the figure that it would cost to ‘hire’ someone to your dirty work. I personally do not agree with paying such a small amount for a day of is a breakdown of what it would cost to ‘hire’ someone…
    Bus ticket R250
    Food and a drink of sorts R100
    Payment: R250 per day (you obviously have to pay for the travel days so this is x3) = R750
    TOTAL: R1 100.00
    Could anyone afford this?
    Here is another one….how much it would have cost for myself to get there
    Petrol: R700
    Food: R100

    Hope that puts a little perspective to it MY problems.
    With regards to Rockstock etc….yes i was there and yes it would have been good to be pro-active straight away,…one important thing is that a lot of the climbing areas are on private land. Now, a great solution is actually happening for the de pakhuis areas. Our old friend Chris will be a permanent fixture from early next year. So for the first time ever, they will have a full time manager (all year round). Now if anyone knows Chris, they will know that massive changes are in the pipeline….Hopefully SNORT may give de pakhuis a chance again in a year or two. I agree with him on how bad the de pakhuis campsite. This season was really bad and it needs addressing seriously. I even found a HUGE shit (out in the open with the toilet paper) near the dam, less than 50m away from actual toilets and right next to a perfectly usable (rendered unusable thereafter) campsite! This, the overflowing septic tank and the amount of litter around the campsite made staying there unpleasant which is why we ended up staying mostly at klein kliphuis. I really hope that the addition of a permanent campsite manager will sort these major issues out. I do know that the toilets are being expanded too so that may help!

  20. just something I forgot…..I suggested a clean up on this forum in December last year when I was still in the UK. The idea has been re-iterated by numerous people on this forum since then and as far as I can see every single one of them suggested that the clean up should be done during the season, and not after. The primary requirement of the clean up is cleaning, but arguably MORE important is the secondary. This is awareness. Yes Delaney stood up at rockstock and shat all over the community (excuse the pun) and provided some sort of awareness to the issues. There is a fundamental problem here, this was done at a massive party and right in the middle of the party. Most were drunk and probably couldnt care less besides being bleak that they couldnt go to the tea garden. Bad timing. Probably should of happened earlier in the evening. Back to the issue at hand. Besides actually cleaning up some of rocklands, what else did this clean up achieve. Nothing! There were no foreigners there. The people that are making this fcuking mess dont even know about it!!!!!!! That is why the clean up MUST happen in season, it achieves basically nothing out of season, besides picking up some litter and making the landowners happy. I don’t think the SA climbing community constantly needs to be made aware of this issue time and time again. All of us know about it, are aware of it and have implemented the important things such as toilet etiquette, not littering (as a conservationist littering REALLY PISSES ME OFF), and picking up litter when we are climbing. When travelling through Europe we were disgusted by the littering and toilet etiquette. We bought a nice little plastic spade and made sure everything was far away and deeply buried. The problems do not lie within our community, but with the constant influx of NEW foreigners every year. The fact that NEW people are coming every year is vitally important for planning these things properly. Therefore, awareness should be the main priority, with the clean up being used as a platform for this as well as other measures such as signage etc….

    As an pakhuis will be expanding the climbing products available at the reception. Here is a suggestion. SMALL PLASTIC SPADES. SELL THEM.

    Oh and Warren, what’s your excuse for not going? And please do not say that it’s because you’re a trad climber!

  21. here goes again…sorry everyone…Warren, did you click on the link I provided? Did you look at the comment I made (second comment) before writing your response? I can see that you didn’t. I SUGGESTED A CLEAN UP SIX MONTHS BEFORE ROCKSTOCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. this and snort’s thread has been HUGELY entertaining.putting the accusations and personal propaganda aside, there has been a few constructive contributions.
    throwing a bit of logic in the mix: i get the potential psyche & team-sport element of an annual clean-up, but really, unless us locals take on the responsibility for a “clean Rocklands 24-7-365” the place will vary between a short clean period and then the mess will start appearing again. so Rocklands will perpetually suffer some degree of pollution between annual clean-ups. surely the simplest approach for the local community is to take a small rubbish bag with your boulder pad and ensure the area you bouldered in is clean when you leave. hopefully the visitors will catch-on that it is an ongoing act of cleaning and follow the lead. come on guys, this not supposed to be hard! get your act together, drop the “its not my problem” attitude, and take ownership of a amazing bit of nature.

  23. Nice post Willem, I agree totally and that is pretty much what most of us do, but it is not enough. When you get to see European crags and bouldering areas you may get an understanding of the problems that arrive every year. As of yet, rocklands is still clean and pristine in comparison! Personal accusations irritate me but it seems I was pushed to a point where I had to defend myself! And yes, a lot is happening behind the scenes too…

  24. Eish…Warren…after the mess you made at Towerkop, I’m surprised you have the f***ing balls to say anything about litter.

    A strong case of the pot calling the kettle black.

  25. That said;

    I stayed a Pakhuis twice in the last two years & found it quite nice & clean. Didn’t see much litter or any shit anywhere. I did not see what you guys are on about.

    Awesome spot. Loved the pub. But for the future, I’m taking my impact to venues less crushed…spreading it out.

    Small note to Delaney; its Chairperson of MCSA Rock Climbing Committee + Cape Town Section. Unless a rock climbing national committee has been formed.

  26. Here in the king of dom we are all LCD: our prime trad venue is trashed (Monteseel), and our prime bourldering spot is pristine (Swinburne).
    We don’t seem to have a sh*t problem, probably because its all washed down into the sea (especially the last month), where we swim in it…
    We also have a very strict visitor protocol: 1. feed best of Durban curry, 2. take for swim in sea, 3. (optional) recommend New Pier as a good spot to learn to surf. If they survive 3, and after the 4 days of the runs due to 1 and 2, they are considered clean enough to go climbing…
    Sometimes they have lost so much weight they climb rather well, which is annoying, but at least they don’t k*k innie bos.
    C ya,

  27. How about we stop arguing why someone could not make it and rather make a plan going forward for next season…

    so @Delaney why don’t you set a date NOW, that is mid Rocklands season, and before all students head back to varsity…July 1st, seems reasonable (I’m from Durban, so i cant really help out if its in August or October)

    Regards Mikey

    • Hi All

      We will be setting dates for the 2014 clean ups in January. I still have to meet with the landowners about an online permit system, signage, etc. as well as CapeNature about their lands. There is a lot more going on behind the scenes so please give me some time to set everything up.

      But don’t despair: the dates for the clean up will be published well before Rocklands season starts next year.

      Thank you all for your suggestions.

      • Oh and there’s absolutely nothing stopping the bouldering community from organising a clean up. You don’t all have to wait on the MCSA to do something …

  28. I humbly feel that I have contributed my fair share to the climbing community this year, and felt zero obligation to attend in context of that. Should you not think so I am happy to privately send you my list, in exchange for your own.

    It is possible that we assumed the CTN Bouldering community to be bigger than what it is? I understand that most boulderers are students because bouldering is the cheapest way to climb.

    Perhaps I didn’t explain my point regarding hiring someone in great enough detail: one can contribute money or time to a cause.

  29. My friends son has his “cave” in an outdoor shed. I plan to insulate it and put in power and so forth.
    They’re in St. Louis area so the heat and humidity changes
    will be extreme…What would you suggest I use as the interior “walling” Doesn’t have to be pretty – just durable and so forth..

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *