|The Hell, Mpumalanga

Brief summary of venue This is a trad climbing area at the confluence of the Hellspruit and Olifants River upstream of Loskop Dam offering about 41 multi-pitch climbs, usually 4 to 5 pitches long. It is in a beautiful wild setting with an abundance of animals including fish eagle, buffalo, eland, giraffe, ostrich, crocodile, hippo and leopard. The area gets very hot, making it a perfect winter venue.
 Permit/ permission info Access, including permits, must be arranged with the Mpumalanga Parks Board.
Approximate travelling time from Johannesburg Two to two and a half hours, including about 20 km of dirt roads, which can be very sandy and rutted so it’s advisable to travel in a car with 4 wheel drive.
 Parking information Shady parking available close to camping.
 Info on walk in The length and difficulty of the walk-in depends on where you climb, if on the cliffs below the camping then a short 5 minute walk. However, if on the spectacular North and West faces of the Hell Gorge - separated by the Hellspruit - then the walk in is a much steeper hour or more, including wading the Olifants River.
 Accommodation Camping is on the cliffs above the Olifants River, which offer many shady spots. While there are long drop toilets, they are seldom used and never cleaned, so using the bush is a cleaner option - don’t forget a spade to dig a hole though. There’s a good camp-fire area.
Availability of water for drinking None available, so bring your own.
 Climbing route guide Russ Dodding developed a guide for the area, see www.saclimb.co.za/mpumalanga/hell.html
 Climbing information There are 41 routes, varying between grades 7 to 22, mostly 4-6 pitches long and all naturally protected. The rock is red Waterberg quartzite of excellent quality. As the rocks dip about 15 to 20 degrees to the south, cross-strike weathering has lead to unusual rock faces. There are many horizontal rails and sloping ledges so friends are very useful.
 Child friendly Not unless supervised as there are crocodiles, hippos and other wild animals in the area, and the camping is above the cliffs.
 Swimming It’s possible to swim in the Olifants River, but be very cautious as it has crocodiles and hippos, though these are usually downstream of the camp. The Hellspruit is safe to swim in.
 Camp fires Fires are allowed (there’s a great fire area) but bring your own wood and keep fires controlled.
 Other attractions Wild and beautiful setting, with an abundance of animals including crocodiles, hippos, giraffe and many birds. The cliffs above the barbel pool are a fantastic hide, or walk along the river, but be on the lookout for hippos - you should hear them long before you see them. Another great walk is to follow the Hellspruit to where it splits the North and West faces of the Hell Gorge, from where a chilly swim upstream brings you to a beautiful little waterfall.
 Dangers Hippos and crocodiles.
 Contacts Mpumalanga Parks Board, Loskop Dam Nature Reserve, Tel: 013 262 4190, Fax: 013 262 2762.
    • Message from National Search & Rescue:Notice regarding Mountain Rescue during the COVID-19 lockdown

      We are all aware how Public Health guidelines have urged the public to 'flatten the curve' of the COVID-19 virus, and our President's announcement of lockdown is a welcomed show of courageous leadership that South Africa needs at this time.

      The Mountain Club of SA's Search and Rescue teams support this approach categorically.

      WE URGE THE PUBLIC:
      1) If engaging in some last minute pursuits this week, please engage in ultra-low-risk activities only. Please also respect closures already in place by SAN Parks and Ezemvelo.
      2) Please respect the lockdown unconditionally.
      WHY?
      Because it is the right thing to do.
      ...and accidents do happen, no matter how expert you think you may be.
      The MCSA's search and rescue team make themselves available because we believe in the value of responsible enjoyment of the wilderness, and in supporting our outdoor colleagues and community.
      Where life and limb is at stake, our members may still come to your aid.

      HOWEVER, during this crisis:
      - Healthcare infrastructure must be reserved for only the most critical, necessary cases.
      - Your own exposure to the virus will be significantly higher while being rescued and receiving healthcare.
      - Our search and rescue volunteers are not 'essential healthcare workers'. Don't be selfish!
      If our members must respond to a call-out during the lockdown period, they invalidate their and their family's quarantine activities during this critical time and that may have an impact on their ability to return to work.
      - S&R response may in fact be limited - our approach to incident management will be to coach and support self-rescue, or to send minimum-team responses.

      We look forward to a time soon where we can all enjoy our wilderness and natural areas together, assured of the safety and well being of our loved ones at home.

      Thank you.
      MCSA Search & Rescue

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