Climbing in Tierkloof – the Jewel of Gamkaberg



Tierkloof reveals the magic of its somewhat unexpected depths gradually. It is not a grand landscape of soaring heights. Rather it is a small, self-contained world, contentedly remote from all that is outside it. It is an ancient, untroubled and pristine place, where a tiny stream has sliced through upturned layers of hard, orange quartzite. It has changed little since then. The San have lived and painted there, and leopards still pad softly along its winding path that leads through forest and fynbos, through shadowy tunnels of trees, and patches of bright, bird-filled sunlight.

From the outside, Tierkloof is a narrow cut in the dry Little Karoo landscape. But from the moment you enter it, you are beguiled by its gentle, hidden charms and, like into the pages of a good novel, you are drawn deeper and deeper around each enchanting bend. But the twisting kloof demurely reveals only one bend of itself at a time. And you must proceed slowly and with care if you want to come to know its depths.

From the time I first ventured into it, Tierkloof felt like a place with which I could be friends. And indeed, since then, our friendship has grown deeply. My first exploratory steps into the kloof were on a family holiday at Gamkaberg, with a five-month-old baby. I realised then that I had chanced upon a place that captured me. And it did, not only for the charms I describe above. Looking up, there was more to this amazing place. It was my climber’s imagination, running wild up long, unclimbed crack lines, that thrilled me most. I explored the full length of the kloof, but did no climbing on that first trip, other than in my imagination. But that was enough to draw me back.

In addition to the climbing potential and natural beauty, there was something else that I admired about Gamkaberg Reserve. There was a care and appreciation for the place that manifested in the visitor’s experience of it. The accommodation was simple and beautiful. Small touches had been added with obvious love and care by Gamkaberg’s long time stewards, reserve manager Tom, his wife Liesl, and the staff. Regardless of the bonus of good rock climbing, Gamkaberg was a stunning place to spend quality time.

If the kloof drew me as a climber, then the Purity Wall was one of its strongest attractors. Named both for its inspiring aesthetic to a climber, and less poetically for the dietary stage that my son was in at the time of my second visit, it was the obvious site for one of the first attempted lines. Other ascents on that trip included Nappy Rash and the perfect looking crack line, Finger Food. Weakened by parenting, I only sent Purity on a third visit several years later. After that send I was excited enough to spread the word about the kloof’s potential and, as a result, some other climbers, mainly Southern Cape locals, became enthused about the place.

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Photo: Patsy Lourens enjoying the suprisingly good Lovely Little Climb (13), Vetoed Wall. TERESA LEAL


Climbing is only allowed to people who overnight in Gamkaberg. All climbers have to be in possession of the Tierkloof climbing guidebook. Download for free here or buy a hard copy at the Gamkaberg reception.

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