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Rocklands permits

Posted: Mon May 04, 2009 10:37 am
by zoed
Hey all - just to let everyone know that Cape Nature have started checking permits again at Rocklands Wilderness area. We were there over the weekend and there were Cape Nature dudes hiking around checking permits pretty fiercely. They said they're gonna be there on a regular basis checking so worth getting one... You can either get a permit at the tourist info office in Clanwilliam, or at the Cape Nature office in Rondebosch - they cost R 35 per person per day - and you need one for every day you go in there (you can apparently buy them in advance all in one go). If you've got a wildcard you don't have to pay the fee BUT you still need the piece of paper permit.

So anyone planning to climb or boulder in the Rocklands wilderness area itself - it's worth getting permits in advance to save you the drive back to Clanwilliam in the morning... Though you can still climb at the private De Pakhuys farm (Plateau, Fields of Joy, Roadkill etc) without a Cape Nature permit. If you're camping there you get to climb there for free.

Anyway - don't get caught out!

Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Mon May 04, 2009 10:50 am
by jehlers
It's about time! Good news.

Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Mon May 04, 2009 11:54 am
by Justin
Any word on the (closed) Kliphuis campsite?


Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Mon May 04, 2009 12:31 pm
by Nic Le Maitre

The campsite is still closed, there is a big sign on the gate that says "CLOSED" and a cell number. And if you even try to go inside, you get shouted at by an irate man in a bakkie :)

Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Mon May 04, 2009 12:49 pm
by andrew p
I do not boulder, nor do I live in the Cape BUT, I can see the incredible importance and value that Rocklands is to climbing, both for SA and internationally. It is possibly the premier bouldering location in the world, certainly in the top 3. However, I increasingly I hear stories of boulderers, mostly the foreigners disrespecting the delicate environment and abusing access rights. There are reports of litter, erosion, trespassing, faeces, cutting of vegetation..the list is long. Perhaps the problem is that the visitors think it’s just a piece of African wasteland, with no rules, no owners, no guardians..? Does anyone have a plan? Does the MCSA acknowledge the importance of bouldering, Rocklands and the need to take action?

Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Mon May 04, 2009 2:18 pm
by XMod
Excellent question Andrew! I wholeheartedly second your call for action!

The climbing management plan lands the responsibility for path construction with Cape Nature but as they are hideously understaffed and somewhat disorganised, is it not time the Cape climbers (being the closest) did something to help out or to at least goad CN into action. Path construction is becoming critically important. Its great the guys are being more vigilant about permits but CN need to make a new permit available for visitors as the are expected to pay R600 or more for a years permit. Surely CN could offer a three month permit for say R200 which would make it affordable? I have spoken to them about this before but have never received any response.

Nevertheless I would also like to know what the visitors are going to do to help the situation, particularly the pros and sponsoring companies who profit from all the photos and videos they shoot there! They donate money to local schools and people, but this does not help the environment. A far better plan would be to put money toward path costruction then to employ locals to build them, That way the locals get the money anyway but the paths get built!

Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 10:59 am
by andrew p
I think it best I write a letter to the appropriate people within the MCSA. Will keep you posted.


Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 5:48 pm
by neadek
Hi Andrew

Recently I have had discussions with verious people in the mcsa re all the things that we the MCSA do to maintain access to crags fund comps etc.

One thing that came from these discussions was the amount of effort and money that the mcsa puts into climbing in a long list of ways. However the number of climbers that only amounts to about 2% of the total membership. So the question I'm going to ask is why are so few of the climbers out there so willing to ask the MCSA to arrange this and that for them, but they themselves are not prepard to pay a few rands a year to support the effort. Andrew I don't know if you are or aren't an mcsa member. If you are this is certainly not dirrected at you. If you are then I see no reason why you yourself on behalf of the mcsa(following the regular route of talking to the rock subcom) should not approach cape nature about the permits. If not then I would ask you to consider why you wish to just hand this over to the mcsa to arrange for your benifit and not be prepard to be a part of and organisation that is by all accounts doing some outstanding work for the greater climbing community.


Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 9:37 pm
by andrew p
Thanks Neal, I appreciate your reply. I understand MCSA resources are limited but I feel that right now, Rocklands access and control should be an MCSA concern - I will attempt to convince you of this; if you do not then at least we will know what the MCSA ‘s position is and we can stop hoping. I (and probably many members or would-be members) would really appreciate your input. Yes, I have been an active member, since 2003.

I have visited many climbing areas over the last 20 years climbing (pretty equally split between SA and overseas, trad, sport, boulder) and spoken to climbers who have visited even more. I place Rocklands in South Africa’s top 3-4 most incredible and important climbing areas, along with Wolfberg and maybe Boven and Milner - these are the truly world class venues. That alone is not that impressive but, unlike the other venues, Rocklands is probably the most important area worldwide in its category; the equivalent of Ceuse is to sport or Yosemite is to trad. In that respect it is of unparalleled importance to us, it beats all others. I think that like me, the MCSA recognises all disciplines (sport, trad, boulder, mountain) to be equally wonderful and equally important to promote and preserve.

I agree, the MCSA has done and continues to do a lot for access; that is the prime reason I am a member. ... but do you think that bouldering is given enough attention? Do you not think that that there is a bias toward securing access to trad and to a lesser degree sport areas? (Maybe there is a list of MCSA access projects that would be useful reference here). Sure, it’s difficult for the older generation to realise the importance of bouldering, rather like in the generation before them struggled to see the importance of sport climbing, but I am certain that this will change – but maybe too late for Rocklands? Hence the need to think ahead, look at what’s going on in climbing around the world, especially by young climbers who are pushing our sport most; you will see that bouldering and our very own Rocklands are right there at the top. Do you see that? The next generation of South African climbers will not forgive us if we don’t get proactive about Rocklands, in an organised and credible manner, soon – do you agree? If we leave it be, it will become a damaged and fragmented area, and the opportunity lost.

We can try manage it outside of the MCSA but the Rocklands access needs and deserves the credibility and experience that only the MCSA can bring. Finally, I think that the MCSA would benefit by helping Rocklands; it is where a large percentage of our own climbers and foreign climbers want to climb – it is the ‘’face’’ of SA climbing. Its chicken and egg, why should the multitude of boulderers support the MCSA/why should the MCSA do anything for bouldering... the MCSA should take the first step. Doing great things for Rocklands will achieve so much, locally and oversees for the MCSA’s image, and support. It might even be viewed as visionary.

I look forward to your thoughts and opinions on this,

To the boulderers, sorry if I said ‘’The’’ Rocklands at any point!


Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 10:40 pm
by neadek
Hi Andrew

I fully agree that things need to be done regarding control of access to rocklands, to preserve and further develop this world class climbing area. I at no point wish to say that the MCSA is not the best organization to arrange this.

My point in my post was simply to highlight that some people expect the MCSA to act but won't get involved with the MCSA themselves. But that is a lengthy debate and another topic on it own.

By no means are my comments the views of the MCSA.

Andrew as I can tell from your posts you are passionate about Rocklands. My challenge to you will be to get the ball rolling. I'm not sure what section you are a member of. You can get the ball rolling by setting up a draft document re your concerns for the area. once that is done lets get the backing of the mcsa with you driving the project.

In the document highlight the needs for control, access, permit fees etc. Then you can either pass the document on to the rock subcom of your section or you can email it to me and I will pass it on to the rock subcom of my section. I will have a chat to him in the interim concerning this and find out what the process would be. My guess would be that it would be a cencom issue.

Possibly in setting up this draft document comments can be taken from this forum. My guess is that this project will take sometime to work though the system and many draft documents will have to be drawn up. But if we remain focused on the issue of preservation of this world class climbing area we can see it though to the end.

If you wish to email the draft document to me feel free to neadek at bridgehouse . org . za


Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 6:41 am
by DolphinDawie
If only 2% of the MCSA are climbers, what percentage use the library? Or attend slideshows? Attend annual camps? Or have benefited from a travel grant (I have!)?

A common gripe in the UCT MSC was that so few of the members were actual climbers, yet the club spent the most cash on them. Funny how the main recruiting tool was a CLIMBING WALL on Jammie Plaza.

Back to the point...

Like Andrew, I am an MCSA member primarily to support access. I hope that when I return to SA for good I will still be able to boulder (badly) at Rocklands.

If there was an access & rescue only membership, I'd change to that. I'm not interested in slideshows, summer camps or libraries. And by the argument presented in posts above, neither are the majority of the MCSA.

Does anyone know who on cencom is responsible for access? I'd be happy to help out with any work that is required.

Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 7:15 am
by neadek
Hi Dave

I'm not sure who the rock subcom is for cencom. But as i said previously send it to your sections rock subcom or pass it on to me and I'll hand it over to my sections rock subcom. If you and or andrew are willing to drive the project I'm sure you can get mcsa backing.


Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 9:08 am
by Nic Le Maitre

The best people to speak to on this issue would be the Rock subcom of the Cape Town MCSA. They are already involved with Cape Nature in the Cedarberg with the administration of the bolting of new routes at Rocklands. The best person to contact would be Brent (brent(dot)jennings(at)uct(dot)ac(dot)za).

Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 10:02 am
by andrew p
Thanks Neal,

I am based in JHB but would like to try help get this moving, at least initially. I will put a document together for CT subcom. I need the help of a couple of people who know rocklands well; know the issues and have an idea of what is needed, constructive, proactive sort of people - any volunteers? If you can assist, please email me:

If I am treading in toes please shout, but I havnt heard of anyone driving this process?



Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 12:03 pm
by XMod
Hi andrew Im going to mail you the Cedarburg climbing management plan as prepared by CT MCSA for Cape Nature. I am presently hammering out (back on it now!) a similar document for the Limietberg area based on the Cedarburg document. Because of this I do not want to get involved in Rocklands, I feel Im doing my bit already. It will fill you in on the issues at stake and where responsibilities have been placed.

As you will see it lumps CN with path costruction and maintenance (fair enough they are the land managers and this is not MCSA responsibility) but they (CN) seem to be doing little about it. Neal et al please note that I am not suggesting that the MCSA needs to sort this out, however their standing may be whats required to initiate some action in CN. CN need to make another affordable permit for visiting climbers and address the erosion problems. That said I have not visited Rocklands recently and you would do best to speak to the boulderers who frequent the place to learn more of the status quo, perhaps ppl like Justin Hawkins or Marijus Smigelkis could fill you in. The boulderers generally are very laid back and primarily interested in climbing not paperwork!

Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 12:52 pm
by Iain
First up, the MCSA office bearers are climbers & hikers who volunteer their time and energy for the benefit of all climbers (members & non-members). These guys have businesses / jobs & families that also demand time & energy. Theirs is essentially a thankless task – and unsurprisingly few stay on board for more than 5 years at a stretch. As regards the MCSA, for the first time in ages there are volunteers for six sub-committee portfolios at national level (Youth; Conservation; Expeditions; IT; Climbing; Search & Rescue). Andrew, why don’t you volunteer to be the national access co-ordinator?

The MCSA handles access negotiations on a section by section basis. This allows the development of a working relationship with the management teams within specific areas. The closest MCSA section to Rocklands with an access sub-committee is the Cape Town section – both as a mountain interest group, and as a landowner within the greater Cedarberg area. (This same land ownership issue that has made the post-apartheid MCSA unpopular with many climbers – is the leverage that the MCSA is able to utilise for securing access to many crags like the Magaliesberg kloofs for example.)

True, Neal mentions that about 2% of MCSA members are climbers – with over 30% of resources going to climbing related projects. However, if you look at it the % of climbers (& boulderers) who are MCSA members, you will probably find that the number is even smaller.

One of the factors that an organisation like Cape Nature looks at when dealing with the MCSA is the document called “The MCSA code of good mountain practice.” If all climbers adhered to the “code,” Rocklands would never have gotten into the state it is now, and the beautiful Kliphuis campsite would never have been closed. A year or so back someone suggested on this forum that the climbing community be allowed to manage and run Kliphuis during the bouldering season. Based on what you all have seen happening in Rocklands – trespassing (climbing without a permit) and environmental degradation, can you seriously see Cape Nature allowing this to happen.

Now, if the MCSA negotiates access rights for Rocklands (or specific sensitive areas within Rocklands) – will those access rights be for MCSA members or the climbing community as a whole? If the access rights are for the whole climbing community – why should Cape Nature or any other land owner agree to this? Is the MCSA able to exercise any control over the actions of non-members as to complying with the access agreement, many of whom already feel that the current Cape Nature permit system is too onerous – or simply not applicable to them?

For example, the Paarl / Wellington section of the MCSA has secured access to the awesome Krom River Dome bouldering area in the Du Toits Kloof mountains (once fully developed will be well over 1000 problems). The area is on Cape Nature property, requiring a permit – just like Hellfire. However, access is across a farmer’s private land. The farmer has granted access to the MCSA with the concession that each MCSA member may bring two non-member guests with them. Although unpopular with many in the climbing community (who see this as a MCSA exclusivity mindset), the landowner set the rule so that access permission is linked to a sense of accountability.

Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 1:41 pm
by XMod
The Krom river type agreement wont work in Rocklands. The MCSA cannot possibly be held accountable for the actions of visiting climbers. I feel its the responsibility of those actually using Rocklands to do something, they after all have caused the problems! A co-alition of concerned cape/national boulderers backed by the MCSA 'rubber stamp' and supported by the overseas contingent is the way forward. All thats needed is to instigate action at a grass roots level by communicating with the CN Clanwilliam office and getting something done physically. All this talk of subcoms and endless paper trails will acheive F-all. We need to get a task force in there and start building paths, simple. Raising the funds to do so - not so simple, but it still can be achieved without endless proposals and ppl tossing the 'responsibility' hot potato around.

A bakkie, six labourers (pref from underpriveledged local population), a stack of gum poles and stakes, some digging tools, lots of bags of wood chips, someone with intimate knowledge of the boulderers to supply info (Scott Noy?), a decent map and a plan, a foreman to drive bakkie and supervise work. Thats it! F all the stupid committees! Committees dont build paths!!!

The only thing the MCSA may be needed for is to add weight to a proposal to CN that they develop a seperate 'short term visitors wild card' at an affordable rate that visitors are likely to buy instead of dodging the permit system. That can be acheived with a few phone calls and e-mails, not committee meetings!! I have proposed this to CN staff in CT more than once but my suggestions hold no weight and nothing has been done to accomodate visiting climbers equitably.

Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 2:59 pm
by Lowry
The management plan is available here: No longer available!
and certainly a very good initiative by those who did it.
Perhaps this could be posted on the relevant websites that advertise Rocklands?

Also there was an initiative which was going to be launched: "formation of a central climbing body which will represent all landowner's in Rocklands" Does anybody know if anything is happening about that initiative, as it sounds very positive. Surely the people who benefit directly from Rocklands in terms of paying guests are more than motivated to ensure the enviornment and access is managed sustainably?

I also think that this body should have a by-law that anybody found with no access papers, found littering or going against the management plan should rot in the Clanwilliam jail for a few nights. Can you imagine the front page news in the UK or US, where climbers are locked up for damaging the environment. "CLIMBERS ROT IN AFRICAN JAIL" Would be cool to see!!

Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 3:11 pm
by XMod
Lowry wrote:"CLIMBERS ROT IN AFRICAN JAIL" Would be cool to see!!
That would take Rocklands off the top three list! I doubt those renting accomodation would like such draconian measures imposed, it will just steer visitors away not bring them in line. Lowry do you boulder at Rocklands? Appeals put out through the overseas climbing press have a better chance of making a positive impact.

Busy trying to call CN (not listed in phone book - great help) now listing to music (worse than Telkom was!)......................ok I give up no answer! Try the 0861 number, more music..........light a ciggie and have coffee, still music.......more music answer! OK overseas vistors permits are now R940 for individuals and R1640 for couples/families!!!! How in hell do they expect ppl to comply with the permit system when it is so obviously way out of reach of most ppl?????

Albarracin - entrance free?
Flock Hill - Entrance free (fill out visitors form)
Hueco Tanks - R42 p/day (severe restrictions on movement)
FontaineBleau - entrance free
Rocklands - entrance R35 p/day

Lets not let Rocklands go the way of Hueco with its area closures, ridiculous restrictions and exorbitant fees. We're already half way there so lets see if we can sort this out and keep the feeling of freedom one feels when up there alive!

Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 4:23 pm
by jonr
I spent last year in Rocklands and am returning tomorrow for another 6 months.
I help setup the rocklandsboulders website and would really like to help with this issues in anyway i can.
I am currently planning out an access section on the site to consist of:

* A Check list of behaviour for visiting climbers
* Discussion area for plans to build paths on Cape nature controlled
* Discussion area for developing an access fund for the bouldering
on private land .

This section should be up in a few weeks.

I am a dedicated boulderer and spend 4 days a week climbing in rocklands
and know the area very well so i'm in a good position to get some of this work done.

I would appreciate any help or tips as well as input for the access section of the website any one can give me.
I have also contacted andrew to see if we can get the ball rolling on this.

Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 4:48 pm
by XMod
Fantastic JonR! That will really help! Thanks, on behalf of all the plants and living things in Rocklands!! :thumleft:

Re: Rocklands permits

Posted: Thu May 07, 2009 8:56 pm
by Andy Davies
Guys n gals.......

1] If you really care about Rocklands then spend less time jabberjabbering on the forum and more time getting involved with the MCSA and making a real difference to climbing issues. So often people love to moan about the MCSA - but remember its your climbing peers in the MCSA (with jobs, kids and a desire to climb sometime) who are out there trying to improve access and safety.

2] Some people have spent a lot of time and effort trying to improve access to areas like Rocklands, and all it takes is for some nitwit to bolt illegaly or drag their dogs in with them and its all for nothing. What can you do? Consider the long term impact of your actions. Grow some balls and confront people if they are going to undermine our access.

3] The base of Sunset Arete is absolutely knackered and shows what a huge impact bouldering has on the environment. Everybody needs to make a concious effort to "pad softly" (as is being done overseas) and not take all those short-cuts (anyone in a rush?)

4] If you want to help [ie do something and not make promises] then get hold of Mark Jonston who is the MCSA CT RockSubcom chair. WE NEED A ROCKLANDS BOULDERING CARETAKER.

5] Finally the Cederberg is a fricking awesome spot and although it will be a ball-ache getting permits, I won't shed a tear if Cape Nature pull finger and do their job for a change. Till now its been a circus and it shows.