|Climbing Type||Multi-pitch Trad|
Big wall trad climbing with many excellent routes of upto 12 pitches on good rock. A truly African setting worth the long drive to get there. Its best not to venture out here alone, you would certainly get lost.
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There basically two different walk-ins: African Ivory and Frans' Kraal. The African Ivory route tackles the mountain from the south and basically foolows the big watercourse, the source of which is the top pools near the cave. The Frans' Kraal route comes in from the east, and heads up a biggish river valley, then gets onto the ridge forming the valley bank. Once the big plateau is reached, the route goes clockwise around the southern Donjon, up to the top plateau.
General consensus is that Fran's Kraal is by far the better walk. You start ascending almost immediately on this walk, as opposed to African Ivory where it takes ages to reach the first steep bit. It is probably equally likely to get lost on either walk.
Parking is no longer at Frans' Kraal, but rather at Isaac's Kraal. Isaac is a relative of Frans (son? nephew? grandson?) and the road virtually runs into his place. (The Rondawels have gone). His property is guarded by a fence with "white metal gates". From the house walk down the road towards the mountain (i.e. in a westerly direction. You'll pass Frans' Kraal (a white house) on your LHS about 100m down the road. Cross the small river at some big smooth boulders. Carry on along the very big path until the big thorn trees start. Just after entering the thron tree forest, turn onto the well worn path that goes up the hill.
Follow the path up the hill until a kraal on your RHS. There should be a path veering left at this stage, following a contour. Follow this path until it veers right up the hill, next to the main river (usually running). The path becomes steep now, staying on the true left of the river, until it levels off slightly and crosses the river. It usually takes 15-25 mins to get to this point.
There should be a very well worn path on the other side, heading south (i.e. away from the river). Head slightly left through the trees to find a good path that gradually takes you onto a ridge. A bit up this path it suddenly opens up and you get a good view of the plain below. Shortly after this, stick to the right and (there are many paths splitting and joining here - they all go more or less the same way, except for the left most one which goes the wrong way). You should now be heading due west again, up a steady ridge. This path is very eroded at times. Eventually, it will level off, go through a small dip past a little stream, and then up a short steep, boulder hopping section through trees until a contour path running north-south is reached. Turn left (south) onto the contour path. It usually takes about an hour to get here.
From here follow paths - and there are more than one option - and head for the middle of the Donjan visible ahead. You are ultimately heading for the left side of the Donjan. If you start heading too far east i.e. towards the right side of the Donjan and the obvious saddle, then you have gone too far. Go back west.
You should be amongnst some massive yellowwoods. The perennial drip of clean water is just higher up. The biggest tree around marks the start of the next section of the walk. It usually takes about 1hr30 to get to the drip.
From behind the big tree, find the path over the boulders and over a big fallen yellowwood trunk. It start off heading south, then turns sharp right and goes very steeply up the boulders. At the top of the steep stuff is a big boulder cave. Follow the path into the thorn tree forest. You cant really go wrong here. After about ten minutes you should pop out the trees onto the beautiful Blouberg plateau.
Choose your own way across the plateau. There is one path that goes at a low level (left) and another easier one, if you can find it, at a high. contour, level (right). Just head in the general direction of the crags due south. You'll find the river immediately below the crags. Turn upstream (right) and follow the river up the little kloof. Climb out on the true right of the kloof. Follow the path up the little valley, veer rightwards over a small ridge into a second small valley, and climb onto the ridge on the other side. Follow this ridge up to a big boulder. Climb the boulder and contour right to the cave. The whole walk usually takes about 2hr30 if you are au fait with the route and anything up to 8 hours if you are not!
There is perrenial water in the main pool below the BAPM butress. From the cave, walk down the little kloof. Stick in the river bed (bare rock) and carry on downstream for a few minutes. The main pool is in the shade of a big tree.
If you don't want to walk that far, take a length of rubber tube with and use it to drain water out of the small pools that form in the small kloof below the cave. This is useful in the spring months when water is particularly scarce.
There is sometimes water on the summit, near the top of Hey Jude. Dont rely on it though cos its often dry.
Start of Routes
Walking down the ramp the first obvious good section of rock above is a big orangey/pink amphitheatre (Lost Tribe Area), about 120 m high. The ramp bottoms out just after walking over some exposed rock under a bulging overhang with a single tree root growing down it. Follow the path as it curves to the left, up then down the boulder hopping at the base of the obvious gulley (Great Gulley). Go up and leftish to the base of the big, steep, scary wall (Wall of White Light) with grass slopes beneath it. Wall of White Light starts approximately halfway between popping out of the bushes and the very obvious corner that leads to a sloping grass ledge 80m up. Psycho Reptile starts towards the right of Wall of White Light. Future Shock, Moonlight, Moonlight Direct, Crack of Adventure and Road to Nowhere all start up the obvious corner. Carry on past bad choss at base of wall until under a massive roof 70m up (Solar Eclipse). Scatterlings breaks through just to the right of the big roof. Eight Miles High starts up cracks just right of Scatterlings. Hey Jude (Bushpig, Tequila Sunrise and Moonshadow share Hey Jude’s start) starts in corner formed by big flake. Hey Jude climbs corner for 5m then steps right and up slabs. Last moon is the very obvious grey corner (40m high) with gnarly crack, about 30m right of big roof. Just around the corner to the right of this is the break taken by Something of Value. Look out for the two bolts on Wow Fuck just to the left of SOV (bolts are about 25m up on a very blank-looking headwall, above a groove). Moonraker starts 15m right of SOV, at big flakes.
25 Tequila Sunrise - steals a few pitches from other routes plus some new pitches. Pretty much a direct line with mostly great gear.
24 Eight Miles High - Awesome, probably the best route on the wall. The pitch off the grass ledge is stiff for 22 and gear isn't great.
22 Scatterlings - Suberb sustained route. The final finger crack is immaculate and technical.
21 Something of Value - Very direct route (if the Tequila Sunrise variation is used instead of the original pitches 5&6). Tricky offwidth at the top.
21 Teddy Bears' Picnic - Excellent sustained route. Bomber gear all the way with a very exposed traverse on pitch 7. Pitch 8 has 2 bolts (replaced in Sept 2005).
20 Hey Jude - Good technical climing on the crux, mixed with thrashing crack climbing higher up. Well protected route, and the off-width isnt that bad.
19 Last Moon - Hard, awesome first pitch (more like 20), and the higher pitches on chickenhead faces are absolutely brilliant. Mostly good gear.
21 Big Corner - Great climbing on excellent rock. It's worth doing the Maleboch scramble to avoid the original first pitches.
22 Moonlight Direct - Good climbing. Long and hard grade 22 pitch with some suspect rock on the easy pitch off the grass ledge
20 Bushpig - A fast route at grade 20 with some fun chimneys towards the top. Follows the rap ladder. The grade 20-pitch of Hey Jude forms the crux.
19 Moonraker - Crux pitch is long and awesome with varied climbing. Pitches up to the grassy ledge are tricky
There is a great bouldering area in the small valley thet heads up towards Avalon (bolted route, 26). When standing in the cave, Avalon is the striking yellow wall to the north east. To get to the bouldering, walk to the top pools. Head eastwards for a minute or two over the grassy meadow. The bouldering valley will open up on your right, with the Avalon wall forming the head of the valley.
Another good bouldering area is near the bottom pools. From the cave go down the little kloof. Stick on the true left of the river and find your way down to the bottom pools. About 150 m downstream of the big pot-hole pool, on the true left of the river is a 5 m high gently overhanging wall. The wall is maybe 50 m wide.
Cave Area Climbs
On the true right of the bouldering valley leading up to Avalon is a very nice 16 hand and finger crack, Grand Illusion, (about 30 m below Avalon) opened by Mike Cartwright in 1990. Theres a good 21 on the face just to the left of the crack as follows:
Start about 2 m left of Grand Illusion. Climb up then follow the grips up and leftwards to get gear on the arete. Finish up rightwards to top out. This was opened on pre-placed gear. Gear is minimal and not very good. FA: Steve Crowe, April 2005
All the bolts on Avalon, except the top one which is still ok, were replaced in October 2005 with 10 mm stainless. This is a great route. It is fully bolted, but has no top anchors so take a friend 1.5, friend 2.5 and a few big wires and some slings for the top. It is easy to scramble off from the top of the route. The original route breaks left at the last bolt (26). Carry on up and right for the direct finish (28)
PALACE OF EXILE 17 *** [N] Directly opposite from GRAND ILLUSION, this line takes an obvious leftwards tending bulge and crack. 1. 10m 17 Boulder up to the small ledge where the crack begins, follow the crack and ramp leftwards to where they widen into a cubby (the crack ends about 1m left of here), reach up over the bulge directly above to jugs and make your way to the top. Notes: 1. Fun route if you're in the valley. Descent: Walk off the back of the bolder towards SOUNDTRACK. FA: Kieran Richards, Ale Bareiro, October 2018.
XANAX 18 *** [N] When the post BAIL depression hits, go find this hidden gem. When standing at the entrance of the VALLEY. Look toward the TIME BOMB. There is a rock island about 200m away between you and the TIME BOMB. This line is on an egg shaped boulder on the back side of the rock island, its takes a cool rightwards tending crack from bottom to top, with some mantle mischief up top. 1. 10m 18 Start directly underneath the main boulder, next to the square block on its left end. Make some fun moves up to the crack and climb this rightwards then up to the top. Notes: 1. Short and very sweet! Take some time to enjoy the view behind you. Descent: Walk off the back of the bolder. FA: Kieran Richards, Ale Bareiro, October 2018.
Wall of White Light
JIKKELS, STIKKELS, FRIKKELS 25 ***** [N, B]
A direct, sustained and wild route with good gear and continually engaging climbing. It was established with repeats in mind and has occasional bolts. A must-do. Gear: Double rack of cams from black alien to #2 camalot with triples of blue to grey alien equivalents. Singles of cams #3 and #4. Single set of nuts from DMM #1 to #9 plus a set of offset nuts to #7 DMM equivalent. Micro nuts not necessary. Supplementary Wild Country superlight rocks (the single-stem ones) are useful but not essential.
Start about 15m right of the massive pillar of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, beneath a short, wide crack formed by a fin 10m up. This is just left of a cluster of large boulders. The eventual aim (on pitch 6) is the impressive, overhanging arête which dominates the top half of the wall.
1. 24 45m. Jikkels. An intricate and sustained journey. Take all the gear, except cams #0.75, #1, #2 and #4. Follow the vague break, place the #3 cam on the right, then run it out rightwards past the fin to jugs. Traverse 2m left into the main break then up to a small ledge where the crack ends. Traverse left across a smooth wall to a narrow dihedral. Problem-solve gear in a bizarre hole, then climb left and down to jugs just left of the arête. Climb straight up (tricky) to the overlap in white rock above. Keep going to the big hollow flake (crux), move slightly left then up to a jug, then rail right and up to a bolt. Step right and climb the vague corner. Traverse right just above the small roof to a thin crack then straight up to a good ledge (bolted anchor).
2. 25 45m. Stikkels. Take all the gear, except cams #1 to #3. The aim is to break through the obvious notch in the roofs about 15m right of the stance. Climb up on the right to a rail. Step left and jettison the #4 cam about 5m directly above the stance. Traverse 3m right then up and left to a flake. Up this to hollow blocks then up to another large good flake. Don’t go up or left to the choss. Instead, traverse right about 4m then a big crank straight up to a ledge with a small grotty tree/bush. Traverse right then up to a hidden bolt on the right beneath the roof. It’s about 21 to here. Make a long reach to get hands above the roof, then keep cranking until feet are above the lip. Step left to a perch. Continue easily up and left about 8m to a small ledge – small cams.
3. 23 45m. Frikkels. Classic like Boven. Take double small cams to #0.5, single cams above this to #1 and all the wires. Climb the easy but runout ramp on the right then step left onto a big ledge (good bivi for 2, uncomfortable for 3). PSYCHO REPTILE climbs up and left and then back right into the steep, left-facing, narrow dihedral. Instead, climb up and diagonally right past a bolt to a vertical crack. Up this then step right at a second bolt. Up to a third bolt, then back left to a jug. Straight up to a small perch (PSYCHO REPTILE re-joins here). Do a runout traverse right to easier ground, then up to a ledge (PR goes right from here). Traverse left and climb up to a bolted stance on a large block.
4. 21 45m. Bring route-finding skills. Take double small cams to #0.5, single cams above this to #4 and all the wires. Save cams #2 to #4 for the stance (especially if hauling). Up to a bolt, then climb diagonally up and left. Follow the path of least resistance by trending up and left, always on good clean rock, until a bolt is visible about 6m above. Climb up and right, then traverse left to the bolt which protects a few moves on a hollow flake. Climb up then left onto a leftwards-diagonal ramp. Finish up an easy short, right-facing corner to an amazing ledge (good bivi for 4). Stance off cams in the top rail.
5. 25 45m. The Business. Simply amazing. Take all the gear, except blue and black aliens. Keep a few small cams for the stance. From the left end of the ledge climb over ledges to the obvious crack. Follow this over a (solid) bulging block then step left to a foot perch just below the big roof (shared with YOLT to here, which then goes right). Climb the crack above and follow it leftwards into the dihedral to eventually make heart-breaking crux moves to exit onto a good ledge.
6. 21R 30m. Beware of loose rock. Take all the gear to cam #0.5, singles of #0.75 to #3 and all the wires. Cam #4 not necessary. Climb the chossy corner above the left end of the ledge until just before it slabs out. Place good kit and traverse right on hollow yellow lichen rock, then up to the right edge of a ledge system that goes into the alcove up and left. Avoid the alcove – instead traverse right then trend up and right to a good rail in welcome solid rock. Traverse right then up to a small ledge with a large cammed flake. Continue up right to belay on Giggle Ledge - an outrageous sloping perch on the arête. YOLT comes into this ledge from right of the big arête.
7. 21 20m. Grey Groove. Take all the gear to cam #1, singles of #2 and #3 and all the wires. Save one each of cams #1 to #3 for the stance. Exit the ledge up and right (shared with YOLT). Instead of moving right on that route to bird shit ledges, climb the grey groove on the left wall. When this dies, step left to the arête and make wildly exposed moves up to a ridiculously awesome perch.
8. 22 50m. The Emotional Pitch. It’s better than therapy. Take all the gear. Move about 5m left then up to an obvious dihedral capped by small roofs. Up the dihedral, then rail right at the roofs and mantle onto a small ledge. Climb the blunt arête just above the left edge of the ledge. Up and left then up the smooth wall past a bolt and crucial flake to a big rail. Rail right then up to a rest with an obvious crack above. Swim up the jams and funkiness just left of the detached (but solid) pillar. At a big jug traverse right over the top of the pillar, then climb the crack above. Exit this leftwards to obviously easier ground. Swing onto a crazy horn, then slightly left and up to hero jugs. Let it all out, and be sure to look straight down to the start of the route. Rail right on the narrow ledge to the arête, then scramble up 5m to the next ledge. Traverse back left to belay above the hero jugs.
9. 19 15m. Climb a few meters up the bushy break on the left. Move left onto a rounded prow and climb this to the massive top-out ledge. Coil the ropes and put on approach shoes. Walk off about 40m leftwards through the bush to a big, open terrace. Keep traversing left until able to scramble easily up to the summit.
FA: Hector Pringle, Gustav Janse Van Rensburg and Marianne Schwankhart, Feb 2019
FFA: Hector Pringle, with Tim Dunnett, Marianne Schwankhart and Mel Janse Van Rensburg, Nov 2019
Initial vision: Andrew Porter with Hector on a 5-day trip with multiple attempts at different lines. The best attempt yielded a whopping 25m, to just below the crux of pitch 1. It was enough of an incentive to return...
Variations: P3 can be dodged (grade 20) by climbing PSYCHO REPTILE’s’s pitch just to the left. P5 can be dodged (grade 21) by continuing rightwards up YOLT, then breaking left into the greenish hanging corner to Giggle Ledge. A less aesthetic version of P7 (similar grade) is to continue up YOLT’s corner to a rail which then goes hard left to the awesome perch.
Style: The approximate line was established ground-up to the summit, with sporadic aid and some bolting by hand over multiple trips. Some sections were top roped after climbing less-aesthetic variations. The full route was then rappelled to allow additional well-placed bolts with a power drill. Once all pitches had been established the redpoint ascent was done ground-up over two days (including a massive storm overnight on the bivi ledge).
Tips for Some of the Routes
Something of Value (21)
The 2nd pitch after the grass ledge goes up to a rail, then rails left to a corner. The original route climbs the corner for 3 m then buggers off left across an unprotected slab. This is hard and scary 21. Instead of traversing left, continue climbing the corner to the small roof that caps it. Step up and right to a peg, then some slab moves to another peg until able to move up and right into the main corner feature. Follow the corner to the overhang and pull this to get into the corner of the 6th pitch of SOV. Climb the easy (15) corner to the jumbo ledge. This pitch is from Tequila Sunrise and gets ***** with very good gear and wild steep climbing. Its also about grade 21.
Teddy Bears' Picnic (21)
The 5th pitch after the grass ledge (the precious mettle pitch) has 2 bolts on it. These were replaced with new 10 mm stainless steel bolts in October 2005. This is a great, well protected route.