Blouberg is a remote and wild mountain, high above the plains of northern Limpopo, about 5 hours north of Jo’burg. For climbers the 400 metre north face is the big attraction, offering more than 30 big wall routes of all grades. The wall has distinctive areas, each with a different character. The easiest routes, clustered around Great Gully tend to be old-school mountaineering outings and the Moon area which has routes from grade 19 to 22 is hard to beat for friendly big walling. It has convenient ledges every forty metres or so and excellent gear, keeping the fun factor high and the fear factor low.
There are also a host of hard and committing routes on other parts of the wall, some well protected and others quite scary, including Dog of Thunder (29/30) one of the hardest big wall routes in the country. Blouberg has something for any trad climber with a taste for adventure. Above grade 19 the climbing is generally excellent, and the position and ambiance are five stars.
Best time to visit
Blouberg is a year-round venue. Summer days are long and hot, but shade from 11am means climbing is pleasant. At this time of the year, it is best to be off the wall by mid-afternoon as afternoon thundershowers are common. In winter the weather is stable and the wall is in the sun until about 2pm. Winter climbing can get very cold, although more often than not it is hot in the sun and the afternoon shade is a welcome relief.
Blouberg is subject to normal Highveld weather patterns and tends not to create its own weather. Afternoon showers in summer and stable weather in winter are the norm.
Camping and accommodation
Most climbers sleep in a cave on the east shoulder of the mountain. The hike in takes 3 to 4 hours and is cryptic. It’s unlikely that a first-timer would onsight it, so best to go with someone who’s been there before.
IMAGE: Dog Day in Heaven’s crux pitch 8 (25). Hector Pringle.
The rock and the climbing
The rock is good, hard quartzite, often with a pinkish tinge. The rock quality on the first three pitches is generally not as good as the rest, but there is surprisingly little choss for a wall this size. For the most part gear is excellent, and occasionally routes have a bolt or two protecting blank sections. The Moon area in particular lends itself to trying something a bit harder than you would normally. With its many ledges it is easy to mix and match pitches, and if you don’t get up one option there is normally another way. It is still a big mountain environment and you are far from help. There have been a few rescues which have invariable been epic. Treat the place and the climbing with respect.
A pdf guidebook can be downloaded from climbing.co.za.
All text by Hector Pringle.