Classic Climbs: Amphitheatre Wall & Suspension Face, Elsie’s Peak

Classic Climb Elsies Peak 2023
Photo by Willie Koen

by Tony Lourens

Two of the best easy multi-pitch routes in the country.

My friend Paul and I were sitting in the train, the skin on our thighs sticking to the green vinyl seats and our clammy palms tightly gripping the edge of the open window as the 7.30 am train rolled into Sunnycove station. We were staring up at the big brown intimidating walls of Elsie’s Peak sitting high up on the slopes above, and we wondered what we were letting ourselves in for. We were both 13 years of age and we were going on our very first ‘rock meet’ with the Mountain Club of South Africa.

We assembled at the meeting point at the base of the mountain and walked up the steep slopes to Owl’s Cave. Here we were divided into various parties to climb different routes. Paul and I were separated. He went off to climb Great Crack Route, and I was teamed up with Gabriel Athiros and others to climb Amphitheatre Wall.
After our respective routes, and the exciting descent down Outlook Ridge, we all reassembled in the cave for lunch and to chat about the various climbs we had done. After lunch, many climbers were kitting up to do a second route for the day, and Paul and I were left to our own devices. Asking some advice, we were pointed to the classic Suspension Face. It was an intimidating undertaking for us. This was in 1973. No harness, no chalk, no cams, no hex’s, no sticky shoes. Just a rope, a swami belt, some slings and chocks. We swallowed hard at the base of that route, but managed to muster the courage to find our way up five pitches of wonderful D-grade climbing to the top. To say we were elated would be the understatement of the millennium.
That day will remain etched in my memory forever.

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