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Chosspile – Nesting Birds

Black Eagle

Notice on partial restrictions on climbing at the Chosspile (Issued 26 May 2016) Climbers who frequent the Lord of the Rings Sector will know that there is a Black Eagle (Verreaux’s Eagle) nesting site at the right side of the crag, just right of the chains of Fossil Fuel.

They have nested there for most years since climbing started there over 20 years ago, including recent years.  And climbers who climb at Chosspile will know that there is a nest site toward the left end of the crag that has not been used for some years but could potentially be used again.
It should be noted that the Black Eagle is on the red-data list and therefore to disturb a nesting pair is a criminal offense; the club is wary of this but at the same time values the importance of the Lord of the Rings sector to the climbing community and seeks to protect access as much as possible.

The club is currently in discussion with one of the country’s most prominent bird conservation societies to develop a policy for future guidance on climbing restrictions at all crags during raptor breeding season (April to October).  Following some attention from a raptor conservation group, and in the interests of maintaining long-term access to the crag, the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) is implementing some restrictions on climbing at Chosspile.

  1. With immediate effect no climbing is permitted at the Lord of the Rings sector until end October.
  2. If it is confirmed early in this period by an appointed representative of the club that the eagles are not nesting climbing may resume.
  3. No dogs are allowed at the Lord of the Rings Sector during the nesting season, unless they are deemed not be nesting as per point 2.
  4. If it is observed by an appointed representative of the club that the juvenile birds have fledged the nest, climbing may resume earlier than the date in point 1.
  5.  Updates on breeding status and restrictions will be posted via the weekly “Reminders” e-newsletter.  There have been recent reports of Black Eagle activity at the Bronkies Crag.  We remind climbers that climbing is not permitted in the Eagle Sector (markers at the base of the crag).  The consequences of climbers not observing these restrictions could lead to closure of these crags, so please work with us so that we can secure long-term access and help protect the wonderful Black Eagles.

Mountain Club of South Africa, Magaliesberg and Johannesburg Sections If you still have draws up please contact Andrew Pedley.  Any other queries can be directed to the respective MCSA offices or you can email

Black Eagle


  1. This is easily the worst news that we have had for climbing around Gauteng. Those birds have nested next to the climbers every year since I have been going to Choss (10 years). We have years where there were initially two eagles, then there were three. I thought that they were breeding, but what do I know, I’m not a bird watcher. These eagles have never cared we are there, they have been there year in and year out, right there at the crag. WHAT’S THE PROBLEM ALL OF THE SUDDEN?

    Really frustrating to lose Choss during the only time of year that the hard routes can actually be climbed. In summer when it is warm it is flat out impossible to climb on the slippery polished holds there on the routes that are 31 or harder. In essence, this has been a major setback for the climbing scene.

    Very sad that there is so little empathy coming from the MCSA, who seemed very willing to simply close the crag. There had to be a big fight to actually keep any access to this area. I find it a bit upsetting that the MCSA is willing to buy a crag like Wilgepoort, which will never see the traffic that Chosspile receives, yet are not enthusiastic to back sport climbing’s most important local crag.

    • Brian I understand the frustration – which is why there has indeed been a lot of consultation with both sport climbers and the various Birding Authorities. The problem is in a Nutshell that various Birding Bodies have seen climbers and Eagles in close proximity and they have decided that the climbers are interfering with Eagles breeding – and they are empowered by law to enforce a ban on any activity they see as interfering with the Black Eagles.

      You will of course have understood from what we stated above that there are very few options open to us as climbers. If we are seen to be any form of threat to the Black Eagles breeding then the conservation authorities will go to the landowner and we will be shut out – with no access to chosspile at all – and with very little room to negotiate access again.

      So it really does not matter if we as climbers think we don’t affect the black Eagles breeding.

      What really does matter on the other hand is that we see that if we pursue or own selfish goals to climb near a bird species on the Red list then it will be taken away from us like spoilt children by others who care little for our aims of clambering up rock for personal self gratification.

      So we have to be mature about this. The Eagles are a protected species and they were there first. They need to breed and we need to be grown up enough about it to understand that they need their space and that we are not the ones who decide how much space they need because there are wildlife experts dictating this to us.

      We, as the MCSA, do care about the environment. We also care about all climbers. Therefore we have to do what is best for all concerned. We have to be sensible and balanced about this so that we retain access – which you mentioned was hard to obtain. Should the landowner hear we are threatening an endangered species do you think he would hesitate for one minute to ban us from the crag?

      So I do appeal to all climbers to think about their actions – do you want to be known as the person who decided you know better than a bunch of expert scientists on their chosen subject matter and then went and endangered access for everyone else?

      Rather lets put our heads together and find some new potential areas for top climbs. I am sure that together if we created an initiative co ordinated by Andrew Pedley we could come up with some unexplored potential. Together the climbing community can do this and that is a much more positive approach then grumping about threatening an endangered species.

      • Grant, I have no intention of going against the ban NOR DID I GIVE ANY INDICATION ABOVE THAT I WOULD.

        I simply voiced my opinion about the loss of perhaps the most import winter crag for the strong sport climbers in the area.. I have been telling other climbers it is important they respect this as it is for the good of the community. I am merely stating the fact that this situation has existed for decade(s?) without any problems and it feels unfair that someone watching the situation on an isolated day is saying that the climbers are causing problem. I know life is not fair, but it is still a vastly unpleasant situation.

  2. There is a theory (among some climbers & others perhaps) that birds are drawn to climbers/human activity (i.e. they like to nest nearby).

    Think about it, you’re a bird… it’s boring sitting in the nest – might as well have some entertainment to watch (in the same way that we enjoy watching them 🙂

    Good luck trying to convince the other side of any of the above 😀

    • Good points and the truth is that we are aware that we need more of the harder type climbs in the area or at least in the general vicinity. We had hoped for slightly less restriction but once the subject was broached we were given few options.

      What is positive is that if any of the crags are observed to not have nesting pairs then we will be able to loosen the restrictions, so it is very important that we keep Birdlife SA and the various other groups informed and in this regard our conservation people are going to monitor the situation very carefully.

      I apologise if I seemed accusatory – I think my words need to be seen in the light of all climbers taking this to heart and acting in the climbing communities best interests. My intention and hope would be that all responsible climbers go along with this ban in the hope that our compliance and co operation can bring an opportunity for new routes to be allowed at Bronkies when the birds are not there. There is no doubt that the MCSA would jump at any opportunity to secure these or any other future good crags if the opportunity arose.

      I thank all climbers out there who respect the ethics of the MCSA and climbing community in terms of conservation and other behaviour at crags as it is only through us being seen as an Asset that we can retain access to these crags.

  3. Free entrance via Tant Malies (dam wall entrance) as per usual and forever on. The path is nicely kerned up and walked out again. Dont pay for climbing.

    Chosspile will never close, just like those birds never stopped breeding. Ugliest baby those beautiful creatures produce. Been cool watching them raise a new little big eagle every year. Go suck… if you think you can keep us out.

    As I always say, try keeping a climber out

    • I think we’ve all become accustomed to what to expect from this individual. Personally “go suck a …” isn’t what I want to read in the forum and the comments section of this website. Justin?

    • Ai Ebert, ai!

      Your argent that climbing is free (or at least ought to be so) can be shown to be self-defeating. This is not in the least suprizing as you are a master at this type of reasoning.

      Willingness to pay (WTP) is a method often utilised in gauging the economic value of goods and services. WTP can be used to costruct cost/benefit curves in order to establish the socially efficient price for said goods/services as well as the net social utility(value) thereof. Monetising value is important as it aids incorporating a range of values (social) into decision-making that are otherwise often not considered.
      In this case you argue for a WTP=0. If we take this as true for all climbers, say climbing at a crag like Chossies, then the net social utility of the crag (for climbing purposes) would also be 0. In this case there would exist no incentive for the landowner to consider climbing as an important good/service as it has a 0 economic value, and thus it would not be considered during decision-making regarding utilisation of his/her/their land. This scenario is not obviously undesirable but also not true!

      Perhaps for you, Ebert, you should rather ask yourself how much would someone need to pay you to never again climb at Choss/Magaliesberg crags? I would think this would be considerably more than your WTP for the same goods/services!You need to ask yourself why this is the case?Perhaps you would then realise the severity of convolution in your argument!

    • Jy’s steeds ‘n klein doos.

  4. Irrespective of how one feels about this issue there are two points of view and then there are the facts. As far as I can see, climbers do not have the upper hand when it comes to access. And that is just how it is. Access must be preserved for the greater climbing community and a courteous negotiated outcome is always going to be preferable to a confrontational and possibly illegal approach that may at worst, remove access permanently.

  5. Think Justin is onto something. Bronkies, Choss, Kingskloof….Surely can’t be a coincidence. Also why restrict the whole Lord Of the Rings area and not just the specific area of concern as they do at Bronkies. Maybe the birding bodies need to explain what the risks really are. I can understand that if you continually get within a few meters of its nest it may eventually decide to go build a nest somewhere else but why close the whole area. Walter Sisulu Gardens have hundreds of people moving in the area of the eagles nests on a daily basis. I hope that common sense will prevail.

    Have the baboons been notified?

    • Once again I think we must understand that a couple of climbers opinions will not count at all compared to various Birding Bodies research and that the climbers are not the ones holding the power to shut everything down. Yes we have in fact got people who are part of the monitoring crew for the Botanical Gardens and yes there was a very high level discussion about the Eagles familiarisation with humans. That was addressed and the experts were involved.

      As to the areas – the Lord of the Rings crag is not large and we need to keep in mind that our “common sense” and opinions could well result in larger areas being cordoned off when considered by the people assessing how close they want people to the nests. Ultimately I believe all responsible and environmentally conscious climbers will respect the birds enough to look past their own needs to something a little more key to us all being able to continue to enjoy the environment in its natural state. For the rest I believe their utter disrespect for the environment and their fellow climbers will ultimately lead to their own downfall.

      Now how about we focus on finding those new exciting climbing areas!

  6. I can only wonder how much of Ebert’s logic applies to the boulder cave he’s been working on. Was the wood free? Was the grips free? Is the location free? Will entry be free? Will it be free for all?

    If not, why not?

      • He won’t say, it’s his mommy and daddy who made the money. I’ve never met a kid from a poor/modest/middle class upbringing with this sense of entitlement, always the little rich kids who never had to work for anything in their lives that turn into such scumbuckets.

        You will fall little boy, and the people you pissed off on the way up will be high-fiving when you see your ass.

  7. Probably still smoking up an answer 😉

  8. So it will come to this: Ebert will be caught trespassing, the landowner will shut down Chosspile permanently, and then the climbing community can get on with re-educating this little boy. It will always be those who build against those who break. Choose your side.

  9. Wigwam is now open.

    Let Chospile sit and cool down for the winter. As a climber from Durban i understand and respect the fact that these animals need their time to breed.

    Look at hunting season over seas, Big fines are allocated if animals are shot outside of the time periods.

    Guys its breeding season. there are harder climbs in the man cave. Suck it up and move away.

  10. Perhaps die Generaal en die Lawyer have taught our little snot kop friend Ebert some bad habits. Tsk tsk tsk !!! Perhaps his parents should be held accountable for his criminal actions.

  11. In the midst of disappointment I always try to find something positive to take away.

    So lets not forget that The Choss Pile area is now significantly bigger than it used to be. With the opening of hard routes down at the man cave, maybe those choice routes will now get the mileage they deserve and we can all still remain amped with projects down there in the meantime. Who knows, maybe the temporary closure upstairs will inspire some more routes in the Man Cave.

    Maybe there should be some renewed effort by MCSA to negotiate official permission to climb at Wigwam and Narrow and even Hidden – Grant ?. These areas have more than enough established hard routes and Hidden with potential for a lot more new ones. These crags would keep any one chasing hard routes happy for years.

    So peeps. Lets look at things in perspective – its not all doom and gloom.

    Last but not least – it is the breeding season of course – so lets get out there and practice that breeding, like a lot !!

  12. MCSA dont care about the those Kloofs.

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