If you know anything about outdoor rock climbing in Cape Town, you’ve heard of the prolific Silvermine and the abundance of sport climbing routes it has on offer for beginners through to veteran climbers.
If you’re a climber who’s considering visiting Cape Town, maybe you haven’t heard of Silvermine… If that’s the case, you’ll want to keep reading. Silvermine offers some of the best outdoor sport climbing opportunities on the Cape Peninsula, with six crags (climbing areas), superb quality rock, excellent climbing and, to top it all off, beautiful scenery.
Side note: If you’re in Cape Town and rock climbing isn’t your only choice of outdoor adventure, make sure you check out the Platteklip Gorge Trail at Table Mountain.
Let’s explore Silvermine Nature Reserve. I’ll tell you all about the park’s incredible sport climbing routes, how to get there, and everything else you need to go and have a killer climb.
The Silvermine Nature Reserve
The Silvermine Nature Reserve is just 30 minutes drive from the Cape Town city bowl and easily accessible on Ou Kaapse Weg (M64). It boasts some of the most beautiful native fynbos scenery, a wheelchair-friendly boardwalk that takes you to the Silvermine dam, incredible hikes and views, mountain biking trails, river walks and, of course, awesome sport climbing opportunities.
As a nature reserve under management and protection of South African National Parks (SANParks), those wishing to enter the nature reserve to sport climb will be required to provide either a SA ID or a passport and pay a small tariff of R95 ($6). It is highly recommended that you go with someone who knows the area and has climbed there before, and you bring a sport climbing guide (book or human) with you to help identify the crags and the routes.
What you need to know
Sport climbing is a day activity, so you need to plan accordingly. Most importantly, make sure that you have all the necessary climbing gear and that your gear is in good nick before leaving the house. I can’t imagine a worse feeling than getting to the crag on a stunning day with perfect conditions and realising you forgot a shoe – or worse, your rope.
Check out the weather beforehand and make sure you are wearing and have packed what is necessary. Hats, sunnies, windbreakers, buffs, proper hiking shoes. You get the idea.
Following this, make sure you have brought enough water, enough snacks, and enough food depending on the hungry climbers you bring along (I have climbed with some bottomless pits so I always pack a little extra, just in case) and how long you plan on staying.
I’m in! Now, how the heck do I get to the Silvermine crags?
As mentioned, Silvermine offers climbers six different crags – Silvermine Main Crag, Lower Silvermine Crag, The Pumphouse Crag, Silverminor, Blaze of Glory and Faulty Towers.
Silvermine Main Crag, Silverminor, and Blaze of Glory are easily accessible by parking at the Silvermine Dam parking lot. Follow the footpath northeast of the lot, crossing the jeep track and continuing until you reach the Steenberg ridge. The Main Crag and Blaze of Glory will be a short walk further on your right.
Lower Silvermine Crag and The Pumphouse Crag are also easily accessible by parking at the Silvermine Mountain Bike parking area, following the footpath situated north-east at the end of the parking lot, crossing the jeep track and continuing north-east, around the ridge and down the front. Lower Silvermine Crag will be here on your left, and The Pumphouse Crag will be shortly after that.
Faulty Towers is a little trickier to reach. You could take the above directions to Silvermine Main Crag and then continue along the Steenberg Ridge for about 500m until you reach the crag. Alternatively, you follow the jeep track on the other side of Steenberg Ridge, keeping right and taking the first right that will take you down the Steenberg Ridge. The Faulty Towers will then be on your left.
All of this information is available on Google Maps, and I recommend you check it out before embarking so you know what you are looking for and where you are going.
Silvermine’s sport climbing routes
Silvermine has an incredible range of routes across the six crags. These routes range from novice 13 (V2 or 5a) to veteran 27 (V9 or 7b+) with various climbing styles and holds, from more slab-style climbing with plenty of crimps and small foot chips to overhang climbing with undercling holds and toe hooks. The Silvermine Crags are a climber’s dream with variety, interesting moves, and incredible scenes to behold once you reach the anchor.
Some stand-out routes that I would highly recommend when visiting The Silvermine Crags would be Lord of the Ring (16, V3, 5a) at Lower Crag and Pistolero (22, 5.11b/c, V5/6) at the Main Crag.
Lord of the Ring starts quite positive with plenty of jugs and great foot holds, then traverses around the arete (corner, for the plebs) of the rockface, where you’ll find a rock formation in the shape of a ring, hence the name. This is a great warm-up route for seasoned climbers and a classic route for any climber to climb at the Lower Crag.
Pistolero is a long endurance climb with some spicy moves sprinkled here and there to keep things exciting. It will test your climbing abilities with a few undercling holds, and crimps, as well as some laid-back crack climbing. Pistolero will leave you wanting more once you reach the anchor.
Frankly, you can’t go wrong with any of the sport-climbing routes at Silvermine. Not only are there six different crags to choose from, but there are also more than 80 sport climbing routes to choose from among those crags. Regardless of the crag tou choose, you can rest assured that there is plenty of variety in grades and climbing styles.
Silvermine crag conservation and maintenance
The crags are regularly visited by volunteers and indoor rock climbing gym staff members like City Rock and Bloc11 who help clean and clear the paths of encroaching vegetation and debris, add some extra cairns where necessary, reinforce any vulnerable sections with stacked rocks, and clean up the steps in between the different rock faces.
On these clean and clear days, the sport climbing routes are also cleaned and cleared of debris and plants. The bolts and anchors are also checked to make sure everything is safe and ready for the next send.
But wait, there’s more… Silvermine has all sorts of activities to keep you busy if you get a little bored of sport climbing and neck-craning. The Silvermine Dam is beautiful and a great way to rest weary fingers after a day of sending with plenty of shaded picnic spots. An easy stroll along the boardwalk from the Silvermine Dam parking lot northwest will take you there.
Alternatively, SIlvermine boasts a series of gorgeous hikes from which you can immerse yourself in the beautiful Cape Peninsula fynbos and vegetation and take in the incredible views (there are gorgeous views aplenty in practically every direction). You can also find a series of mountain biking trails around the area for different kinds of adrenaline junkies.
So now you know… The Silvermine Nature Reserve is simply a must for any adventure seeker. With its ease of access, abundance of activities, and serene beauty, you simply cannot go wrong by visiting the reserve for the day.
Have you climbed Cape Town’s Silvermine? Got it on your bucket list? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.