By Arlo Van Heerden
When something is to good to be true, well it most probably is. Not in this case though! Nelspruit is really getting a climbing gym! Not like a CityRock type of gym, but it wil still be a facility where you will be able to train for you next project at Boven, be it for recreational climbers or people wanting to dangle from their fingertips on Monster and Lotter’s Desire. A Gym that will make you strong, fit and ready for you next climbing trip!
Rock Climbing in Nelspruit started in about the year 2000 when two friends Quinton Pretorius and Craig Kluckow opened a Non-Profit company called Rock On Climbing. The climbing bug bit them and they decided to built a portable climbing wall. The Wall was situated behind Crossing next to the old Nelspruit Running Club premises. They were open two times a week at R15 per session offering climbers 12 routes to built their strength. Being portable, the wall traveled to a few festivals in the lowveld to act as an adventurous activity to festival goers. One such festival was the Prawn festival in komatipoort. They did this to acquire and direct funds to improve the wall and the services they could offer to the local climbing community. As interest grew the need for gear also increased and they started selling gear to the local climbers. They had a policy though and in order for climbers to buy gear they needed to attend three sessions at the wall before they were eligible to buy gear, as gear was a bit limited at that stage. The wall became very popular with the interns at Rob Fereirra hospital, as climbing was such a fun activity and way to keep fit and strong. I had the opportunity to talk climbing and share general life stoke with Quinton, and he recalls being parents to lots of children that came or were sent to the wall to get some excess energy out of their system! Here they were taught not only how to climb but also some discipline as climbing is not a sport that can be mastered without copious amounts of self discipline and dedication. Rock On Climbing showed the local climbers how to carve and design their own grips as the whole wall had grips that were home made! One of Quinton and Craigs friends had a taxidermy. At the taxidermy they use foam in molds to carve the body shape of the chosen animal and this gave Quinton and Craig the idea to do the same with climbing grips. Climbing however, was not all they did as they also specialized in commercial rope access in town. Quinton remembers , washing the old prominade building at half past 10 at night, as during Nelspruit Summers there is no way that one can wash a window and dry it before the sun decides to do the drying for you!
With more and more people getting into climbing, one of the local crushers Hunt Cheney and his friend from Joburg, Alard Hüfner investigated the quality of rock at the Crocodile Gorge in the Nelspruit Botanical Gardens. The crag is situated beneath the Municipal offices next to the Crocodile River. They realised that the granite actually had quite a bit of potential and started bolting and opening new routes immediately. Both of them being incredibly strong climbers they opened the crag with routes ranging from 16 to about 29. Climbing in the Crocodile Gorge is quite stiff at the grade and it became the perfect training ground for other Lowveld Climbing areas such as Waterval Boven , Blyde River Canyon Or even Blouberg in Limpopo. Hunt and Alard opened numerous bouldering classics in Kaapsehoop as well. Donovan Willis another really strong climber from Nelspruit started climbing at Rock On’s wall when he was About 14 years old, he built his base strength there, and with the crocodile gorge opened by Hunt and Alard he started training there as well. Donovan was really inspired and opened a lot of routes at Kaapsehoop, so much so that he even published a route guide about the area! He has climbed lots of 8A routes be it sport climbing or bouldering. Kaapsehoop is still a favourite amongst many climbers in the area, as one can have the best boulder sessions followed by beer afterwards at Salvador! In 2005 the owners of well known Bundu Lodge approached Rock On Climbing to help establish abseilling routes at Bundu’s granite dome. They wanted to offer their guests this adrenaline filled adventure. Rock On installed anchoring bolts and decided that they might as well open a few climbing routes. To this day climbers enjoy climbing at Bundu as it is easily accessible and with a lot of easy routes.
After a trip to Splashy Fen Festival in the Drakensberg, Quinton ,Craig and Lisa, Craig’s wife, had a quick trad mission at sentinal peak, I don’t know if it was the high altitude or the post festival blues, but a great idea was born on the sentinal ledge that day. They wanted to establish a rock climbing festival at Waterval Boven. With a bit of planning and help from Boven Legend and owner of Roc ‘n Rope Adventures , Gustav Janse van Rensburg, the first Anual Boven Rock Rally ,was hosted at the old Elandskrans Holiday resort. A total of 25 teams entered and it lay the foundation for a festival that eventually attracted 250 teams with about 1000 people visiting the festival in 2007. The Roc Rally was a real jol and climbers could party, climb and just have fun over the course of the weekend! The first troffee was Quinton’s pair of old Borreal Ballet climbing shoes that he had sprayed gold. In 2007 Rock On climbing parted ways with Roc Rally and Gustav and Alex from Roc ‘n Rope adventures continued until 2013 from where they handed it over to another organising party in 2014 who called it the Boven Mountain Festival. Unfortunately the festival died down after 2014.
In 2010, the leasing agreement of Rock On climbing at the Crossing centre was’t renewed because the crossing centre had plans to develop the area where the wall was situated. Rock On then gave the wall to Uplands college for them to give the children at the school a chance to get into climbing. Some of the excess grips was given to Rob who opened a small little bouldering cave in Rocky’s Drift. Climbing in Rob’s Cave is super fun and Climbers still gathers at Rob’s Cave on Wednesday Evenings for climbing and a few beers afterwards.
Barry Brits , one of the climbers that also started out on the Rock On Wall stepped up and installed a Moonboard in his garage, he opened the moonboard to outside climbers twice a week, as the Nelspruit climbers didn’t really have a lot of training options other than Rob’s Cave. Climbing in Barry’s garage happened for the whole of 2017, until him and George Stainton A local climber and Representative at Sport Unplugged came up with the idea to build a climbing facility at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit. George is very much involved with the Pumas rugby team and numerous other Sport development projects through Sport Unplugged, and he has an intimate understanding of the complex sporting industry and related services. Through experience, Sport Unplugged has developed a comprehensive range of Property, Event and Rights Management skills. After getting a go ahead from the Mbombela Stadium, construction on the new C4 Climbing Gym at Mbombela Stadium Started in May 2018, and within 2 months the gym is looking great!
Since I took the photos in this article they have installed more and bigger Sickstick grips on the walls, which makes training and the facility even better! There is lots still to come with features such as pull up bars ,hangboards, pegboards and a sport climbing area. The gym is open From 17:00 until 20:00 on Mondays , Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and on some Saturday mornings when there is no sport events at the stadium. A joining fee of R250 will be charged which includes registration at the South African national Climbing Federation , with R100 being the Monthly Membership Fee. C4 – Stands For Climbing Conditioning Core and Coaching. Climbing really is a fun sport, and anyone can get into it quite easily. Climbing in nelspruit has lots of potential and the climbing community is very welcoming to new climbers! With an active community of climbers there are always someone climbing in or around town! Nikki Reinhardt one of the local climbers won gold at the 2018 South African National Climbing Federation Championship in the women ‘s bouldering category, this goes to show that we do have talent and potential in nelspruit to compete with the rest of the country. If you are keen to try out something new or adventurous, don’t hesitate! Climbing is super fun and it is a really exciting way to get into shape! You can visit the C4 Climbing facebook Page here https://web.facebook.com/C4ClimbingConditioningCoreCoaching/
A link to an article I wrote about the Sport Climbing Paradise Waterval Boven can be viewed here http://www.terramotion.co.za/give-adventure-chance-waterval-boven/
Contact George Stainton at 082775 0887 or Barry Britz 074 216 5096
Thanks to Quinton Pretorius for providing me with most of the above info!