Rocklands is one of the world’s premiere destinations for bouldering and my personal favorite. I love the style of climbing. Tall pure lines up orange and black streaked faces with flat landings and solid sandstone jugs awaiting your arrival at the top. It lends itself to amazing highball climbing.
The Sassies. Photo by Les
In addition to highballs there is a plethora of hard climbing all the way up to 8C which attracts some of the most talented climbers in the world.
When do I go?
Rocklands is in a warm, dry climate. The best time to go is winter between May and August. The 2010 season was warm and dry with very little rain. I’ve heard in past years there have been stretches of 6+ days of nonstop rain but we lucked out with dry weather. You need a minimum of 3 weeks in South Africa to make the expense and travel time worth while and 5-7 weeks is ideal. I wouldn’t recommend going for more than two months unless you go with an amazing crew and can keep your psych up! Another good option if you have extra time down there is to do some traveling. South Africa is a huge country with a lot to offer. If you wanted to visit Kruger National Park on the East side of the country it would take you 23 hours to drive there!
How Do I Get There?
Flights to South Africa can range from $1,000 to $1,800 depending on where you’re flying from, when you book, etc etc. Buying plane tickets is mysterious business; you might find a deal by booking well ahead of time or you might find a deal at the last minute. My favorite site for booking flights is kayak.com; it’s simple, fast and searches all airlines. I’ve heard from a few different people that you can claim your crashpad as sports equipment and you won’t get charged a fee, even with a big crashpad. We didn’t do that but we didn’t get charged any oversized fees during our trip.
Rocklands is about two and a half hours north of Cape Town. It’s in the middle of nowhere and the nearest town, Clanwilliam, is thirty minutes away. There is a bus that runs from Cape Town to Clanwilliam but you would have to hitchhike into Rocklands. Your best bet is to rent a car and to book in advance. Whatever you do, do not rent from Best Beetle. That’s a long story that I won’t get into here but I’ll just tell you that was by far our biggest mistake of our six month trip. You can find many options by searching online for cape town rentals. There are several companies that rent cars that are a few years old for a little less money. Many of them have restrictions for staying within 200km of Cape Town but you may be able to talk them into letting you drive up to Clanwilliam. There is also an option with one or two companies to do a lease buy-back where you buy the car but at the same time sign an agreement with them to sell the car back to them when you leave. That’s a good option if you are staying for two months or longer.
Where Do I Stay?
Your two main options are to camp at de Pakhuys ($3-4 per night) or to rent a house. The travelers rest houses are the cheapest and the ones at Alpha Farms are the nicest. We split a house at Traveler’s Rest between five people for $10 a night each. The houses are very basic with no AC, heat, TV, oven, etc. They do have bathrooms with showers and the kitchens have a small refrigerator, a sink, and a hotplate. There is no internet access at the Traveler’s Rest houses but there is wifi that you can pay for at de Pakhuys and Alpha Farms.
Our house at Traveler's Rest
In retrospect, I think I would have preferred to spend more time camping at de Pakhuys since it’s easier to meet people and socialize there. Rocklands attracts climbers from all over the world so you will meet a lot of interesting people on your trip. The campground has bathrooms with showers, wifi you can pay for, and a bouldering area a short walk away.
de Pakhuys Campground
South Africa contains a diverse culture including eleven national languages. Most everyone you’ll encounter can understand and speak English. In Clanwilliam Afrikaans and English are predominately spoken.
The US dollar is currently worth 7 South African Rand. In general living in South Africa is ~30% cheaper than in the US. Everything is cheaper including groceries, beer and eating out. A beer at a restaurant in Clanwilliam will cost you 15 Rand ($2) and an amazing burger is 35-40 Rand ($5).
Where are the Boulders?
A new guide to Rocklands was just finished, you can order yours here or pick up a copy at de Pakhuys when you go.
If you want some beta for your projects or just want to get psyched, check out my film Orange Crush!
Where to buy gear and food?
You can buy chalk at the Hen House (coffee shop) but I don’t think you can find any other climbing gear in the area. There is a big Super Spar grocery store in Clanwilliam where you’ll find all your food and beverage needs.
You won’t find much within 30 minutes of Rocklands so bring some books or other sources of entertainment. One thing you will find is a plethora of is rock to explore. Hiking around on rest days is great fun and you stand a good chance of finding some new problems if you have a good eye. If you venture one or two hours from Rocklands you will find lots of attractions such as Lamberts Bay, Table Mountain, Boulders Beach, Cape Point, etc. Within three hours of Rocklands you can go surfing, shark diving, meet a wild penguin, see the city, hang out at the beach, etc etc.
Unfortunately most of the proper safaris and wildlife parks in South Africa are on the east side. There is one about 30 minutes from Rocklands but the lions and cheetahs are fenced in so it’s not the real deal. It is however, as close as you can safely get to a lion or cheetah which is a worthwhile experience.