|Climbing Type||Sport, Trad, Boulder|
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.
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
Children under 12 years: free (needs confirmation)
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.
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.
- Finitude (21?) [5B, C]
First route on the left as you walk down the boardwalk from the top parking. Look for the obvious fin.
FA: R. Halsey (May 2023)
- Binary (22)
Takes the vertical crack just left of Catharsis. A #4 Camalot useful. Trad route with bolted anchor at the top of the crack.
FA: R. Halsey (Feb 2023)
- The Voodoo Hoopoe (26/27?) [10B, C]
Splits left from the second bolt of Chicken Run. Hard start, followed by interesting series of laybacks and large pods.
Consensus grading needed. Graded based on Chicken Run...
FA: R. Halsey (Apr 2023)
- Chicken Run (26/27?)
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.
FA: Jeremy Samson, July 2007
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.
Hard Euro Candy (28)
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.
FA: N. Mostert (Sep 2014)
Resurrection (23/24) [?B, C]
Between Eurotech and Eurovision
History: old, partially bolted route with no hangers, no anchors, some bolts missing. Originator not located, so additional bolts, hangers and anchors added.
FA: R. Halsey (2023)
The next two sport routes are down the path from Eurovision and just before Turmoil of the Skin.
The Green Hadogenes (22/23)
Starts up a flared crack left of a tree, and then up face. Sting in the tail.
FA: R. Halsey (Nov 2022)
More Patch Than Pants (21)
Scramble down under the boulder to start. Tricky take-off followed by sustained face.
FA: R. Halsey (Nov 2022)
The Grey Reaper (23 R/X)
Between Cadeau and Cannonfodder. A hard start leads to a flared crack and then good #4 and #3 Camalot. Traverse right and up across the face (no pro) to the excellent flake which goes all the way to the ledge. A fall just before the flake would be very serious. Use chains on Turmoil of the Skin to abseil.
FA: R. Halsey & E. Pelser (Nov 2022)
Sands of Time Wall
Thylacine (22/23)[N, C]
Extension of Stopykes Revenge. A long prominent crack line, done as one long pitch passing the Stopykes Revenge anchors. Take small cams/wires for top. Trad, bolted anchor
FA: R. Halsey & E. Pelser (Jan 2023)
Note: Stopykes Revenge only had a one bolt anchor. New bolt added 2023 to make double anchor.
The Scorched Earth Direct (23) [?B, C]
From the anchor at the end of pitch 2 of The Scorched Earth, climb straight up the groove rather than up and diagonally right. Abseil off.
FA: R. Halsey & D. Miles (May 2023)
Granite Graffiti Wall
Dwarf Kiddi (24) [4B, C]
B.B. S. W. Noy.
FA: E. Pelser (Oct 2023)
Note: Clipping anchor may be trickier if you're tall. Hoorah for a route that suits short people.
Left of the Crystal Chronicles
Off Width Your Head (21)[N, C]
Interesting feature. Very three dimensional.
Start up the wide flared crack to pass the small tree. Continue up the slanted crack system which becomes a hand crack. Exit the crack to the left to below massive guillotine flake. Straddle this and the opposite wall to easier ground and a bolted anchor. Abseil is ~33m.
Double #4 Camalot and triple #3, #2 and #1 suggested.
Route idea and name by Stewart Noy.
FA: R. Halsey (Apr 2023)
Crank Prank Section
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
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.
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
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.
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.
 Thanks to Niel Mostert for compiling the guides.