Yellowwood Amphitheatre

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Yellowwood Amphitheatre
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Climbing TypeMulti-pitch Trad
Rock TypeSandstone
SeasonAll year but winter days are short and conditions can be cold and wet if it has rained recently
ProvinceWestern Cape
AreaDu Toits Kloof

Download the "WORK-IN-PROGRESS" comprehensive guide to Yellowwood and environs and Du Toit's Kloof trad climbing for free

The CapeRoutes Yellowwood Amphitheater Climbing Guide by Leo Rust (Free PDF Download)

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Best times to climb at Yellowwood

Winter is the best time to climb at YW. You just need to be selective as to what day you choose. Nice thing it only gets light at 730 so you do not need 3am starts as in summer.

3 days after rain and especially if rain is forecast the following day is the best as there is warm air pushed in as the front comes in from the sea. There is always water this time of the year.

If cold climb on the right at Smallblaar. One of the best routes to do is Beer Time. Sunny and toasty even last Saturday. Often a temperature inversion and you are above the clouds most of the day.

It only really gets cold once the South Easter comes in from August on-wards.


The prevailing ethic for Yellowwood is tread lightly.

"Tread lightly" means no bolting of belay stances unless all possible alternatives have been completely exhausted. No placing of bolts for running belays that are not absolutely essential. No use of pitons, unless necessary. No use of power drills is accepted!

Climbers are asked to respect the prevailing ethic which is intended to preserve the aesthetic appeal of Yellowwood as a world-class Trad climbing destination.

It is essential for first time visitors to do an ascent of one of the existing classic trad routes to appreciate the committing and adventurous nature of the climbing at Yellowwood. Older routes such as Armageddon Time (and the direct), Blood is Sweeter than Honey and Time Warp are all test pieces for their grade. And newer routes such as Prime Time (and the direct) and Fantastic Time as well as "routes in progress" of which there at least 3, are no less demanding at the grade. Most, if not all the trad routes on the main wall have at least one "R" (run-out) pitch but none are "X" rated. There is minimal fixed gear and very few fixed stance

A new route on Yellowwood, Fighting The Dark Side Of Gravity, has had all its bolts removed, except for two that are essential for the leader on Pitch 3. Two non-essential pitons have also been removed.

There has been much debate about Yellowwood and the most active Yellowwood climbers have talked extensively so as to settle the ethos of this high-value cliff.

In a recent meeting Adam Roff, Jeremy Samson and Hilton Davies distilled the following:

Yellowwood is a very special Trad climbing venue and there have been some mis-steps in route development at the crag. Newborn was bolted many years ago before locals had given much thought to bolting and ethics. It is a legacy that shall remain, but should not be seen as guidance for route development at Yellowwood. More recently four new routes have been established by visitors who have made extensive use of non-essential bolting. Whilst route development is encouraged, non-essential bolting is not; and these new routes are getting their non-essential bolts removed. They will remain as good adventurous routes.

2014: There have been no less than 10 new multi-pitch trad routes established at Yellowwood in the first 5 months of this year. Together they constitute no less than 60 pitches or, combined, more than 1500m of climbing. All the routes have been free-climbed with the vast majority of the pitches of being moderate grade and only 2 pitches of grade 22 and one of grade 24. The routes are all well protected and no fixed gear was necessary.

All these new routes are on the buttresses to the left of the Main Wall. High quality High resolution Photo Topos are being regularly updated and if you down-load them to a smart phone with a good screen the actual detail of the rock can be seen if you magnify the image. These topos are far more accurate than written descriptions and line drawings. They are also better viewed on a smart phone screen than by printing them. In this way route finding is effective and the epic potential much reduced.

Further Signatories:
Willem le Roux, Karl Hayden, Stephen Davis, Andy Davies, Andy Wood, Bruce Daniel, Keith James, Douw Steyn, Ross Suter, Rik de Decker, Dirk Versfeld, Paul Fatti, Carl Kritzinger, Rob Zipplies, Scarre Cilliers, Mark Berry, Anthony Hall, Mike Scott, Kevin Smith, Stewart Middlemiss, Nic Good, Charles Edelstein, David Vallet, Andy de Klerk, Richard Behne, Tienie Versfeld, Alan Ross, Chris Lomax, John Alexander, Evan Wiercx, Ed February, Andre Vercueil, Bryant Roux, Stuart Brown, Dave Shewell, Johnathan Gordon, Stewart Noy, Paul Schlotfeldt, Clinton Martinengo, Bobby Woods, David Mercer, Neels Havenga, Justin Lawson, Brian Weaver, Johann Lanz, Guy Paterson-Jones

How to get there

Yellowwood Amphitheatre is in Du Toits Kloof on the Worcester side of the Huguenot Tunnel, approximately an hour's drive from Cape Town. The amphitheatre is on the south side of the road (the N1). (It's on the right hand side if you are coming from Cape Town.)

From Cape Town, drive along the N1, through the tunnel and into Du Toit’s Kloof, and continue past the Du Toit’s Kloof Resort/Hotel on the left. There are two spots you can park. About 3 or 4 km from the resort, you can squeeze a car behind the barrier on a long left bend, just before Yellowwood Ravine. Alternatively, about 1km on you can park at the first break in the barrier just below Yellowwood Ravine – this is a farm access road, so don’t park in front of the gate.

A path winds up the right-hand side of Yellowwood Ravine to reach the foot of the Amphitheatre. The path leaves the N1 several hundred metres down from the large pylon on the right hand side of the gully. The path passes beneath this pylon and is marked by cairns the whole way. The walk-in is steep and takes about two hours.

There is a water drip near the base of Yellowwood that is unreliable and seasonal - June to December.


PLEASE NOTE TOPO PICs may have some inaccuracies. Refer to the original articles and route descriptions.


Yellowwood Amphitheatre routes as at January 2016.JPG

The start of Time Warp on this photo topo is inaccurate. Time warp starting pitches are the same as the original Prime Time pitches.

Yellowwood topo small3.jpg


Yellowwood East Butress routes as at Nov 2015.png

Click on the link below for a higher resolution PDF file.

File:Yellowwood East Butress routes as at Nov 2015.pdf


Walk right(looking in) to reach a system of gullies beyond the ridge. Scrambling and two rappells over short vertical sections gives access to a traverse line that leads back left to the bottom of the amphitheatre.

EITHER walk right to the gulley between Smalblaar ridge and the Chess Pieces. This involves three short abseils.

DOWN TIME Rap Route OR use the rap route (affectionately dubbed "Down Time"):

TIMERITY Abseil descent 130m

This abseil route is situated on the right (South West) edge of the Timerity buttress. Have a good look where it starts when at the bottom. From the top of Yellowwood amphitheatre head east along the top to where it descends to a depression (10 minutes from Smalblaar). Two features then become visible to guide you. The first one is a huge boulder complex adjacent to a lone pine tree. The next is a large boulder complex that is left (North of this tree). Timerity abseil point is left (due North) of, and more or less in line with, these two points. Head towards the left boulder complex and curve left (North) heading down and look for stone cairns that will lead you to the abseil point.

YW descent to Timerity Abseil.jpg

The abseil point is visible by a long double loop of red rope that connects a peg to a two bolt station.

Abseil 45m to a bolt and thread point.

Then abseil 35m to a chain thread point.

Abseil 60m to the ground. If you have short ropes there is a fourth abseil point about 20m further down.

Timerity Abseil Route and the start of the other routes marked.jpg

Route Beta, Tips and Tricks and relevant discussion of Grades

Grading routes at Yellowwood is, to say the least, more an art than a science. Weather conditions and the actual temperature play a critical role and can vary from arctic to tropical on the same day and can convert the grade of a route like Prime Time from 23 to 26 in a few hours.

All the routes at YW, even the newer shorter ones on the East Buttresses, are full-on "Big Wall" country climbs with lots-n-lots of very steep climbing. On that basis, fitness and more particular YW fitness is critical to success. Conditions make all the difference!

Some examples:

Divine Time may be grade 20 or so overall. Grade 19 is so difficult to define in the Western Cape context as there are so few routes of the grade, especially on TM. I think there is nothing harder than Last Laugh on Divine Time and it is not as hard as Touch and Go. The problem with the 19's on TM, is that they all have short cruxes or "tricks" preceded by and followed by straight-forward easy climbing. So they are not comparable to YW where even the "easy" climbing is steep and tiring.

Prime Time and Fantastic Time are supposedly graded 23. However, on both routes the 23 pitches do not have an actual move harder than 21 if you know the moves. But don't think you can go on-sight either even if you can climb Africa Arete (grade 25 on TM). As a total experience they are both solid grade 25 or to use the British Grade E56a. And that is in good conditions! Saturday the 21 June 2014 (the middle of Winter!) would have been way too hot to climb either of those routes!

Half Time is the first half of Fantastic Time and is well worth doing as an introduction to Yellowwood "out-there-ness" at a moderate grade. It starts with a warm-up 19 pitch. Then pulls through a scary (but well tested) wedged flake through an overhang and then has brilliant climbing on a very airy exposed arete followed by a superb final 19 dihedral. A quick easy two or three abseils gets you down to the base or head off to the right and finish the day on Smalblaar.

Prime Time Direct is, (or rather was) graded 24. But it is actually probably harder to on-sight than Uber Huber on TM which is grade 26!

The crux pitch of Armageddon Time is solid 24 and or even 25 to on-sight!

So Yellowwood can be very challenging at any grade especially if you have little experience climbing there.

Extra Time and Good Time are probably correctly graded for any context and especially as the hard pitches are so easy to protect. Unlike the other newer routes, most of the climbing on these two routes is straight-forward and not too strenuous and tiring. The cruxes are, like TM routes, short, fair at the grade, and very easy to protect to the extent that they are almost like sport routes. And the cruxes are graded for the on-sight! Extra Time is a lot easier to on-sight or, at least repeat, than Armageddon Time or Prime Time.

The last two pitches of Good Time is 70m of the most continuous, consistent, varied and well protected 19 grade climbing you will find anywhere on Sandstone and it is worth doing the route just for those pitches even if you have to pull on a piece of gear on the 22 crux which is very easy to aid and is very short. The rest of the climbing is easy and quick.