Monteseel

Copyright: MCSA-KZN 1998 ©


Acknowledgements

The route descriptions in these files have a long history. Roy Gooden and Adrian Hill produced the first booklet of route descriptions for Monteseel in 1981. Several significant updates were subsequently produced: Bern Henriksen in 1985; Gerald Camp in 1989 and Roger Nattrass in 1994. The RDs in these Web pages build on the inputs of these climbers whose substantial contributions are acknowledged with thanks. A special word of thanks is due to Roger for permission to use the topos from his superb book, "A Climber's Guide to Natal Rock".

Rodney Owen was responsible for typing most of the RDs, and, along with Roy Gooden, for "on-site" inspections to clear up various discrepancies. Based on their personal experience, they have also added useful information for many of the routes up to about grade 20. The "plan view" sketches have been scanned in directly from Roy Gooden's original route guide. Gavin Peckham added the menu, index and general information and has beaten all the documentation into Web format with the necessary bookmarks, hypertext links, etc.

Route Guides

Because there are about 300 routes at Monteseel, they have been described in separate sections as outlined below. The routes are all described in order from left to right. For the sake of completeness, the section on "Odds and Sods" contains a record of many routes that have been omitted from previous guides for a variety of reasons. The terms "Near" and "Far" below mean "near" or "far" from the parking area near the centre of the crags - i.e. near or far from the Lower Middle Buttress. Note: A series of excellent photograph-based topo's can be found here.

  1. Far Eastern Buttress
  2. Central Eastern Buttress
  3. Near Eastern Buttress
  4. Lower Middle Buttress
  5. Near Western Buttress
  6. Far Western Buttress
  7. Odds and Sods

Introduction

Monteseel is far and away the most popular climbing venue in Natal. The crag is easily accessible from Durban or Pietermaritzburg and has the shortest walk-in in Natal (50 m). It has a selection of about 300 routes of all grades between 8 and 28. These are mostly one-pitch routes that vary in height between about ten and thirty metres. The rock is superb quality sandstone of the Natal Group and is characterised by good edges and horizontal rails.

The crag comprises two major sections, the Eastern and Western Buttresses. Each of these crags is well over half a kilometre long. In the gap between these two major crags, and at a lower level, is the Lower Middle Buttress. Because of its ready accessibility, most of the climbing at Monteseel has focused on the near Eastern Buttress. However, there are numerous worthwhile routes scattered along the entire length of the crag. Climbers are urged to venture beyond the central area to sample the many other delights on offer.

Descriptions of the harder routes given in these pages have been taken largely from the route guides acknowledged above. However, we have first-hand knowledge of many of the routes in the "milky tea and knee blanket" grades and have, here and there, taken the liberty of adding what we hope will be useful comments and corrections.

While it is hoped that these RDs will provide sufficient information for climbers new to the area, it is also hoped that they will provide an opportunity for old timers to rekindle fond memories

Location and Access


The Monteseel crags are roughly half way between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. From either city, take the N3 toll road and turn off at the "Hammersdale" off-ramp (exit 43). If approaching from the Pietermaritzburg side, then turn left at the end of the off-ramp, follow the road round a sharp bend and back in the direction of Pietermaritzurg. If approaching from the Durban side, you obviously turn right at the end of the off-ramp, cross the bridge over the N3, then follow the road round the same sharp bend. Continue on for about two kilometres, cross a bridge over a railway line, and then, a couple of hundred metres further, take the turn-off that leads sharply back to the right. This road winds up a hill, past Cordies Hotel (formerly the Colorado) on your right, and reaches a T-junction about a kilometre from the previous turn-off. At the T-junction, turn right and follow the road that winds up to the top of Inchanga Hill. About two kilometres from the T-junction, just before the top of the hill, take the turn to left that is sign-posted "Monteseel". Drive about 100 m up a small hill to another T-junction and turn left into Albert Street. Take the second turn to the right into Seeles Drive. Follow this gravel road for about half a kilometre and park on the side of the road adjacent to a T-junction formed by a gravel road on the right. The Lower Middle Buttress and near Eastern Buttress are barely 50 m away on the left. No form of booking, notification or registration is required to climb at Monteseel. Although the public currently has right of access to these crags, the usual norms of civilised behaviour obviously still apply.

Security

There is a large impoverished population in the valley below the crags. No serious incidents have been reported, but it would be wise to leave nothing of value visible in your car - lock it in the boot. It is equally inadvisable to leave valuables, especially clothing and footwear, lying around unattended at the top of the crag. Youngsters sometimes pester you to buy curios. Apart from engendering good will, buying the odd trinket will encourage self-sufficiency and hopefully reduce the rare instances of pilfering.

Bolting, Pegs and Codes

Monteseel is the principal home of traditional climbing in KZN. A brief scroll through these pages will reveal several spurts of activity since the 1940s. Generally a small core of climbers has been responsible for developing the bulk of the routes during any given period. Many of these routes were opened without the benefit of modern gear and bear proud witness to the history of climbing in the region.

Although there are a number of fully bolted sport routes at Monteseel, these are generally confined to the hard faces that are impossible to protect with traditional gear. In addition to the traditional gear, some of the later routes are protected by supplementary bolts, but are not fully equipped as sport routes. With the current popularity of sport climbing and the demand for easier bolted routes, it is hoped that Monteseel will remain essentially a traditional climbing venue for future generations to enjoy. There is an abundance of bolted lines at several other venues, and it would be a pity if Monteseel's classic routes were spoiled by retro-bolting.

There are a number of fixed pegs to be found on the crags. Some of these date back several years and may be of dubious value. Inspect them carefully before making any commitment. The starts and/or tops of many routes have been marked by codes painted onto the rock. These codes have been included in the route descriptions where they are currently visible. Many of these painted codes have weathered and are not necessarily highly visible.

Weather

The crags are predominately north facing and are generally shady during a summer morning. However, unless you are blessed with a cloudy day, they may become uncomfortably hot during summer afternoons. Some parts of the Western Buttress receive shade on a summer afternoon. Winter usually provides ideal climbing conditions throughout the day.