Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

New Areas. New routes. Retrobolting. Add-ons. Re-grading. etc.
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WolweKloof
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Real Name: Francois

Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

Post by WolweKloof » Thu Jul 12, 2018 1:30 pm

Hi guys.
I was wondering... From your perspective.. What are the things that make a climbing venue great, and what makes it unpleasant?
What do you prefer the venue offer? (From Parking, to what kind/size of rock faces/cliffs/boulders.. what would you like and dislike across the board)
Do you want to be able to drive all the way to where the climbing starts, or do you prefer a hike from the vehicle?
Is it OK to start at the top of the mountain or do you prefer to start at the bottom?

Then lastly, do most of you have a 4x4 vehicle, or normal cars?

Anything you can think of.
Please let me hear it.

Old Smelly
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Re: Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

Post by Old Smelly » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:28 am

Legoland...

Park at base of crag, saunter over to climb of choice along flat ground, almost belay from the bumper of your car, lower off to starting point. Flat enough for deck chairs and tables (maybe even umbrella's...)
Really, its not that bad...I think it's my shoes...

WolweKloof
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Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2018 1:17 pm
Real Name: Francois

Re: Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

Post by WolweKloof » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:44 am

Let me try this another way maybe.
We have a private 780 hactare farm right on the Magalies mountain range. Very close to The Boulder Cave and the Climbing Barn just off the N4 before Rayton/Cullinan.
We have people doing Enduro riding, MTB, Footup Trials riding, Bass fishing, 4x4, etc.
The cliffs or Rockfaces in the gorges to us look like you guys can probably make some use of them, but we are trying to understand what you guys as a climbing community like and dislike.
Taking on new sport activities are not always feasible. Some are more trouble than they are worth (High startup or maintenance costs, or finicky/difficult athletes, etc.) so it is important to us to get a feel for what is to come if we take this on.

Two of our current visitors are climbers and they are coming to scope out the gorges and some of the other vertical rock faces and boulders all over the farm next weekend to see if they think the areas are good for Rock Climbing or not.

While that happens, we are trying to understand you guys so we can make a call about taking a stab at this.

Brussel
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Re: Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

Post by Brussel » Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:33 pm

Sounds like it could be great. If the climbing is not great it does not matter what kind of facilities or venue you have. If the climbing is great climbers will put up with a great deal of discomfort.

That being said for most people, a short walkin always wins as does a base that is safe. A place to shove a cold beverage down your throat won't go amiss either.

RyanKarate
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Real Name: Ryan Peel

Re: Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

Post by RyanKarate » Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:57 pm

Hi Wolwekloof,

Great to hear your thinking about opening up the farm to climbers. Will try hit +- what your seeking for from my personal experience of climbers (or at least my circle of climbing friends).

What makes a great venue / what would they offer
- high quality of rock with wide variety of technical difficulty. High quality means its not over grown or brittle.
- Doesn't have to be super high - around 20-35 meters is popular for single pitch crags. Higher is always better though. Less than 20m will not be popular/barely worth it.
- varying rock features are great - some overhangs, straight up sections and some easy on-angle rock and mix thereof.
- width wise (left -right) - between 200m-500m of cliffs to choose routes from is a worth while visit. More than that would be fantastic.
- to hike/drive to the start of the climbs - I would say make the parking about 300m->1km away from the climbing.
- secure parking
- definitely start at the bottom of the mountain
- 4x4 accessable - seems its a mix, some ride scooters, all the way to serious 4x4s. Majority - small city cars but we all know a friend that has a bakkie or we are very good at making a plan for good rock.
- clean running water from a river nearby, but not a must have.
- cold beer afterwards

What makes an venue unpleasant
- litter
- graffiti
- busy road close by
- super steep/long/bushy walk in
- vagrants
- no parking
- high access fees and no maintenance. +-R40/70 per person is the norm. I would personally pay more for a serviced rubbish bin, nice path, steps and wooden/rock platform type idea at the base/central point of the climbs.

Start up or maintenance costs -
The Mountain Club of South Africa might be able to answer/help out with that one or at least point you/this thread in the right direction in terms of bolts/bolting if the rock is worth it. But there is also a "traditional" form climbing that does not use any form of bolts in the rock.

Finicky athletes -
Im sure every sport has them - Iv participated in many of your other activities you mentioned on the farm and can vouch 10 fold for how awesome the majority of climbers are as a community to have around. If your going to have a bad experience with a climber it won't be because of climbing as such, but an unfortunate personality clash. You can't blame the sport per say for that.

Please keep us updated on what those 2 climbers thought about the rock in there? Just for interest sakes at least.

Thanks,

Ryan

WolweKloof
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Real Name: Francois

Re: Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

Post by WolweKloof » Sat Jul 14, 2018 6:41 am

Great stuff.
Thanx guys. We will wait to hear from the two climbers, and discuss all these with them and see how we can accommodate you if it pans out to be feasible.
I will try to go take some pictures today.

Old Smelly
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Re: Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

Post by Old Smelly » Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:36 am

Hi

Ok now I understand.

The two basic things are:

1. Access Fees - these should be reasonable so that lots of climbers can climb there often (think R40 x15 climbers 2 days of the weekend plus cooldrink and ice cream sales [1500] versus R80 x 4 climbers the whole weekend [320]) - basically climbers have to pay petrol to get to climbs regularly so the whole day out is the cost. I know you may think this is obvious but it is surprising how many landowners will price themselves out of a market.

2. The difficulty of the walk in. For Sport climbers this is important - an hours walk uphill will affect whether they want to pay R40 for access as opposed to R20. Ideally a 10 minute walk in suits climbers.

Of course the rock quality and the quality of the climbs are the major motivating factors.

Bolting is generally done by keen climbers themselves and they often get the bolts from the Mountain Club of South Africa but as it is on private land it may be best if you buy the bolts and let your keen volunteers do the bolting. That way no one owes anyone anything and everyone understands it is a private venture. If this is the deal breaker I am sure that the MCSA and climbers would make a plan.

Being able to buy drinks and ice creams at the end of a days climbing is great and should add to making the whole excercise worthwhile.

Good luck with the venture.
Really, its not that bad...I think it's my shoes...

JanoSA
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Re: Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

Post by JanoSA » Mon Jul 16, 2018 3:23 pm

First off, the fact that you are posting here and doing the background work gives me a lot of hope that your venture will be successful. you are off to a good start.

I'll chime in. Will also mention I'm at the lazy/pampered end of the spectrum, so not everyone shares my opinion, but it might end up as close to average.


Parking/distance/access

*I drive a 4x4 vehicle, but most of my climbing friends do not. Steep and bumpy roads will exclude some of your target market.
*I'm happy with a 10-30 minute walk if there are enough routes to keep me busy. I am happy to do more, but that strongly makes me consider other venues. I don't want to walk 30 minutes for 20 minutes of climbing before I have to move again. Closer makes me happier, so if possible, why not.
*Safe parking is important. A broken window or no windows at all is a horrible end to a climbing day.
*paths and route markings should be clear and easy to follow. Our outdoor time is limited. I don't want to spend it hunting for the right place.
*Don't mind starting from the bottom or having to rappel first to gain access. Just as long as the rappel anchors and route is well thought out and safe
* Document all routes as well as possible for inclusion into a route guide. Present this route guide as well as possible. Make it fancy, with pictures and illustrations. People usually only do a route guide as an after thought, From a commercial standpoint this is a big mistake. If i'm considering coming to climb at your venue, the first thing I'll look at is the route guide. If it is well put together, easy to understand and clear as well as flaunts what you have on offer, I am more likely to visit you.

Amenities

It sounds like you have an established business with reasonable facilities on site, so ill mention these in case

*If there are bathrooms, they should be clean. I despise having to take my pre-hike dump in facilities that look and smell like it has been next to a construction site for the last 3 years.
*Abundant trash disposal facilities are a must. Make sure they are never full. Make it easy for people not to litter and they are less likely to do so.
* If you offer camping facilities these should be clean as well. It sound silly to even mention, but showers and the toilets are usually the first thing that show whether a business appreciates their clientele. Never compromise here.


Routes and quality of rock has been covered above.

If you get the MCSA involved in helping you develop the area, that would be helpful. They are awesome, conscientious, knowledgeable folk.

Assuming you will consider bolting for sport climbing and YOU are footing the bill for this : Try to cover a spectrum of grades from about 18 and up. Your bread and butter will be in the 17-24 range, maybe 26. The lower grades will make up the bulk of your clientele. By all means, bolt uber hard routes as well. This might add to your venue's long term reputation and status, but catering to a full spectrum will drive more people to you. if there are very hard routes possible, let good/awesome climbers come and develop that for you.

rasmus
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Re: Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

Post by rasmus » Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:04 pm

Obviously climbing quality is king. With this, climbers will accept a lot. Without it almost doesn't matter what facilities you have.
That being said, I personally prefer a venue as simple and low key as possible.
Walk-in 10-40 mins is cool.
As few rules and regulations as possible (allow for self regulation, don't make things bureaucratic)
Cheap campsite with basic facilities (bathrooms, water, firewood for sale)
Generally feel like climbers are fairly good at self-regulation when left with the freedom and responsibility. I personally don't like my climbing crag being turned into Ratanga Junction.

Marshall1
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Real Name: Derek Marshall
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Re: Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

Post by Marshall1 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:59 pm

Hi Francis

Climbers can be a bit fickle. I wouldn't spend too much money, time & energy catering for them. Open the door, but the rest is up to them. They will climb if there is something to climb. There are climbers who are hungry to development new areas. The rest are content with sticky seconds, the path to sticky seconds is wide & probably has a dustbin at the end.



Hahaha guys, really? Are you saying that to have some climbing fun you need all of the stuff listed above? How does an enquirer make a business case for a new crag when there is a huge list of idealistic requirements? Roads, bins, paths... This could be fresh rock & an opportunity to open some routes, you should be elbowing each other in the face to be there first.

JanoSA
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Re: Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

Post by JanoSA » Mon Jul 16, 2018 5:33 pm

Marshall1 wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:59 pm

Hahaha guys, really? Are you saying that to have some climbing fun you need all of the stuff listed above?
Haha. No. Not at all. Don't be so quick to play the hard man card. All most of us need is permission to be there and we'll go climbing.

OP asked from a business standpoint. Thus they will charge money to be there. He also asked what we would like in an ideal situation. Thus he wants to provide good service for that fee. Responses are based on that supposition.

Dragon
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Re: Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

Post by Dragon » Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:55 pm

Please post pics of the rock/cliffs if possible. A lot will depend on things that will be apparent right away.

Old Smelly
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Re: Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

Post by Old Smelly » Tue Jul 17, 2018 9:23 am

OK so hopefully the prospective rock climbing venue understands that there is a progression.

So it is correct that if the rock is good and the access is there then you will get climbers. It is also true that they will sort themselves out.

Then it is also true that if it is too expensive or hard to access most sport climbers will vote with their feet (and go to Bronkies which is a little bit closer, has R40 access and an easy walk in.) They won't get worked up about new routes or swimming pools or sauna's - just the cost to climb and the effort to get there.

Shelter rock has some climbing. It is R80 access and about a 3km uphill walk in. Do you know anyone who climbs there? Nah me neither.
Really, its not that bad...I think it's my shoes...

Chris F
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Re: Natural Climbing venue. The good and the bad

Post by Chris F » Wed Jul 18, 2018 6:36 pm

From a quality of climbing perspective, if you have developed cliffs and boulders giving the opportunity to climb in the shade or sun depending on time of day and year, you will greatly increase your year round business.

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