The Cederberg area is renowned for its fantastic and surreal rock formations that have been created over the millennia by erosion of the quartzitic sandstone. Gargoyles, monsters, chess pieces, red gods, alien spacecraft and arches have all been frozen in stone. Julian Fisher describes it as a "Tolkienesque place of wolves and legends" in his guide-book (see below).
The rock climbing at Wolfberg is concentrated at the towering cliffs at the Wolfberg Cracks. These cracks consist of a series of narrow canyons that have been cut deep into the rock, and which vary in width from a few meters to just about one body wide.
The Wolfberg crag offers some great trad climbing in an incredible setting, far from the madding crowd.
This is a brief overview of some of the classic routes on Wolfberg. All are multipitch trad climbs:
"Wolfberg Cracks: A Comprehensive Pocket Climbing Guide", by Jayson Orton, 2000.
The most comprehesive map covering the whole Cederberg area is:
"Cederberg", 1:50000, issued by the Directorate of Forestry, Department of Environmental Affairs, Private Bay X313, Pretoria, South Africa; 1981.
This map is available from the Dwarsriver booking office and from the Algeria Forestry Office amongst others.
The ideal basecamp for climbing at Wolfberg is the Sanddrif campsite.
To get to Sanddrif from Cape Town take the N7 and head north towards Citrusdal. About 27km after Citrusdal a right-turn is taken onto the dirt road, across the Olifantsriver and towards the Algeria Campsite and Forestry Office. This road is followed for about 40km past Algeria, over the Pakhuis pass and to the Dwarsrivier farm. The Sanddrif campsite is on private land belonging to Dwarsrivier and accomodation is arranged with the farmer.
The dirt road past Algeria can at times (i.e. when it hasn't been graded in a while!) feature some impressively rough washboard, that will test the integrity of the most sturdy vehicle and will shake the fillings out of your teeth too. An alternative route to Dwarsrivier is to approach it from the southern Cederberg via Ceres and Op die Berg. This involves a longer section of dirt roads (about 60km) but their quality is often better.
Once comfortably ensconced at Sanddrif, the climbing is approached by an approximately 45min to 1hr walk up the mountain.
The Wolfberg Cracks are on private land, but access is not a problem because the farmer at Dwarsrivier actively promotes recreational use of his land. A permit is, however, required for climbing at Wolfberg and this can be obtained for a small fee at the booking office at Dwarsrivier. See the Accommodation section for contact details.
Other adjacent areas of the Cederberg are the responsibility of Cape Nature Conservation, which has a similar permit system in place.
When To Climb
Spring or early summer (i.e September to November) are generally the best time of year, followed by autumn. Climbing is possible at and time of the year, however, depending on the conditions of the day.
Summer can be incredibly hot (temperatures in the high 30degC and even 40's are common!), and these temperatures are only partially offset by the fact that much of the Wolfberg climbing in the shade for long periods of the day due to its aspect. Conversely, winter can be pretty cold and snow is not uncommon.
The bottom line: keep an eye on the weather and pick your climbing days wisely.
Accommodation is available at Sanddrif in the form of camping and guest cottages. Contact details are as follows:
The Wolfberg Arch: spectacular free standing arch.
Maalgat: swimming hole near Sanddrif.
Stadsaal Caves and Bushman Paintings
Maltese Cross: yet another awesome rock formation.
Astronomical Observatory: Since the Cederberg far away from any big cities, the astronomical viewing is great. There is a small observatory run by an enthusiastic group of amateur astronomers near Dwarsrivier. They give talks and slideshows on Saturday evenings and give visitors the chance to look at some cool stuff through their telescopes.