DK's Weekly Corner
The Rocklands - South Africa
The Rocklands is renowned amongst the climbing community as the new mecca for hardcore bouldering. Not only does the area stand out in terms of world location, being situated in South Africa, but also because of the visually spectacular nature of the climbing. When I first decided that the Rocklands was going to be a location I had to visit, I knew that much planning was needed. Therefore this blog is dedicated to giving you an insight as to what to expect, what steps you should take pre-trip and then how to make the most out of the place!
South Africa is a country with a rich history and one that you are reminded about each time you venture out. Aside from my trip being focused on climbing, my family also lives there - my Dad, step-mum, brother and sister live there, so it made the trip even more exciting. They live in a town called Muizenberg, which is situated about 20 minutes south of Cape Town and luckily features world class climbing in its own right. This area deserves another blog on its own so I won’t go into detail. It also has the best beginners surfing beach in the world and therefore makes this one of the best destinations in the world. The Rocklands is about a three hour drive from Cape Town driving on an awesome road with amazing sights. The actual climbing is situated about 20 miles from a small town called Clanwilliam in the Cederberg mountains. From the town you would never know that only 20 minutes drive away is an unprecedented amount of world class climbing.
Well this leads me to explain the climbing – words will not be able to do any justice to this place. I have been lucky in my short climbing life and have been to numerous locations (Hueco, Rocky Mountain, Bishop, Fontainebleau, Magic Wood, etc, etc) and I have to say this place stands out amongst these all incredible places. In terms of overall experience I would have to say that the Rocklands is in my top 3. It is not just the climbing, but also the lifestyle that makes this place unreal.
So the climbing – imagine gymnastic climbing, perfectly sculpted holds, steep angles, glory top-outs and unbelievable movement…is this all true? YES! The wealth of amazing 5 star problems is seriously unfathomable and iff you can distance yourself from the whole downgrade debate you will soon realise that nearly every problem you encounter is of the highest quality. This occurs across the whole spectrum of grades. From problems graded font 5+ all the way up to 8C there is quality problem after quality problem.
The Rocklands has multiple areas and by the end of our 2-month stay we had still not visited a number of them. This is testament to the quantity of problems at each area. Each area is within a short drive of each other and multiple areas can be easily covered in a day. I have never been so gobsmacked each and everyday hiking in and hiking out of the boulders. You feel incredibly lucky to be in such a special place and I would recommend the Rocklands to anyone.
To make things a little easier if you are thinking about a trip, I thought I would give some general information that may make your trip simpler to plan.
I thought I would start with this because it is always one of the big topics to crop up…well my family live there and I feel that both me and my fiancée were given the full South African treatment. My dad lives in the southern suburbs and is not far from two big townships. However, I felt really safe and felt that everyone was incredibly friendly. I think it is like any city that has problems with poverty – you just need to be wary, not walk around like a tourist flashing cameras, tourist bags, etc. I would highly recommend spending some time in the city and soaking up the local hospitality.
I have never been a huge tourist fan, being totally obsessed with just climbing, climbing, climbing. However you need to remember where you are – this is Africa and it would be a real shame to miss out on a cultural experience. The city has some mega cool stuff and checking out places in the city is a must. You should also head down the coast and check out some of the other attractions (Cape Point, Penguin Island, etc). Once you are in the Rocklands it can be hard to leave the boulders, but to be honest some of the best memories of my trip are not from the epic project battles, but the amazing experiences away from the boulders. The one thing I HIGHLY recommend is going to a safari game reserve. A place that is 2.5 hours drive away called ‘Aquila Game Reserve’ that has overnight winter specials for £80 per person. I thought this was expensive to begin with – that was until we rocked up…this place is insane – you are treated like an absolute king and it is seriously one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. (summer prices at the weekend are normally £300 pp, so it is actually cheap in comparison).
Places to stay
After years of travelling and realising that with a gradual increase in age, comes a gradual increase in the desire for comfort, I knew that camping was not the option for this holiday. Maybe I’m lacking on the adventure side, but years of camping in cold weather has taught me that coming back after a days climbing is so much sweeter when you have a house to return to. However, I will go through the options regarding both types of accommodation, as I know there will be people with different desires and different budgets.
Like I said for this trip I opted to stay in a cottage, which meant that my camping beta might not be entirely perfect. What I can say is that from what people have told me it is one of the nicest climbing campgrounds out there – secluded camping spots, hot showers, nice toilets, Wi-Fi and world class bouldering within 5 minutes of your tent. Sounds good. It is also very well priced being about £4 per person per night. Just recently they have ‘installed’ a beer tent, which means that there is always a few parties happening. The camping is definitely the option to choose if you are going on your own or in a very small group and want to mix up the socialising aspect of your trip.
This is the place I stayed – run by an awesome couple called Connie and Liz Du Toit. The accommodation, hospitality and location is unbelievable and even after 8 weeks there I was still shocked at how incredible it was. They have 3 cottages and one big guesthouse which can sleep a large number of people (roughly 8). They also have a brilliant coffee shop run by one of the nicest people called Becky. ‘The Hen House’ makes killer coffee and homemade food – what more do you need? This place is popular and there was many murmurs of people already booking for this coming season, so if you are keen get in touch.
I can’t say much about this accommodation, as I did not stay there. However many people did stay there (including 16 brits – in ONE HOUSE!!!) It is a good location being close to all the areas and once again has a variety of houses to choose from.
When to go
This is a tricky one. I booked our trip for July and August thinking that this was mid-winter and therefore bueno temps…error. June was the money month this past season with really cold temps (so I have been told). August which is normally warmer than July actually had some cold days and I got a sample of the friction that can be on offer. Overall I think it is always hit or miss and you kind of just make deal. At the end of the day, you are bouldering on some of the coolest blocs in one of the best places in the world for bouldering, so if it is hot just go and climb on some roofs, or go swimming!
As for flights – they are going up each year. I booked through netflights.co.uk and got a direct flight with BA for £660 which was a score considering that the non-direct flights were £640 (and you’d easily spend the remainder on airport food!).
If you are looking for a bouldering trip that offers a bit more than your average trip to Europe then I fully recommend South Africa. It really is an eye opening place and I would be shocked if you returned home without having realised how lucky we are to live in such a progressive society and how comfortable our standard of living is. The bouldering is the very best and will have you not wanting to leave!!!! If you need any other info just come and hound me in the Depot. Lastly a big shout out to my sponsors (Evolv, Prana, Metolius and Organic Climbing USA) who helped me have an awesome trip! Laters DK
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