Cape Town is known for many things, but amongst us climbers, it’s known first and foremost as an epic place to send. There are numerous rock faces across the city where beginners and pros alike can spend an afternoon happily climbing. We are, after all, blessed with a brilliant mountain range.
Fortunately, climbers love to share the stoke. So we’ve talked to a number of passionate sport climbers and boulderers, to find out about Cape Town’s best climbs, what makes them great, and everything else you need to know to get out on the rocks. We’ve also included the climbing gyms you can check out, and some safety info because that’s important stuff.
Best places to climb in Cape Town
In this section of the article, you’ll read a bunch of first-hand recollections of some of the best spots to sport climb around Cape Town and boy, there are quite a few of them (thank you, Cape Town)! You’ll learn a bit about the areas that you can climb in and some of the routes that our community would recommend you check out. This is all to make it easier for you to select from the sheer endless choices of sport climbing, traditional climbing and bouldering in the area we have selected a few highlights for you here.
Location of Lower Silvermine Crags: Here, near the MTB parking lot
Ease of access: Silvermine MTB car park parking for Lower Silvermine Crag and Parking lot for Silvermine Main Crag. These parking lots connect the Silvermine Nature Reserve with the sport climbing crags. A short work from the parking lot will take you around the side of the rockface to the sport climbing area. Easily spotted on Google Maps and signage on the ground.
Entry fee: R95 ($5) per person per day
Now, if you’ve been hearing people talk about their Rocklands or Montague trips at the gym and you’re feeling the itch to touch some real rock my advice is to start locally. I was introduced to outdoor climbing for the first time through sport climbing at the Silvermine Crags. I think this was a great introduction to climbing outdoors as you feel connected to something the entire time and when you fall you are caught straight away, versus bouldering outdoors which involves falling much farther and spotters and a mat that you don’t feel connected to.
Silvermine also has loads of fun beginner routes with the most beautiful view of the southern suburbs and beach. However, the most important thing I can say is that if you’re keen to start climbing outdoors don’t be scared to ask around the gym for a group you may be able to join, climbing with experienced climbers is the best way to learn how to climb safely.
Silvermine Main Crag
When I think of impeccable climbing, combined with unparalleled views & swift ease of access — Silvermine Nature Reserve comes to mind. A gem nestled between the city and the coast, Silvermine truly is a local’s treasure… Climbers take Long, luxurious routes to the peak of each climb and are rewarded with break-taking views of the city below. The best part of these particular crags is that they are for everyone. Grades range from novice to advanced and the only prerequisite is adhering to a high level of safety and stoke alike. And if you’re not a climber, the dams and hikes through this beautiful reserve are just as rewarding.
It’s hard to believe such an oasis exists less than an hour from the city, the harmony of jingling climbing gear amongst the rustling of nature awaits.
Silvermine Main Crag; photo taken by Gigi Birkett
This crag is suitable for intermediate and advanced climbers, but that does not mean you can’t take a beginner here, however, some of the easier routes have quite an ‘out there’ feeling. This is probably my favourite crag at Silvermine, the routes are all fairly long and exciting. The style of climbing is mostly vertical with some overhanging sections so prepare to get pumped!
I haven’t climbed anything too hard here, but I would definitely recommend Argent (16), Pistolero (20), Sterling Silver (22) and Jono Gordon’s Route (22). I have heard that Mercury and No Man’s Land are both stellar 25s.
Recommended climb → Pistolero (20)
(+) Vertical to overhanging
In contrast to Rasputin, Pistolero at Silvermine Main Crag is closer to what you would expect from a sport route — a long endurance climb with some spicy moves sprinkled here and there to keep things exciting.
Silvermine Lower Main Crag
Lower Main is a great crag, the approach is short and most of the climbing is good. In my opinion, it is a better crag for beginners than Higgovale because the routes are higher quality and the climbing is more interesting, in addition, the views are stunning. Lower Silvermine also has some stellar routes for intermediate climbers.
I would recommend Vlad the Impaler (19), My Precious (20), Snake Tales (21), Alpha and Omega (22) and Spitfire (23)
Blaze of Glory
Blaze of Glory is another great crag in Silvermine often overshadowed by Main Crag. There are not too many routes here, but most of them are great quality! I think that Dropzone is one of the best 19s around. Overall a great place to go if you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy some excellent face climbing.
Location: The Mine
Ease of access: Park here 34° 5′ 7.1455″ S 18° 26′ 0.4535″ E and look for a short path marked by cairns directly up the mountain to meet up with the jeep track (not along the fence). Walk along the jeep track to the hairpin bend in the road, where a footpath continues straight towards the crag.
Entry fee: No Fee!
Sickle Moon at The Mine; photo by Wian van Zyl
So far the Mine is my favourite sport crag that I have been to. The routes there are all quite steep and pumpy, it is also one of the few places where one can climb in the rain oh and did I mention that it is almost always in the shade?
The mine is best for intermediate and advanced climbers. There are many classics there all varying in grades that will keep you busy for a long time. The Mine is one of those crags you will be unlikely to get bored of. While there are some easy routes at the mine, it might be quite an intimidating place to take beginners, but it is not impossible for beginners to climb there. I have a friend who learnt how to climb at the mine and they are now crushing routes graded 28 and harder.
The only downside of the mine is that it is a terrible place to climb while the South Easter is howling, so be sure to keep an eye on the forecast
Location: Lakeside Pinnacle
Ease of access: Park here and walk up from Boyes Drive
Entry fee: No Fee!
Magic Potion at Lakeside Pinnacle; photo by Wian van Zyl
Personally, my favourite crags in the immediate area around Cape Town have to be Silvermine and Lakeside Pinnacle. There is so much great climbing there with many 5-star routes and plenty of variation in climbing difficulties and styles that really make it worthwhile. Lakeside Pinnacle is a special place for me as I was born below the Pinnacles and delivered by my dad on the 10th of May 1987, which was Mother’s Day. So whenever I go up to the Pinnacles I can see the old house I was born in. I have taken many people to the Pinnacles to cut their teeth on their first sport routes, take the first photos of them climbing to keep them frothing and have also free soloed (a style of climbing with just shoes and chalk) a bit of the right of the Lakeside Pinnacles.
The Lakeside Crag is a great crag for new climbers, offering a good range of climbs in the lower grades (less than 20). Undercling is a great project once you have tried the other lower-grade climbs. It combines a variety of climbing styles, moving from a slab section to a face section, to a small overhang roof just before the anchors. Each section has its mini crux, meaning the climbing is sustained and interesting throughout. I will always remember my first ascent of Undercling and it is a climb I look forward to sending whenever I go to Lakeside.
— Rowan Douglas
A decent crag for beginner and intermediate climbers, I am not the biggest fan because it is right next to the road, but the routes are fun. Lakeside is also a good place to take beginners as it is accessible and has some good easy routes. My favourite route at this crag is actually a single-pitch trad route called Crack of Dawn (16), I would highly recommend it! Crack of Dawn is one of the few trad routes with bolted anchors at the top which means you could climb it on top rope if you’re not keen to lead it. The gear is a bit thin but it’s all there. I know not everyone has access to trad gear, but if you are ever up there and see a ballie with a rack you should politely ask them if they could set a top rope up for you.
Recommended climb → Undercling (19)
(+) Technical slab
Where Drop Zone is all about sustained power and exposure, Undercling at Lakeside Pinnacle will test your skill on a blank vertical wall with balance-y technical moves with all kinds of holds (ending in a little roof).
— Wian van Zyl
Location: Higgovale Quarry
Entry fee: No Fee!
Another Nefarious Crack at Higgovale Quarry; photo by Wian van Zyl
Right in the heart of vibrant Cape Town is Higgovale Quarry, a decent source of granite climbing and an epic discovery for all climbing enthusiasts. Fun fact! — The first routes at The Polling Booth were bolted on South Africa’s historic first democratic election day in 1994.
Here’s the inside scoop: You’ll find the parking in a cosy residential area, so be mindful and use those parking skills! As for the approach, it’s a leisurely stroll to a gate that seems to have a thing for being constantly locked. But, no need to panic! This charming quirk exists solely to ensure the safety of the area. Picture this: right next to the gate, you’ll find an easy scramble waiting for you to conquer. Or, for those experienced souls travelling light, why not rappel down from the top of the Quarry and make your entrance to the base of the crag.
There’s an impressive range of routes, from gentle slopes for the novices to more extreme challenges for the seasoned pros. And for you crack climbers, get your fix with Digital Crack (17/5c) and Another Nefarious Crack (21/6b+), both great additions to your tick-list. After sending hard, there are shady spots throughout winter and summer mornings, inviting a picnic, so take a breather and munch on some snacks.
On that note, fellow adventurers, a vital plea: Mother Nature deserves our utmost respect, and together we can preserve this wonderland for generations to come. Leave no trace behind.
So, tighten those harnesses, rack up, and let the sending begin!
Higgovale is primarily a beginner crag, it has many easy routes and a few challenging routes. What makes Higgovale nice is that it is very accessible, and the parking is virtually right next to the crag. It is a great place to learn the basics of sport and trad climbing, in fact, it is the crag where I learnt to lead climb and was taught some of the basic principles of trad climbing, such as anchor building and rappelling. Although I have many fond memories of Higgovale, it is no doubt my least favourite crag.
The rock is quarried granite, and it is not of the best quality. Many of the harder routes are contrived, and the style is very different to the rest of the climbing in Cape Town. I would recommend it to beginners, though.
Routes I would recommend at this crag are Digital Crack (15), Mandela Magic (17), Stompie (18), Torn Finger (18) and Another Nefarious Crack (21). Another Nefarious Crack is a great one to practice trad climbing on.
Recommended climb → Another Nefarious Crack (20/21)
(+) Layback crack climbing
(+) Easy short walk-in (in town)
Another Nefarious Crack at Higgovale Quarry is a must-do at the grade. The quarry is very easy to access for a quick after-work trip in town. Most importantly, it’s one of the few places with granite sport climbing in Cape Town – definitely worth climbing the other routes too. The crack is the main event at the crag, with lots of smearing on non-existent footholds while trying to find the correct body position to make the crack feel positive.
Location: Paarl Rock
Ease of access: Paarl Rock is right next to the lower parking area with a short walk in between.
Entry fee: No fee on weekdays. R40 ($2) per vehicle and R15 ($1) per person on weekends and public holidays.
Paarl Rock; photo by Jayde Horne
Get ready to embark on a remarkable road trip, crank up those feel-good songs and hit the road to the magnificent Paarl Rocks (45 minutes travelling time from Cape Town), nestled in the breathtaking Paarl Mountain Reserve. This is a granite paradise that’ll blow your mind! There’s also a terrific variety of multi-pitch sports routes close to the Mother City!
As for the logistics, if distance is no concern, I highly recommend this journey to immerse yourself in the adventure that awaits.
About the climbing experience: Gear up and brace yourselves, as the formidable granite giants are known for testing your skills with their prominent slabbiness. The climbs may feel more challenging, but keep your chin up and let your determination shine through!
Be sure to warm up those muscles with dynamic stretches to stay injury-free. Start by tackling more accessible routes on The Belly Button Slab to get a feel for the unique friction-style climbing that awaits. Also, don’t forget the sunscreen! As the day unfolds, the sun’s rays become more evident, so protect your glamorous skin.
Belly Button Slab on Paarl Rock; photo by Wian van Zyl
The location and views are guaranteed to leave you in awe. Explore the tourist route, complete with a chain rail on Bretagne rock. Hikers are also spoilt with plentiful trails available!
After conquering the gigantic boulders and basking in the beauty of the outdoors, why not treat yourself to a victory feast? A short detour on your return journey will take you to the Fairview Wine and Cheese Farm. Indulge in exceptional goats’ cheese, savour delicious tastings, and dine at the delightful Goatshed restaurant. Check out The Goat Tower and engage with the adorable inhabitants of this tranquil sanctuary.
So grab your climbing partners, prepare those groovy playlists, and enjoy a road trip to the majestic Paarl Rocks for an unforgettable climbing escapade!
Location: 34° 1′ 31.4724″ S 18° 22′ 15.6961″ E
Ease of access: Access is via a public servitude path, which leads up from Whittlers Way in between two houses up to the mountain. The gate is locked and access is managed due to past crimes. Controlling who is getting the code when allows some records and accountability. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get the code. Alternatively, email Rose from the MCSA. email@example.com
The path starts immediately opposite #37 Whittlers Way. Unlock the first gate, and relock it, please. Then walk up 100 m or so via the path to the 2nd gate. Ditto. Keep heading up the mountain, past the property on the left. Once you have reached the upper bounds of the property, turn left. After parallelling the property fence for 50 m, a few ill-defined paths lead up diagonally. Take one of them, they all tend to meet up somewhere and join to take you to the right (south) saddle of Skorsteenskop. About a 20-30-minute walk.
Entry fee: No Fee!
Stairway to Heaven is a great route located at Sloorsteenskop just above Hout Bay. It’s quite a steep walk, but the views are amazing so take up a lunch and make a day/afternoon out of it. This crag also has some of the best face-climbing routes graded 19-23 in the Western Cape. Check out Luke Skywalker (19) and In God’s Country if you are looking for something a little harder.
Recommended climb → Luke Skywalker (19)
(+) Roof climbing
(+) Great views
(-) A bit of a hike
Location: 34° 6′ 47.2032″ S 18° 23′ 54.0204″ E
Ease of access: Due to car break-ins, 34° 6′ 47.2032″ S 18° 23′ 54.0204″ E is NOT the best for parking. Rather, park on Silvermine Rd 34° 6′ 32.9162″ S 18° 23′ 59.1569″ E and walk back up Ou Kaapse Weg until you see a small parking area at the start of the Peer’s Cave trail. Follow the footpath up the hill until you reach the crag.
Entry fee: No fee!
The Entrance at Peer’s Cave; photo by Wian van Zyl
Incredible to find an overhanging route this good at this grade! Talking to the Trees is located at Peer’s Cave just over Ou Kaapse Weg. The crag has many short/bouldery routes with easy top rope access. Unfortunately, there have been a few safety incidents so be sure to read up online about accessing the crag safely.
Recommended climb → Talking to the Trees (18)
(+) Overhanging but juggy
(+) Short easy hike-in
(-) Go in a med/big group for safety
Top tips on climbing safely
Safety is a huge concern for beginner and veteran climbers alike as climbing involves scaling rock faces 20 metres tall or more if you are dealing with multi-pitch routes (climbing that involves multiple routes with belay stations in-between). It is, therefore, incredibly important to follow a few simple checks when embarking and arriving at a climbing site. Here are some tips (but not all) that I recommend you go through before climbing.
- Make sure that all your gear is in proper condition and that you have all the gear you’ll need. Sport climbing involves a lot of gear that needs to be checked before leaving the house. It is important to ensure that all the gear you will be using in a climbing mission is in top nick. Check:
- your rope to see if the core is intact and clean (dust in some cases can prevent your belay device from functioning properly)
- your harness and straps are all functional
- your belay devices and their stopping/friction functions work
- your quickdraws and carabiners all close properly
- your helmets are not damaged, and the straps work
- and that your shoes are in good condition too
- Make sure you know the area you are climbing in. Doing sufficient research via theCrag is a great way to familiarise yourself with your climbing area and some of the routes in that area. Alternatively, something like Western Cape Rock is a great guide to keep on hand while you are out at your crag of choice.
- Go with someone who is an experienced climber and knows the area. This is something I cannot stress enough. Climbing can be incredibly dangerous, and going on your own without knowledge of the area could result in getting lost, getting hurt, or worse. Making sure that you bring an experienced climber is a must when it comes to outdoor climbing.
This is not an all-inclusive list of safety tips but my top three. Be sure to consult experienced climbers and online resources to ensure you have all you need before heading out for a day of sport climbing. Safety first, guys!
Top tips for beginner climbers
I remember the first outdoor climb I ever did. It was back in 2019 at Truijtieskraal, which boasts some of the best settings for outdoor rock climbing. I got a third of the way up the route before chickening out and telling my belay I wanted to come down. It was a harrowing experience. Surprisingly, it wasn’t two weeks later that I was taking advantage of a Black Friday Special at City ROCK in Cape Town and buying my first pair of climbing shoes and harness.
Needless to say, the climbing bug bites, and it bites hard. Climbing can be incredibly daunting. Whether it is the heights, the rocks or the battle that you have with yourself in your head, that nagging voice telling you, “You can’t do this! Why are you even trying?”. All of it can be overwhelming and debilitating. But as the adrenaline kicks in and the fear subsides, the desire to climb becomes unquashable. That being said, there are some key tips that I give all my friends when they start climbing, and I offer them here as well to help anyone starting out trying to overcome that initial hurdle.
Trust your legs!
As humans, we naturally have more control over our hands and arms than our feet and legs. We have a lot of dexterity in our fingers and manoeuvrability in our shoulders, and this gives us a false sense of confidence that we must rely on our upper body to keep us on a route or wall. This is actually not the case.
Our lower body and our legs/feet keep us on a wall when climbing. Putting the majority of our weight in our legs and using our hands to keep our centre of gravity close to the wall is the best change that I have done to my climbing. Don’t rely on your hands to carry your weight but rather put as much of your weight in your feet as you can.
Trust your gear!
It is often the case that it is not our lack of strength preventing us from getting up a route, but rather that our brains are putting in protective measures over our bodies because it’s trying to save the body from receiving damage or injury. We fear falling and the rope snapping or our shoes breaking or our harness giving in. If your gear is in good condition and you have done the necessary safety checks, you are safe to climb. So trust your gear, and don’t let that fear stop you from climbing at your full capacity.
You’re only at 40%
This has so many applications in life at large, but I want to mention this tip in the context of climbing. The 40% rule states that if you think you are done and you have nothing left in the tank, you are only at 40%. Check out this video where Jesse Itzler talks about meeting a “SEAL” and how that seal showed him that when we think we are done, we still have so much left in us to push through.
In climbing, we could have done 90% of the route, and now the crux (the most difficult part of the route) starts, and we think to ourselves, ‘No way. I cannot do that. I have nothing left’. I have reached this point many, many times, and sometimes I dig a little deeper, and I find that I can do the move and finish the route.
Climbing isn’t always about flashing a route and pushing yourself to your limit. Sometimes climbing is just about having fun and getting in a good workout. But when you are having a bad day, and you want to push yourself, try this tip and see where you get. You might be surprised to find that you can finish your project or get more out of yourself than you realise.
Cape Town climbing gyms
Cape Town doesn’t just have great sports routes, we have excellent bouldering and sport-climbing gyms too. These gyms don’t stop at routes either. They offer excellent yoga classes designed to make you a stronger, better climber. They have small gyms where you can work out, and they also have cafe areas (Bloc sells beer, yay!) In other words, the climbing gyms in Cape Town offer an excellent place for community members to climb, get strong, and chill, either all on their own or with a big group of buddies.
Here is what climbers think of the different gyms:
City ROCK; photo taken by Küra Samouilhan
My climbing journey began at CityRock, Cape Town as an alternative to running and cycling for exercise. However, what I discovered exceeded my expectations by far. While climbing offers a great physical workout for the whole body, it also engages the mind. The very nature of climbing presents a series of challenges that necessitate problem-solving skills and the ability to make strategic decisions under time constraints. Overcoming these obstacles not only cultivates tenacity and determination but also instils a valuable lesson in perseverance, teaching us to persist even when faced with adversity. The climbing community that I have experienced is a bonus!
I started climbing at CityRock in October 2021, and though my initial interest was largely supported by the wonderful beanbags, soon the adrenaline, community, socialising, and actual sport became their proponents for a wonderful climbing experience. There are many appeals to climbing (which helps when you need external motivators to exercise), but my lodestone has been the community. The climbers have an uncanny knack for spotting when you’ve reached a place of discomfort in a climb. By offering support and an unshakable belief in you (when you might be doubting yourself), they simultaneously create space for you to process and push you to attempt intimidating moves. The north pole of my lodestone is the outdoor climbing adventure. There is just nothing that compares to summiting, turning and seeing a landscape as if from the shoulders of a giant—quietly sitting on the edge of the world.
At Bloc 11, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to connect with a variety of different people. The energy that this place offers is like no other, there is a strong sense of community amongst climbers which makes one feel at home instantly. The gym is the perfect environment to train your bouldering skills for outdoor expeditions. The routes are accessible for all types of climbers, from beginners to more advanced climbers, making the experience fun for everyone!
When it comes to indoor climbing gyms in Cape Town, Bloc 11 is a climber’s dream. There are two Blocs, in Paarden Eiland and Diep River known the climbing circles as ‘north’ and ‘south’ respectively. These gyms have carefully constructed bouldering walls with well-set routes, catered to challenge climbers of all abilities. Their grading starts with white routes that help new climbers get a feel for what bouldering is like, and the movements and techniques needed to stay on the wall. For intermediate climbers, the talented route-setters develop routes that push you to be a stronger and more confident climber. While I have no experience with the advanced routes (yet), I see strong, experienced climbers working on the meticulously designed purple, yellow and red routes set in these gyms.
Bloc 11 is not only an excellent place to climb, but it is also a way to join a larger community of climbers and meet new people. It is amazing how much a mutual love of climbing rocks (both real and fake) can bring people together. But it is more than that, it is the joy of problem-solving with fellow climbers in a supportive setting where, no matter your level of climbing, your successes are celebrated by those around you. Bloc 11 also has gym facilities where climbers can train to improve their strength, as well as yoga classes hosted by talented and kind teachers. They have a bar where you can enjoy a well-earned beer after a tough climbing session. Bloc 11 has become my go-to climbing haven in Cape Town, leaving me with unforgettable memories, sore forearms and a burning desire to return again and again.
What’s your favourite place to climb?
This is a community-sourced article, forming part of our Local Knowledge Project! If you’ve scoured the piece looking for your favourite climbing spot and found it’s missing, email firstname.lastname@example.org to make your own contribution.