Head to Table Mountain for an epic rock climb right in the city centre

Few places in the world rival Cape Town as a rock-climbing destination. Lifelong climber, climbing magazine editor and guide book author Tony Lourens gives the low-down on the best rock climbing on Table Mountain and the Cape peninsula.

There are very few places on Earth where such a range of world-class rock climbing lies within the boundaries of a huge city. The entire Cape peninsula is dominated by the majestic Table Mountain chain that starts in the north, with the front faces of Table Mountain itself overlooking the bustling city of Cape Town, and runs south along the backbone for 60 kilometres, culminating in the wild, unspoilt Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve on the extreme southern tip.

In Cape Town and across the Cape peninsula, the climber is almost always rewarded with stupendous mountain scenery and glorious sweeping views of the mighty oceans that surround the bony Table Mountain chain.

If it is wild, exposed rock climbing in a high mountain setting you are looking for, then The Ledge on Table Mountain is where you want to be. This is the showcase of traditional rock climbing (where the climber is responsible for placing and removing their own protection in the rock) in Cape Town and here you will find excellent rock climbing on bullet-hard sandstone that will rival rock-climbing routes anywhere in the world.

For less “out-there” routes, the Lower Buttresses (a few hundred metres below The Ledge) offer great rock climbing of a slightly friendlier nature. On the Apostle Buttresses running along the western side that overlooks the Camps Bay Riviera, the rock climbing takes on another mood altogether — beautiful crags nestled between deep ravines, each exuding their own individual character, with routes of varying length.

If the weather is a little turbulent for the main massif, Lion’s Head and the crags on the southern peninsula (Muizenberg Crag and Elsie’s Peak) are unaffected by threatening frontal weather systems. Here you will find a plethora of short multi-pitch traditional rock climbing routes of all grades, with Elsie’s Peak a real gem if you are looking for steep, hard rock climbing.

Of course, in addition to the stunning traditional climbing there are also numerous sport climbing crags (routes that are prepared using fixed bolts as protection) and fantastic bouldering areas (climbing on boulders only a few metres high, which does not necessitate the use of ropes and other climbing equipment), all within a stone’s throw of the city.

The Cape peninsula is a veritable paradise for nature lovers, and particularly for climbers. The choice of routes is almost limitless and you will often find yourself climbing on perfect rock, high above the boundless seas with not another human in sight. Just you, the smell of the fynbos in your nostrils and, if you are lucky, the company of the magnificent Verreaux’s eagles.

Then, what better way to finish off a day at the crag than at one of the many sidewalk cafés or cosy pubs, having a cold beer and reflecting on a perfect day on the rock?

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