About 2.5 hours from Johannesburg, three-pitch crags loom over a huge pool in a river. This is Wilgepoort, the wilderness the Johannesburg and Magaliesberg Sections of the MCSA purchased at the end of 2012. It is a magnificent trad climbing venue, a hidden gem really. This is one of the few places in South Africa where crack climbing skills can be acquired or tested.
You can visit it for a day or spend a peaceful weekend away in the bush.
At Wilgepoort you can hike, picnic, car camp, swim and take kayaks out of the river. At Big Pool sport climbers can experience deep water soloing and slack-lining.
Trad Climbing - Crack climbing heaven
The climbs are typically three pitches long on excellent rock, with a few four-pitch lines as well. The climbs tend to follow crack systems, a rare chance to learn crack climbing in South Africa.
In summer you can finish two trad climbs in the morning, and then do deep water soloing (DWS) in the shade, slack-line or swim in Big Pool in the afternoon. This also one of the best places for winter trad climbing from Johannesburg or Pretoria.
Many a climber has come short on the grade 20 hand jam moves of The Key after successfully pulling through the grade 21 crux below! The second pitch of Cabernet (grade 18) offers some of the best lay-backing around. The route description hints that during the opening ascent of Corpuscle miles of capillaries were left behind. Expect a few surprises - the previous generation knew a thing or two about jams.
All of this is in a setting where you can sit on a comfortable belay ledge overlooking the river and dam below and farmlands in the distance. A pair of eagles nest at the cliffs, otters can be seen in the river (if you are lucky) and the calls of a fish eagle can be heard.
The climbs are challenging but manageable. It's warm during winter days and shady even in high summer mornings.
Deep water soloing
Very few places in South Africa offer a chance to try out deep water soloing (DWS) before heading off to a Kalymnos DWS holiday. At Wilgepoort you can experience deep water soloing at the Big Pool on at least ten good lines.
The lines range from a few meters on boulders in the pool to 12-15m overhanging routes. At sport grade 18, you'll be able to climb some of these. However if you can lead sport grades 21-22 and above, you'll be able to enjoy the whole range.
Slack-lining at Big Pool
Slack-lining is a great way to improve your balance and coordination for climbing. At Wilgepoort you can slack-line about a meter above Big Pool on a 8-metre line. A double set of permanent anchors have been installed by MCSA Magaliesberg section. Just bring your line and its anchoring carabiners along.
Wilgepoort offers a number of hiking options. One can put in a solid day-hike over the sunny ridge above camp site, in a shady gully leading from Big Pool to the top. Small buck, kuku, warthog, black eagles and python have been spotted.
After a day’s paddle from upstream bouldering venue eZemvelo, Wilgepoort makes a very convenient take-out point. You can easily pickup kayaks there, have a social evening and camp before returning to the city. Beginner kayakers can practise safely in the pool near the camp site.
Though it's a trad venue, Wilgepoort offers car-camping under indigenous trees. There is an established fire place for an evening braai, with the river and a pool for a dip nearby. At a small rock outcrop close to the camp site, kids of all ages jump into another pool in the river.
It appears safe - so far we've not had any incidents. It is conveniently close to JHB and PTA and suitable for any age. The camping is next to cars and hikes can be as short or as long as desired.
Driving directions, maps, permits and fees
MCSA members of any section can access Wilgepoort and park for free.
Non-members can apply to MCSA Magalies section for permits which includes parking. Contact them a few business days before your trip, for EFT payments to clear and emails to arrive.