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Climbing TypeSport, Trad, Boulder
Rock TypeGranite
SeasonAll year
ProvinceWestern Cape

About Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve

In 1657, Abraham Gabbema led an expedition, to find more Khoi groups to barter from and to search for the legendary treasures of Monomotapa. On the day that they arrived in the Berg River Valley, the granite boulders, towards the west side of our town, glistened in the sun after some showers. This inspired Gabbema to promptly name this mountain “the Diamond and Pearl Mountain” from which the name Paarl was later derived. What is today known as Paarl Mountain, used to be called “Tortoise Mountain” by the Khoikhoi.

Paarl Mountain has been declared a Nature Reserve in 1977. Drakenstein Municipality is one of the few municipalities that administers a nature reserve. Paarl is particularly known for its mountain or “Paarl Rock”. The huge granite rock is formed by three rounded outcrops that make up Paarl Mountain and is the second largest granite outcrop in the world and forms part of the Nature Reserve. Few towns have been blessed as Paarl has with an area of unspoiled natural beauty at its doorstep. The picturesque landscape of fynbos vegetation is dominated by massive rounded granite rocks set among ancient wild olives, rock candle woods and wagon trees. The Jan Phillips Mountain Road is kept in good repair, although not tarred, as well as the road leading to the Bretagne Rocks with its spectacular viewpoints.

On the plateau, roads are not intensively maintained, mainly to discourage motor traffic and retain it as an unspoiled walking area. Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve is open throughout the year, including weekends and all public holidays. Entrance fee is R48.00 per vehicle plus R16.00 per occupant, which can be bought at the reserve main gate. A map with all the routes can also be bought here, at R32.00 (On weekends and Public Holidays on The Reserve at the gate and also at the Afrikaans Language Monument).

Both a Provincial Angling Licence (obtainable from Cape Nature +27(0)21 871 1535 or the Post Office) as well as a Fishing Permit (obtainable from Drakenstein Municipal offices Monday – Friday 08h00-17h00 or at the main gate over weekends/public holidays during facility hours) are required. Weekly permits are R32.00 and an annual permit R75.00.

Paarl reserve information.jpg

Remember, there are no shops on the reserve, so bring along your own fire wood, grid and supplies. Strictly no dogs or music is allowed in reserve and day camps. No horse riding facilities available. Only licenced vehicles, no off-road motorbikes and/or quad bikes allowed. No larger than 22 seated buses are allowed. There is no swimming facilities on the reserve.

Hours: Summer: 07h00-19h00 (1 Oct – 31 March)
Winter: 07h00-18h00 (1 April – 30 Sept)
Note: No entry is allowed 1 hour before closure times.

How to get there

As you enter Paarl Main Street via the N1 from CT, take the Taalmonument turn off (Gabemma Road) and follow the road past the Amphi theatre, past the picnic area on the mountain until you find the sign and turn off to the reserve. Alternatively take Jan Phillips Mountain Drive just after the traffic light at Vineyard Spar on your left and before Frater Square.

Fees & Permits

Vehicle entry: R48.00
Adults: R16.00
Children under 12 years: free (needs confirmation)
Map: R32.00

Accommodation & Food

Buy in the town of Paarl before you go up to the reserve.
There are good supermarkets/restaurants in the town.

Attractions & Activities

PDF Topo Download

There are some excellent single- and multi-pitch sport routes at Paarl Rocks. The climbing is on large granite domes.

The rock seems to dry quicker than the sandstone crags around Cape Town, so Paarl Rocks may be a good destination if it has been raining recently.

The Noy brothers have recently published a climbing guide to Paarl that is available from most climbing shops.

Getting There

The Paarl Rocks are about 60 km north of Cape Town. From Cape Town drive north along the N1, and turn off at Paarl. Look carefully for the sign to the Paarl Rocks Mountain Reserve (it is easy to miss).



Sands of Time (18, four pitches) is the best multi-pitch sport route of its grade in South Africa.

Little Dutch Boy (20, three pitches) is excellent.

Umkhonto we Sizwe (22) and Splinter of the Mind's Eye (19) are great mixed trad/bolt routes that can easily be top-roped off the chains.

  • Chicken Run 27 Jeremy Samson, July 2007
    Starts left of Little Dutch Boy and goes straight up to the chains of Pitch 2 of Little Dutch Boy. You will need two ropes to get down as the route is much longer than 30m.
  • Closed project: Jamie Smith In between little Dutch boy and Wonderland
  • Unknown 23 Clinton Marteningo, 2007
    Bolted line somewhere between Sands of Time and Sunset Strip.

Illearth Area

From the Parking Area drop downhill toward Paarl via an obvious footpath, Euro Wall is on your left. Follow footpath down until it runs into the rock face, scramble up onto the belay ledge.

1. Hard Euro Candy 28 N. Mostert, Sep 2014
Starts left of EuroTech, follow pockets, crimps and mono's to chains. [NOTE] Sections of the route was manufactured by unknown persons some decades ago from what we were able to figure out. Leave it (and a rant/debate re manufactured lines) alone, it was a different time, it was done well and it forces some brilliant, creative climbing. It's part of the history of climbing at Paarl.

Crank Prank Section

Crank Prank
Hidden Gem Boulder

1. Crank Prank 24? AdK, 1985?
From the top of the Splinter Boulder, one can see a tor with a thin crack in it, about 100m down the slope towards the houses. Traverse in from the right and climb the crack.

2. Hidden Gem 18 Steven Reed, ??
Beautiful short hand crack with chains at the top. Truly a Gem.

3. Unknown 18? ??
Vertical crack to the left of Hidden Gem. Beware of big loose/hollow sounding rock at the top.

4. Unknown ??
Start as for 3, but follow crack to the left until able to stand on ledge. Follow vertical crack to top.

5. Lily's line 16 Steven Reed, ??
Bolted line on boulder left of Hidden Gem boulder. 5 bolts and chains.

6. Let it Bee 17? Anro le Roux, 2010
Short high ball crack on boulder behind Hidden Gem boulder. Anro bouldered the route, but sane people would want to put a piece of natural gear in close to the top.

Two Cents Slab

Two Cents Slab top section

1. Lightning Bolt Crack 12 Hilton Davies and Matthew Lloyd-Sim, 6 June 2008
This route takes the prominent and attractive lightning bolt crack. The route offers sharp easy flakes but no gear.

2. A Good Day for a Mantle Shelf 23 Hilton Davies and Bruce Daniel, 19 May 2009
A few metres higher up the wall from Lightning Bolt Crack this route takes a finger-tips crack and involves a very long crank for the lip. Here it gets interesting. There are no choices but to mantle-shelf onto the slope above the top gear placement. Small nuts and cams are needed. To put out a top belay some mid-sized cams are required. Finish up the easy off-width that leads to the top of the slab.

3. Hand Jam Entrance Exam 22 Hilton Davies and Bruce Daniel, 19 May 2009
This staunch test is located near the top of the onion-layer. The route is slightly overhanging and gives a demo of Yosemite hand-jamming. Several large cams and a hex or two are required. Expect some pain. Walk off round to the left.

Belly Button Slab

This is the large slab on Gordon's Rock, facing you on the right-hand side of the top parking area.

Descent: One can abseil down "Belly Button Brigade (2-3 Abseils depending if you use single or double ropes) or one can carefully walk to the left of the slab after topping out, where the slab meets the scree, one will find a vague path that can be followed down back to the start of the routes.

1. Gecko 15 J Mayer, 2004
This route starts on the far left of the slab, by the scree and goes fairly straight up the slab, it crosses over the "Dyke" route. It consists of two pitches.

2. Dyke 15 J Mayer, 1992
This route starts to the right of 'Gecko', under the tree and there is a definite band of hand grips that it starts with, it veers left and crosses over "Gecko's" bolts. It consists of two pitches.

3. Belly Button Brigade 15 J Terblanche, M Rutschline, 1999
This route starts on the far right of the slab and the definite "Belly Button can be seen above the start of the route. It is usually done in two pitches but can be broken in to three, due to the 3 abseil stations.

Top Parking

Boulder below top parking

1. Not of long duration 19 P Olivier, 2011
Mostly climb the slab, using the corner crack for protection.

2. The vertical dimension of extension 19 P Olivier, 2011
Really fun little crack with prefect rock

Gritstyle Boulder

To find this section look in the second edition bouldering guide. If you walk down towards the Boot sector from Four Sstage Rocket, these routes are between the first large boulders on your right. If the base was better they'd be bouldered, but ended up being trad lines. Grades to be confirmed.

Gritstyle Boulder

1. Gritstyle 25 P Olivier, 2010
Climb the short vertical crack, then right and out. Hard to protect.

2. Mental Brutality 27 P Olivier, 2010
This is the left start to Gritstyle. Sit start at arête with big underclings and traverse right into Gritstyle. The sit start is to prevent the temptation of using the vertical crack of Gritstyle to start with.

Paarl Bouldering

[1] Thanks to Niel Mostert for compiling the guides.


Arms raised in a V: Top of first pitch of Little Dutch Boy
Boys and Their Toys
Mark Linley heading up Children of a Lesser God
Little Dutch Boy

Western Cape