Climbing at Umgeni and Other Stories


words and pic by Sam Stainton

Hopping into the car at six in the morning is never an easy task, but as climbers we tend to do that a lot. The four of us were off on an adventure to explore ‘the unknown’, our destination being the crags of KwaZulu-Natal. Shortly after our arrival in Umgeni Valley, we met up with a local friend who was going to be our guide to this climbing paradise.

Umgeni, situated less than one kilometre away from the iconic Howick Falls, makes access incredibly easy from anywhere around the Pietermaritzburg area. We stayed in a quaint and quiet B&B known as the Dwarf Chameleon, which luckily for us, is a mere five minutes from the gate to the Umgeni reserve. The purple-blue haze of the valley, punctuated by zebras, was breathtaking, as we drove the winding road to the crag; I was left completely in awe of this incredible beauty.

At the very end of the road, we parked our car and took a 15-minute walk on a trail to reach the crags. The crag consists of short technical faces and fine edges giving sustained climbing with world-class moves. Although routes in the lower grades are scarce, every route is well bolted and has insanely good friction – almost as good as Rocklands in winter – all year round, and is not condition dependant.

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