Roughing it in Montagu
One of our favourite things to do as a family is to camp – you might know this if you read oursection. It is even more enjoyable when it is camping combined with climbing, and at this stage our favourite spot to do both is Montagu.
Even though the year was still very fresh, we decided a weekend away would be most welcome. My brother, who is a semi-permanent resident in Lesotho – he works at AfriSki – was visiting us and was included in our camp plans. The men collected all thegear and accessories and made a big pile in the garage the night before, while I was packing clothes, toys, books and sleeping things.
Chris, my husband, went to the trouble to find a campsite with a pool after our first choice was fully booked when we tried to make a last minute booking. Excitedly we headed off to Baden Club. As we drove up to our pitch our eldest daughter exclaims, “Wow, look at that pool!” and it is at this precise moment I realise with a groan, that I didn’t pack any swimming costumes. I would be lying if I said the comments from my family wasn’t harsh and I had to take it on the chin, but, the most epic of fails was yet to reveal itself.
We unpacked the bakkie, took out the large canvas tent, the huge inflatable mattress my brother ‘borrowed’ from our dad, a two-man tent for my brother and what we assumed were fishing shelters (those things that look like half tents that provide shade). We stood on the sides of the unfolded tent waiting and it is at this point that Chris realised he never packed the tent poles! I told you it was epic and oh, so much bigger than a few swimming costumes. Luckily one of the ‘fishing shelters’ turned out to be a three-man tent, therefore I could share with our youngest daughter Amelie and Chris with Sonja. My brother opted to sleep under the stars on the inflatable mattress.
Climbing for the first time ever, my downhill-biking-with-no-fear-brother was nervous stepping up to the rock face for the first time. For a nervous first timer he did very well, completing a 12 with relative ease at The Steeple. I really enjoyed the same route – it was easy enough not to drain the stamina from my muscles but not so easy that it felt like a steal. Here at The Steeple Chris comfortably on-sighted a 19. One of the disadvantages of The Steeple is that late morning/early afternoon climbing is nearly impossible in summer. The little bit of shade created by the crag itself quickly disappears, there are no trees for additional shade and the rock itself gets very hot. Hence, by 11:30 we were heading back to camp.
Later that day, we visited our favourite Montagu crag, Lego Land. It is a firm favourite with the family for the following reasons:
1. It is easily accessible – the first routes are about 150m down the road from where you park.
2. There are a variety of routes to choose from – easy things to get you going to challenging climbs.
3. There are shrubs, nooks and crannies that supply shade and spots where one can ‘camp out’.
4. It is safe.
5. There is no charge or permits involved.
Here, I finished a 16 I have attempted twice before – I was very chuffed with myself for achieving this. My brother decided to appoint himself as cameraman and left us to climb. Sonja complained about her new because she’s been climbing barefoot until this point but quickly found that it was a helpful addition to her climbing experience. Amelie made friends with girls whose mothers were climbing.
Allow me a moment to interrupt myself – I was so impressed with these three ladies! One is a local and the other two family who were visiting from other parts of the country. They are the first South African female climbers we came across climbing by themselves. We have seen quite a few overseas female climbers enjoying our crags. Well done ladies, may you start a local trend! In the late afternoon, Chris got the opportunity to master a 21 and then it was back to camp to light the campfire.
On Sunday morning, we headed back to Lego Land with breakfast in our bags. We enjoyed boiled eggs and smoked, cheese pork sausages – you must try these, available at the butcher next to Ackermans in town, they are to die for – while trying a route or two before heading home.
If you like climbing and camping, Montagu should definitely be on your bucket list. It has climbing galore and some of the best campsites we have frequented.