Shoe-time in South Africa
By Todd Paris
Africa: The Final Frontier.
Much has been written and said in the past year about climbing on that continent, especially when it comes to bouldering in South Africa. But few Americans have had the chance to send a route in the Rocklands or South Drakensberg or the Durban area.
I was blessed on my 2006 survey trip to Lesotho to find some time to climb in South Africa. Sadly, my harness, shoes and chalk bag were in the luggage that was lost by the airline en route. But I laced up my 5.10 retro tennies and gave them a workout.
Our first outing was on the Camp Die Kroon property near Kokstad, where decent rock can be found for instructional routes and scattered boulder problems. There also is a good-sized boulder called “Noah’s Ark” that has a few high quality lines on it.
The next day we traveled about an hour into the Drakensburg Mountains near the Lesotho border to a national park named Drakensberg Gardens. After a 30-minute walk from the parking lot we were greeted with a boulder garden. Not being a geologist, I can’t say what kind of rock is there. But as a climber, I can say it was sweet — many good holds and excellent friction. There were hundreds of unclimbed problems, from slabs to overhangs, finger-cracks to off-widths.
The huge, 70-to-80-foot-high boulder that we parked at had a huge off-width on the front, a nice finger-crack on the back, and face climbs on all sides, as well as a huge section of pockets a la Hueco Tanks in Texas. It was spectacular! We spent an incredible day just a half hour from the car and never saw another person. Only a troop of baboons followed us up the valley on the other side of the river.
The rock shoes will definitely go in my carry-on bag the next time I fly to South Africa.
This story originally appeared in The Climbing Way (Volume 6, Winter 2006-2007). Opportunities to boulder in South Africa will be included in Mission: South Africa/Lesotho. CLICK HERE for details.