The 5 best climbing spots in South Africa

Posted on 1 April 2024

Big wall climber and photographer Marianne Schwankhart has climbed worldwide and was the first woman to climb the east face of Cerro Torre in Patagonia, one of the world’s most coveted peaks. These days, she runs her own business but still sets aside time for adventures. At the moment, her sights are set on the Alps.

I’ve climbed in the US and Pakistan, in Europe – Spain and France – and England when I lived there. In Africa, Namibia has some fantastic climbing, and I’ve climbed quite a bit in Morocco, too. I went to Patagonia for seven seasons, but I’ve focused more on Europe in the last five or six years.

The Argentière Glacier at Chamonix in the French Alps.

Climbing is such a great leveller; it makes the playing field even. And it has this way of cultivating an environment that welcomes the oddballs. You don’t have to be the cool girl to be good at it, as many nerdish boys and girls are attracted to climbing. On top of that, the environment makes all the nonsense fall away. You can’t look good or fancy in the mountains; it’s physical. We all become equally smelly and dirty together. Girls do sweat. We’re all the same.

1. Magaliesberg 

It has to be at the top. I’m so fond of that place. Not just for climbing, but being there makes me happy.

2. Wolfberg Cracks 

In the Cederberg, this has beautiful climbing, and after a 40-minute walk, you’re back at your campsite where there’s beer and ice.

3. Blouberg


North of Polokwane. I don’t get there as often as I’d like, but it’s probably the most expedition-like climb you’ll ever do in South Africa, so I love it. This is proper African climbing, and the wall is big, about 400m, so there’s a sense of journey and adventure. 

4. Waterval Boven

This also has a place on the list. I used to go there a lot as a student and I still go sometimes.

5. The Spitzkoppe

Although this is in Namibia, not South Africa, I can’t leave it off the list.

This article was adapted from a version that appeared in our March 2022 magazine issue.
Orginally written by Lauren Dold. Photography: Marianne schwankhart; Getty Images; Leonie Kellerman

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