What it’s Like to Scale the Sandstone Cliffs of Waterval Boven, South Africa’s Climbing Hot Spot

Waterval Boven, South Africa
Waterval Boven, South AfricaKeith Ladzinski

Outside the South African township of Waterval Boven, 160 miles northeast of Johannesburg, the Elands River plummets some 230 feet over red sandstone cliffs. It’s a natural wonder—but also ground zero of one of the world’s emerging climbing hot spots. Adventurers worldwide travel here to ascend the wall. But for 26-year-old pro climber Sasha DiGiulian, the striking 12b route is just a warmup.



“She was just stretching her arms,” says Keith Ladzinski, who snapped the photo.

Though not the hardest climb DiGiulian tackled on a recent trip to the region, it wasn’t without challenges. She first had to negotiate a rappel from the top, with help from a partner, before climbing back up.

“That’s the only way out,” she recalls.

For DiGiulian, the route epitomizes South African climbing.

“It feels really wild,” she says. “There’s a grandiose beauty to it all.”

Which helps explain why she already has a return trip in the works: “There’s so much phenomenal rock to explore.” —J.R. Sullivan

Read more about Sasha DiGiulian, and 16 other kickass, game-changing women in our latest feature: The New Adventure Icons.


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