Free solo climbing has always been a bit of a controversial concept in the sport-climbing world and once you’ve seen this extreme sport with your own eyes, its controversy comes as no surprise. Seeing a human vertically perched on a giant rock wall or hanging from a boulder by one hand will leave anyone with clammy hands and a racing heart. Yet some of the world’s best climbers think it’s the bee’s knees, and since the Oscar-winning documentary on the subject, Free Solo, hit the silver screen last year, it’s become the talk of the town within the realm of extreme sports. Therefore TravelGround has decided to round up the top three free solo climbing destinations in South Africa!

Classic Climbing to Get You Going

Cederberg Mountains, Western Cape


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As far as rock climbing, bouldering, and free soloing in South Africa goes, the Cederberg Mountain range is a staple in the sport-climbing community. Once you’ve mastered the make-believe rock wall at your local gym, your next step to being a free solo pro, is to get cracking with the rugged routes in these craggy rocklands. There’s quite a variety of famous routes to choose from in these mountains ─ Krakadouw, Sanddrif Crag, and Wolfberg Cracks being only a few of them. The difficulty of the routes range from beginner to advanced levels, therefore, inviting both the novice and professional climber to head into these highlands.


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A soothing slumber awaits any climber set on dangling from a Cederberg rock. Here are TravelGround’s top Cederberg stays:

Balie’sGat Kamp en Akkommodasie | Rietvley Cottage | Mount Ceder

Defeating the Mountain of Dragons

Drakensberg, Free State & KwaZulu-Natal


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When thinking of free solo climbing, a monstrous mountain range such as the Drakensberg certainly doesn’t come to mind naturally. It has always seemed that, when tackling a climb somewhere in the Drakensberg, the objective isn’t really to actually climb, rather than to attain a summit. Most of the slopes and hills are gentle and the steep walls are easily avoidable via alternative routes that merely require uphill hikes, so reaching the top alpine shouldn’t be much of a challenge. But despite the relatively easy hiking routes in this mountain range, the free soloists of the world still prefer dangling from the greatest boulders and steep rock walls they can find in this mountain range. The Swinburne and Eagle Mountains near Harrismith in the Free State seem to be the major climbing spots for free soloists and White Umfolozi near Vryheid in the middle of Zululand isn’t far behind in preference. So, if you fancy yourself a free soloist, best pack your powder and climbing shoes and head into the Drakensberg for a proper free solo climbing experience.

When climbing in the Drakensberg it’s important that you defeat the mountain rather than the mountain defeating you and there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to get your feet itching for the next day’s climb. So, go ahead and check out TravelGround’s top Drakensberg area stays:

Platberg Self-catering | Village Lodge Harrismith | Winterton Country Lodge @ Rose Cottage

Presenting the Mount Olympus of Free Solo Climbing

Waterval Boven, Mpumalanga


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Waterval Boven, aka The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, is arguably South Africa’s best free solo climbing destination. These magnificent walls of bullet-hard quartzite rock boasts more than 1000 routes surrounded by valleys with thick brush, dense woods and diverse animal life. With over 800 sport climbs ranging from novice to extreme levels of difficulty, dangling off a cliff at Waterval Boven is certainly a dream come true for any free soloist worth his salt. The climbs typically forces climbers into a strict vertical position, with some overhang in certain parts, pushing climbers to a more daring horizontal position.


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The most famous of the many routes on this great rock wall includes The Junkyard, Last Crag of the Century (Waterfall Area), Flying is Fun (Boulder Area), Restaurant Crag and God-No Wall. You’ll mostly see technical endurance climbers hoist themselves up against these quartzite using precise footwork and finger strength and with this being one of the few climbing areas in the world with year-round climbing-appropriate weather, you’ll probably find a human spider or two holding on to an overhang in both the dead of winter and on the sunniest summer days. ’Tis true that Waterval Boven isn’t for the faint hearted or weak armed among us, but it surely is any free soloist’s playground.

Mastering Waterval Boven is definitely not an “all in a day’s work” kind of gig, so it’s best to rest you’re rock-climbing head at one of TravelGround’s top stays in the Waterval Boven area:

Acra-Retreat Mountain View Lodge | Boven Villa | The Kingfisher Country Cottages & Trout Lodge

Holding on to a rock wall with your bare hands with nothing but air beneath your feet may not seem like everybody’s cup of tea, but just witnessing the greatness that is free solo climbing sure is a magnificent sight. So, whether you’re interested in dangling from a cliff or just watching the world’s spider men as they crawl up the steepest of rock walls, these three spots are the place to be.


I’ve done a lot of thinking about fear. For me the crucial question is not how to climb without fear ─ that’s impossible ─ but how to deal with it when it creeps into your nerve endings. ─  Alex Honnold, Alone on the Wall

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