Bouldering in Table Mountain National Park is LEGAL

Bouldering has recently become contentious again in Table Mountain National Park.

Numerous reports of people being kicked out by rangers at Redhill, Silvermine West, etc.

See this forum post:

The Mountain Club of South Africa decided to try to mediate the situation. We have had numerous meetings, and things have progressed well.

Yeah Adam, a letter won’t do jack diddly squat unless it is signed by the park officials as well and has their names clearly there.  The current one regarding Activity Permits  is already available but rangers have not accepted it saying it doesn’t mean anything.  If i were them I would agree.  The message needs to be given to them from their management…

Cuan Lohrentz

So we got the official letter, signed by none other than Paddy Gordon, TMNP GM:

  1. Bouldering is LEGAL.
  2. No Activity Permit is required AT PRESENT.
  3. Some areas like Redhill, are OFF-LIMITS.
  4. TMNP and MCSA are going to restart the Environmental Management Plan (EMP).

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Gavin Bell, Southern Section Area manager, also agreed to come to a future MCSA Tuesday evening, to talk about Fires, bouldering, etc.

Our request: play by the rules guys and gals. Don’t go there. If we get caught bouldering in off-limits areas we will jeopardize this whole deal and we may be banned EVERYWHERE.

Print the letter and take it with you, in case one or other ranger hasn’t been informed by the powers that be.

TMNP-MCSA-letter.pdf (147 downloads)

In the meantime, the MCSA will continue to work with TMNP on the EMP. We will probably need to hire a 3rd party consulting firm to finish the process. Stay tuned for details.

  • Robert Breyer, MCSA Cape Town GenCom, Rock climbing
  • Brian Lambourne, MCSA Cape Town GenCom, chair

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39 Responses to Bouldering in Table Mountain National Park is LEGAL

  1. Cuan Jan 12, 2016 at 10:28 am #

    Sigh…so that leaves almost nowhere where we can boulder considering all the very clear restrictions in this letter. Thanks Paddy

  2. Grog Jan 12, 2016 at 3:21 pm #

    Yeah that went well – NOT. “Bouldering is allowed in areas next to or near established footpaths” just not in Silvermine or Redhill – so exactly where would you like us to do it?? That leaves CBD and most of those are still off limits as they arent on footpaths – define ‘near’ a footpath! Traddies can stump around wherever but heaven forbid you would want to climb small rocks

    • Cuan Jan 12, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

      Yep ;(

    • mokganjetsi (Willem B) Jan 13, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

      generally traddies tread lightly. but i might stump around on your head if i ever see you for dragging us into this 😉

      • Cuan Jan 13, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

        a LOT of lightly treadding traddies does more damage than the total of 30 slightly heavier treading boulderers IMO 😉

        • michael Jan 13, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

          PLEASE Cuan, boulderers have the least respect for nature that I’ve ever come across in the climbing circles. Take a look at Rocklands. Many trad routes in the Cape you will struggle to even find chalk marks. Look at bouldering hot spots; litter, broken vegetation, cigarette butts, toilet paper, noise. Rather leave trad climbers out of your thing.

          • Cuan Jan 13, 2016 at 2:10 pm #

            No Michael I won’t. You’re talking Rocklands…You think that’s the locals? Please Get off high horse.

        • mokganjetsi (Willem B) Jan 13, 2016 at 2:13 pm #

          hehe Cuan, we all know the traddies are on the rare species list; occasional sightings of sweaty, swearing bearded humans that fumble with gear on big cliffs…..

          • Cuan Jan 13, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

            Yeah Willem I know I trad’d probably as much as I bouldered last year and towards the end of 2014 mostly only trad. Just the bouldering community is way smaller than the trad community as you probably know 🙂
            It’s just very bloody irritating this segregation within the community. Especially with how bouldering appears to be perceived as inferior to the mighty trad in CT circles.

  3. Micky Jan 12, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

    Basically it means bouldering not allowed unless you’re lucky to find a boulder worth climbing on one of the paths.

    Unless you’re tourist paying to ride the cable car you’re dirt to TMNP. Not long till they start erecting ‘tourists only’ signs all over the park

  4. MCSA Cape Town Jan 12, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

    i would be generous about the use of the word ‘near’.
    – robert breyer/MCSA

  5. Grog Jan 13, 2016 at 10:03 pm #

    I know – Lets insist the traddies have an EIA done for Table Mountain, yes the whole mountain, then when theyve done that let them thrash out an climbing management plan with TMNP before they are allowed to climb again. And dont forget that anything B-grade and above counts as trad climbing. Yeah, brilliant, I can see now how popular this will be!

    hmmmmm – now do you understand how f-ing irritating it is to have to deal with all this bureaucratic nonsense?

    Oh and please dont compare Rocklands to the Peninsula – totally different environment, vegetation, soil type, climate etc etc. Rocklands was always going to take strain.

    A better idea would be a direct negotiation with the landowners of Redhill for an access easement. I cant buy the ‘hiking only’ story – I used to live in the Deep South and trust me ppl ride dirt bikes and horses through the place, fly off the koppies and generally use it as anyone would, who had such an awesome playground in their backyard – Just like the traddies get to use Table Mountain!!! 🙂

    • Cuan Jan 14, 2016 at 9:07 am #

      No way man, trad is special, trad is exempt because people have been doing i for so long. Never mind the fact people were climbing boulders well before rope was invented 😛

    • mokganjetsi (Willem B) Jan 14, 2016 at 9:14 am #

      ja okay we traddies consider ourselves fortunate for not having to deal with all the schlep. but bollocks if you think trad climbing has a comparable environmental impact. bouldering is concentrated on a tiny area where crash pads are stashed and vegetation there has zero chance. traddies has footpaths. that’s it. a proper study would be enlightening but my guess is trad’s environmental impact vs bouldering is on a ratio of 1:5 or even less. still feel sorry for you guys having the short end of the stick, but no need to drag trad climbing into this.

  6. Grog Jan 14, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

    That was a joke Willem.

    Although I still contest that if you add up the square meterage of the trad access paths and compare it to the square meterage around the boulders I think the that trad has a far greater impact on the vegetation, bearing in mind that I consider trad anything that involves using your hands to make progress – so ALL of the easy routes as well as just the ledge.

    Secondly bouldering is concentrated in a small, predictable (and hence manageable) area whereas who knows where traddies wander off to. Next time youre wandering up places like Dark Gorge (rated D so definitely a trad climb) have a look at the ground – its worn right, there’s a (somewhat disused but still evident) path. Now count how many meters you cover walking/scramble up it, divide by two (or even three) in that the path is 300-500mm wide. Thats the square meterage of impact just that one route entails. Now multiply it by the number of routes on TM – get the idea?

    This notion that trad has no impact is rubbish! All branches of mountain activity entail some damage to the environment and should be subject to the same criteria when assessing impact and necessary permit systems (if any are needed at all). Personally I think all mountain users should just pay the same for their access card and the park managed and maintained from those funds – whatever that entails; be it paving popular hiking/trad routes or sport access paths, in need of erosion control, or building proper paths between boulders and ground cover erosion walls around them. Its not right to load the permit fees against minority users.

  7. Niel Jan 14, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

    This is not necessarily just a bouldering problem and can affect the whole climbing community on the Peninsula.

    1. Impact via padding / footpaths

    Let’s do some math. I like math. Let’s assume a standard pad size of 1,2sqm, and typically assume two pads side-by-side underneath a boulder problem. This is an area of roughly 2,4sqm. Now let’s say the average footpath leading to the base of a wall at a trad venue is 30cm wide. The 2,4sqm from the pads can thus be translated (all other factors being equal) into about 8m of equivalent footpath. To highlight the VERY obvious here, almost no trad venues on the Peninsula are only 8m from a main path, thus the climbing impact (and this IS climbing specific impact, because that footpath would not exist if there was no tradding to get to) is significant and a blanket statement that tradding always treads lighter than bouldering is nonsense. Add together all the footpaths and trails on the Peninsula that exist solely for the purpose of tradding, compare this to the number of boulder landings that have truly been cleared for bouldering and the picture looks a bit different doesn’t it?. You can play around with assumptions re nrs of pads and widths of paths, but you get the point. No climbing in the Peninsula is impactless.

    3. Have you actually met the majority of the Peninsula boulderers ?

    They are not long distance athletes, not in their sport or in the distances they are willing to walk to get to a climbing venue. Most of the Peninsula bouldering, barring a handful of spots, are very close to existing main trails and tracks because they are lazy and this is where new boulders are spotted from anyway, thus the paths that can truly be attributed to being created by boulderers are quite minimal. Also, there is a perception that boulderers clear massive areas around boulderers. (Admittedly Rocklands is a problem in this regard but that’s another topic for another discussion. Let’s stick to the Peninsula). Again, have you actually met the Peninsula boulderers? No one is going to hack down a forest to clear for bouldering, or cut-down or destroy significant amounts of dense vegetation or trees to get to boulders. Right now I can’t think of single instance where this has been done. They go for the low hanging fruit, i.e. the clearest most accessible boulders. Overhanging and/or very large boulders (shady) on the Peninsula tend to have the added advantage that little or no large vegetation grows underneath them in the first place, thus the boulderers don’t clear away much, if anything. What does tend to get impacted is the “softer” vegetation, mostly grasses, underneath the boulders, onto which the pads are dropped. However, the pads do not significantly compact the soil and even if some of the grasses and smaller vegetation clears as a result of padding, they tend to bounce back quickly. Coppermine was an interesting case study in this regard as it was quite a popular area before the self-regulated moratorium to not climb there was imposed for about a year and a half. I kept an eye on the vegetation at the landing spots to see how it would recover, as this was at the time one of the main accusations against the bouldering there. By the end of this period the veld had recovered pretty aggressively in the areas that were historically clear as a result from padding, and many spots were so overgrown that they were indiscernible as previous landing spots. Point is, yes there is impact, but it is not necessarily permanent and this is a good thing.

    3. Have you actually been to the majority of the Peninsula bouldering spots ?

    “Look at bouldering hot spots; litter, broken vegetation, cigarette butts, toilet paper, noise. Rather leave trad climbers out of your thing”

    Nonsense. Please go show me these dumps which are apparently our bouldering hotspots? I assume that you have not actually been to most of these areas yourself, or you’re talking about somewhere else like Rocklands.

    3. I don’t boulder, why should I care?

    Because right now bouldering is in the spotlight, but your discipline might be next. Climbing as a community on the Peninsula are dealing with the same organisation (TMNP) who may have the same issues with your type of climbing in the future as they do right now with bouldering. Part of the problems with boulder access has been changes of guard within TMNP. A new broom sweeps cleanest and the result is then that the whole process is restarted and the new person(s) does not necessarily recognize or adopt anything that has been discussed or agreed previously.

    TMNP have a mandate to carry out w.r.t. mountain use, access and management, which is perfectly acceptable and understandable, and the boulderers as an activity group have a right to access the mountain barring that they play by the rules and can come to acceptable terms with TMNP as to the impact and management of their activities. The precedents on which these agreements are going to be reached will also be the transferable to all the other types of climbing activity (impact, access, management, maintenance, etc) on the Peninsula which may come be under review in the future, so be careful, you might just have to thank the damn boulderers one day for doing good work.

    • Cuan Jan 15, 2016 at 8:13 am #

      Shot Niel and Grog…
      I’ve too gatvol to have bothered this discussion and you guys are putting it well 😀

    • mokganjetsi (Willem B) Jan 15, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

      guys your argument has two errors imho: one is ignoring the fact that paths are winding their way through vegetation; not roughshod over it, whereas bouldering tend to impact the entire area underneath a landing site + plus the concentrated nature of people’s movement around that area; spotting etc. secondly, environmental impact is generally assessed on a “impact” basis which references to damage per area of usage i.e. 700km of footpath has a very low impact given the scale of the area it services; whereas the bouldering impact is relatively bigger given the small area it’s concentrated on. glad you like math niel but be careful to use big accusations like “nonsense”.

      furthermore, the paths most used are established hiking paths that are actively managed and maintained; and the cliff-paths are small, does not see a massive amount of usage and stays on boulders where possible. and scrambling is not trad for heaven’s sake.

      again, i say the i think you guys are getting a raw deal; i would like for boulderers to get to use the land responsibly; and you should argue your case on it’s own merits: it’s actual impact compared to whatever is considered acceptable. why the hell you had to drag trad into this is beyond me 🙁

    • Warren Gans Jan 18, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

      I’m not willing to do the surveying to substantiate the following statement, but I bet if you counted all the trad routes on the peninsula and measured the dedicated paths that service them you’d average at less than 8m/ route. Think about it: the ledge is serviced by the cableway and India Venster, meaning relatively short climbers paths. Most Apostle routes start close to the pipetrack, or in the case of Barrier and Valken they share a path which follows a stream bed, Postern is an offshoot of an existing “Slingsby” path whose name escapes me. The number of routes at Elsies and Muizenberg crags roughly offset their respective paths.

      Climbing areas and routes/problems go in and out of fashion, meaning opportunities for regrowth. Personally I would have no problem with a system that periodically closes and opens areas to mitigate damage. We easily have enough climbing of all types to implement this system, but I doubt we have the resolve to do so.

  8. Grog Jan 14, 2016 at 6:47 pm #

    Thank you Niel! Eloquently put,

  9. Happy Jan 15, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

    ‘Our’ climbing community really sucks.

    • Jacques Jan 17, 2016 at 11:18 am #

      Its what you make of it, buddy.

  10. Old Niffty Jan 15, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

    If Cape Nature make us choose between bouldering and trad, I vote bouldering. It’s more inclusive. Kids and dogs can enjoy bouldering. What dog enjoys trad?

  11. Grog Jan 15, 2016 at 6:22 pm #

    Willem have you any idea how much time and effort the bouldering guys put into trying to get TMNP to approve a management plan. I think they have thrown up their hands in despair and walked away by now, TMNP are impossible to make progress with.

    Trad isnt ‘being dragged’ anywhere – its part of rock climbing too and all branches of the sport should recieve equal treatment. This attitude that trad is some elitist untouchable sport unto itself is so counterproductive and so, so wrong. If equal energy was put into all branches of the sport simultaneously we wouldnt be in this sad predicament.

    Things you scramble up others will want a rope on. In fact hey lets make the whole of the ledge a scrambling only zone coz Mat Bush can solo all that stuff so, so must you. Make sense – of couse not but hey, you seem adament to stay completely deluded about the impact your sport has so whatever bru.

    • mokganjetsi (Willem B) Jan 19, 2016 at 7:01 am #

      no Grog (why do you not put down your real name?).
      traddies in general do not have an “untouchable, elitist attitude”. to the contrary, we generally keep to ourselves, off the beaten track so to speak – away from crowds and cameras and hype, preferring the solitude and airiness over gymnastic feats and cheers. not better or worse than bouldering; just different and fundamentally different in its impact on the environment. your argument that trad is a branch of the sport and should therefore receive equal treatment makes no sense in the context of this discussion. globally its recognized that bouldering has a bigger impact and i think my reasoning is sound. much of it speaks to the numbers of people and the concentration of the activity, and therefore a place like yosemite actively manages trad climbing. within TMNP it is completely pointless but you are welcome to prove me wrong – just do not come with neil-math. i reiterate that i’m on the boulderers side; just found it annoying that you want to pass your predicament onto the traddies.

    • mokganjetsi (Willem B) Jan 19, 2016 at 7:06 am #

      and matt bush is one of the world’s best soloists – what he can do has no bearing on the line between scrambling (which really is really gloriifed hiking) and tradding. sure there is some blurriness on the edge, but a simple measure would be “how do most people do it”. not sure what you’re trying to achieve by insulting me.

  12. Vaalie Jan 19, 2016 at 8:01 pm #

    For some reason the okes down in the Republic of the Western Cape can’t stop moaning and bitching about Trad vs Sport vs Boulder.

    Gee kans, Trad gaan nog saam gesleep word soos met bouldering deur Cape Nature. Julle ouens daaronder beter saam staan.

    • Jacques Jan 20, 2016 at 1:23 pm #

      Eish Vaalie, you had a chance but then you swiched over to Afrikaans and lost 70% of the Eenghries okes you are trying to reach…

      • Cuan Jan 21, 2016 at 8:15 am #

        Pffft, ek kan like to be speaking Afrikaans 😉

    • Mike Jan 21, 2016 at 8:48 am #

      Nope, it won’t. The reason bouldering was targeted was because of the impact it makes. Show me any impact from trad climbing.

  13. Kamali Jan 21, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

    I’m sad that the local community of CLIMBERS (…because let’s face it, that’s really what we all are) don’t have each others’ back on universally affecting issues in solidarity, but instead decide to use the opportunity of TMNP’s inefficiencies & red tape to finger-point defensively and (some) throw around partially un-factual, accusatory and self-entitled claims.

    I fail to understand why we feel the need to classify one another into fundamentally different sub-cultures, that should somehow have to justify their individually preferred practices of the sport, when we should really pull together as a rational community and sort the problems out constructively and supportively.

    I have to say: not really very ‘Sportsmanship’-like.

    • Gerhard Jan 25, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

      Yea I really don’t see the point in all this finger pointing. We are all climbers. And CLIMBING has been affected.
      We should all be glad that trad climbing is still in the clear!
      And we should all be concerned that bouldering has been restricted.

      Why exclude yourself from enjoying any of the styles of climbing??

      I want to climb boulders, sport routes AND trad lines! Why must I choose a clan?

      • HenkG Jan 26, 2016 at 1:21 am #

        Is true Gerhard, is true!

      • Cuan Jan 26, 2016 at 8:27 am #

        We ARE glad trad is (at the moment) in the clear.
        I agree, choosing a clan is a bunch of BS as I really enjoy all of them.

        We’re just pissed that bouldering seemingly is always getting the wider end of the buttplug.

    • Mike Jan 26, 2016 at 8:36 pm #

      I still think that after the damage and mess left at “The Rocklands” we need to be very clear about the ethics involved with bouldering in SA. Trad is left out because the whole point of trad is to leave things as they were found; and trying to challenge this ethic has always led to a community uprising (anyone remember Edelstein’s little chipping fiasco?). I think that bouldering is the lesser of two evils when it comes down to sport vs bouldering. Sport climbing is the real mess. Filthy crag bases, cigarette butts, damage to plants, chalk marks everywhere, rusting bolts, plus it’s a magnet for the LCD in the sport.

      • Dean Jan 27, 2016 at 7:08 am #

        I personally think that Bouldering as well as Sport climbing should be banned in SA. Or at least just in the Western Cape. And only Trad routes up to about 24 should only be allowed, because if the route gets more difficult than that it is normally approached in a similar fashion to Sport climbing, and toothbrushes gets involved.

        • Cuan Jan 27, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

          lol…troll much?

  14. Andy Davies Jan 27, 2016 at 3:04 pm #

    Hey Robert thanks a mill for your perseverance and hard work on getting this agreement in place. Especially considering you aren’t a boulderer! Keep up the good work.

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