The first pucker sport crag in South Africa, The Mine is situated midway along the Table Mountain chain in The Cape Peninsula and is famous for steep, pumpy routes and you need to feel strong to enjoy yourself here. From bouldery 5-metre routes to long pump fests, this crag has something for most, as well as some not-so-steep moderate grades. Comprised of smooth, hard, brown sandstone, The Mine can get very slippery when the Southeaster wind blows. It can also sometimes get a little crowded on rainy days. The Mine is only one of many fine sport crags in the Cape Peninsula, all within 10 to 30 minutes drive from each other.
IMAGE: Alex Honnold clinging to Mono (29). Africa Fusion
Best time to visit
When the southeaster wind is not blowing The Mine is great in summer, as it remains in the shade for most of the day, but stay away if a strong southeaster is, or has very recently blown, as this wind brings moisture from the sea and deposits it on the smooth brown rock, making for unpleasant, slippery conditions. In winter the rock is generally in good condition, but the crag does get full sun, which can be nice on chilly days. Some of the routes can also be climbed in the rain.
There are two important weather systems that affect the Cape Peninsula and therefore the Mine. The first is the frontal system, which is brought in by the northwesterly and the southwesterly winds. These cold fronts can vary in size and intensity, bringing lashing rain, snow and very cold wind, particularly in the mountains, lasting anything from a few hours to several days. These normally occur in winter.
The second is the Southeaster, which is a strong wind coming from the southeast. Normally, this wind is accompanied by large banks of cloud that hit Table Mountain on the Kirstenbosch side, and are forced up and over the top of the mountain to come pouring over the front table as the famous Tablecloth. Sometimes these clouds are also laden with rain and this system is then referred to as a Black Southeaster. This wind normally occurs during the summer months, tailing off near the end of summer. But don’t fret, there are many days which are also glorious.
IMAGE: Hans Streitberger pulling the roof on Swan Lake (25). Tony Lourens
Camping and accommodation
There are not many campsites on the Cape Peninsula, and besides I would not recommend camping in or near the City of Cape Town for security reasons. Way better to book into a backpackers lodge, or a B&B, etc. Better still make friends with some local climbers and crash at their place.
The rock and the climbing
The Mine is comprised of very hard sandstone, chocolate brown in colour and a little more rounded than you would like. The crag is generally very steep and has a good selection of steep pumpy routes of grades up to 31. There are a few easy to moderate routes, but unless you feel confident and strong on at least 21/22, you are going to get your little but spanked.
For more information on all of the above and detailed descriptions of the climbing get the following guidebooks, which are all available from Mountain Mail Order:
Western Cape Rock – A sport climbing guide to the Western Cape
Visit Blue Mountain Publishers for more details about the guidebooks
All text by Tony Lourens.