Updated Slanghoek Route Guide

Get the latest route guide for one of South Africa's most magnificent climbing spots...

Last month, February 2023, Richard Halsey released a brand-new route guide for one of the most impressive climbing spots in South Africa – Slanghoek Amphitheatre in the Western Cape.

Slanghoek first caught the eye of mountaineers in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until 1998 that brothers Hilton and David Davies and Alan Ross made the first attempt to tackle the massive summit, which offers over 500m of steep, hard climbing on striking orange sandstone. Following countless attempts by many different groups over several years, the first route in Slanghoek – Private Universe, a 19-pitch grade 22 – was established in 2002 by Hilton Davies, David Davies and Matthew Sim.

Then came a quiet period with very little development going on at Slanghoek until some European climbers approached Hilton Davies in 2016 with an interest in Private Universe. After climbing (and falling in love with) the route, they took it one step further and established Ruby Supernova (27) in 2017, an adventure documented in the below film, The World Above. Route development had another short break until 2019/2020, when dedicated climbers Richard Halsey, Sam Nightingale and Garrreth Bird (who you might have listened to on Keeping It Wild) practically set up house at Slanghoek and established seven more epic routes. This labour of love has produced an absolutely epic climbing destination that is set to become a Cape classic for locals and foreigners alike.

It must be noted that Slanghoek is a very, very big wall that requires a good level of fitness for the approach and exit, along with competency in trad and big wall climbing, as many of Slanghoek’s massive routes take more than a day to climb and require hauling gear up the wall (a skill that should definitely be practised before you venture out). You should also be confident in your gear handling, rope management and self-rescue skills, just so you’re prepared for any epics.

All this being said, Slanghoek is not exclusively for the hard senders. The ‘Snake Corner Masochists’ (i.e. Richard, Garrreth and Sam) worked to make some of the routes a bit more “user-friendly”, adding occasional bolts to reduce dangerous run-outs and make hard sections less daunting. While you will have a better time if you can onsight at least 22 on trad, your climbing grades are far less important than your trad and big wall experience. In a nutshell, don’t write yourself off because you aren’t sending 25s, but make sure you know what you’re doing before you tackle Slanghoek.

Sam explains that the cliff can be split into three sections, each of which has “very different flavours”:

● The left side is very long and overhanging, offering three routes which require hauling and multi-day climbing for all but the fastest of climbers – Moonshine Corner (27), Meteor (25), Private Universe (26 free or 22 aid) – and the short-and-sweet Voyager (24), described in the guidebook as “a rap in and climb out route… a nice day out for those wanting to experience the Slanghoek exposure, without the big wall logistics”.

● Then there are two pure trad routes: Ruby Supernova (27) and Red Giant (24) which have no bolts and plenty of spice.

● Finally, on the right there are three short(ish) climbs that can be done in one day: Ultra Violet (23), Absolute Zero (24) and The Final Frontier (22). The rap route for these climbs is much more straightforward and not as overhanging as the routes to access the other climbs, and no hauling is needed.

The key to a successful Slanghoek mission is good preparation – try and chat to people that have climbed there before (our community forum is a good place to start), make sure you’re geared up with everything you’ll need, master the necessary skills in a more contained environment before heading out, and, of course, study the new Slanghoek guidebook!

Much like the cliff itself, the guidebook is a labour of love that offers incredibly clear and detailed topos and annotations for each route and pitch, thorough access information, gear recommendations, tips for your trip, rappelling strategies and more technical advice, along with two forewords by Hilton Davies and Richard Halsey providing some thoroughly entertaining background reading. Check it out below and start planning your expedition…

Thank you to Richard, Garrreth, Sam, Hilton, David, Alan, Matthew and the many others that have devoted so much time and love to making Slanghoek what it is today – the community greatly appreciates you and your hard work!

Featured image by Garrreth Bird.

* Note that access arrangements have changed since the initial route guides were released, so Slanghoek is no longer accessible from the bottom – you can find the complete current access details in the new guidebook.