Beta (climbing)

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Beta is a slang term for information and knowledge about a climb, often given to a climber attempting a route for a first time. Below is a collection of climbing beta from the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club.

El Chorro, Andalucia, Spain

Fly to Malaga. Take the Renfe (spanish for train) one hour north to Alora. From there catch a bus or hitchhike or call your best friends Gary and Mel at the Olive Branch B&B/Campground--that's where you'll be staying. The Rockfax El Chorro guidebook is a must for the area. Two thirds of the climbs in the book are in walking distance of the campground. Rent a car if you want to take day trips to many other good looking crags that are all between 20 mins and 2 hours away. Buy groceries at the Mercadona in Alora. Climbing shop available in the small town of El Chorro, although their prices are ludicrous (at least they have chalk). Must-do routes include Poema de Roca (7a/5.11d), Life is Sweet (6c/5.11b), Little Brown Baby (7a+/5.12a), Un lait fraiche pour monsieur (7b/5.12b), and Hakuna Matata (7a+/5.12a). Climbing style is mostly juggy overhanging tufa endurance routes on limestone. Very polished in some places, particularly the poema cave. Bring a 70m rope as some routes are long. It's all sport-climbing: single-pitch routes are great but there are also a bunch of multi-pitch. Particularly the multi-pitch routes in the gorge are supposed to be good although you might want a set of stoppers and warmer weather for them. Best season is December to February for the south facing crags in El Chorro, if later in the year go to the north facing surrounding crags for which you'll need a car.

Siurana, Catalunya, Spain

Fly to Barcelona. Take the bus for two and a half hours to Cornudella de Montsant. Take a cab, hitchhike, or walk the seven miles up the hill to Camping Siurana, located half a mile before the village of Siurana. There is only one road so you can't miss it. Toni Arbones' guidebook has terrible topos and no descriptions, but all the routes are there. The Rockfax Costa Daurada book has very few routes and sectors, but pretty good descriptions, and it also includes a lot of the surrounding areas although all of the information is outdated. You'll be happy at Siruana without a car for months, but if you want to go to the nearby areas of Margalef, Montsant, Arboli, etc a car will be needed. Buy groceries in the town of Cornudella. Chalk and some other gear is available at the campground. You can also borrow the guidebook from the campground to look around without buying it. Climbing is mostly vertical or slightly overhanging small limestone crimps and pockets. Very technical and sometimes polished, but always super high quality. It's all sport climbing so no need for trad gear. Bring a 70m rope or longer if you plan to climb at El Pati. Must-do routes include Delicatessen(7a+/5.12a), Massa temps sense piano (6c/5.11b), Valg'... (7a+/5.12a), Bistec de Biceps (7b+/5.12c), Mandragora (7b+/5.12c). Best time of year is December through February; cliffs face south and get hot. Margalef offers some shade and is not as sharp, so you might thin of alternating time at Siurana and Margalef; climb at Siurana til you tear off all the skin on your fingertips from the sharp crimps then go to Margalef until you tweak your tendons from pulling on steep two/three finger pockets.

Cape Town, South Africa

Tons of climbing right around the city itself. Most places are easiest to get to if you have a car, but some areas are accessible via train and mini bus. There's a sport climbing guidebook that covers all the sport climbing in and around Cape Town, and a good guidebook for trad on Table Mountain. has a ton of great info and route beta. Most of the sport climbing is overhanging with reachy, powerful moves but great jugs and horizontal rails. Almost all the rock is sandstone. Weather is pretty great year round, but it tends to rain more during the winter (July-Sept). When the wind blows from the northeast (the Nor'easter) climbs can get "schloppy" ie slick and salty. The Mine and the Hole can both get pretty bad.

Silvermine: sport climbing. Head out to Muizemburg, then take the pass like you're going to Noerdhoek. The park is on the right side at the top of the pass. There's a small entrance fee and the park closes at 6 or 7 depending on the season, but parking here is safe. Crags are about a 30 minute walk in. Main crag is the place to go. Sterling Silver (21/5.10d) is a must, also Mercury (26/5.12a/b).

The Mine: sport climbing. Drive like you're going to Silvermine, but turn left into some sort of army base thing right as you start heading up the pass. Try to park by the gate so that your car stay safe, or if you've got 4WD, drive up the rutted dirt road to the climbing. From the gate, cross the toppled fence and walk up the road towards the crag- you'll be able to see it. Sicklemoon (22/5.11a) is a great climb. Shorter routes here.

The Hole: sport climbing. Head up Boyes Drive near Muizemburg. Park across from an arch in the stone wall on the right hand side of the road. You could probably take the train to Muizemburg and walk up if you were really committed. Take the trail up to a big cave in the rock- you can see it from the road. You'll have to veer off the main trail at some point, but its a fairly obvious path that leads to the climbing. Really overhung climbs. Not much good climbing easier than 5.11. Cape Fear (23/5.11c) is an awesome line that traverses out under the roof on bomber holds. Fleur de Afrique (26/5.12a/b) is another great climb. And you're looking over the ocean the whole time you're up here. This place tends to be particularly chilly, especially since it's shaded past midday.

And a 45 minute drive away... Paarl Rocks: sport climbing. Big granite domes. Drive out to Paarl, then up to the park- small entrance fee. Sands of Time (5.8) and Little Dutch Boy (5.10a) are both really fun, multipitch routes. A lot of hard slab climbing, with some scary runouts.

There's a whole lot more sport climbing than this... check out the website.

Table Mountain: Trad! And really quality trad too. Excellent quality, feautured sandstone...get used to slinging prongs! Either drive up to the base of the gondola, or mini bus it. Get into the downtown trainstation/minibus plaza, then ask people until you're eventually directed to a bus that's heading up the mountain. Don't let them charge you too much. Or you can always hire a taxi to take you up there. At the base of the gondola, take the obvious trail up the mountain. Where it hits the contour trail, keep going up...takes 1-2 hours to approach. All the really good climbing is at the top. There are two sides, Africa Crag on your left as you walk up, and Magnetic Wall/Dream Ledge/ Jacob's ladder around to the right. The right side tends to get more shade. Jacob's Ladder is a great 3 pitch 5.8. Combine pitches of Touch and Go and Magnetic Wall for a super fun 5.10. Doubles are needed to rap most routes, but you can also top out on most of them (in front of all the tourists of course) and then walk back down. Even better is to ask the Abseil Africa people if you can use their lines...they generally let climbers jump in front of anyone waiting to abseil, and their lines put you right at the base near Jacob's Ladder. Most stuff is 2-5 pitches.

And for some bouldering... Llandudno Beach. There's no guidebook (yet) so you've got to go with someone who knows the area. Lots of granite boulders, right next to a beautiful beach that happens to be one of the best surf spots too. Gets windy.

Cedarbarg, South Africa

Best known for Rocklands bouldering, the Cedarberg is a huge reserve that includes trad, sport and bouldering. Gets really hot in the summer, a bit chilly in the seasons are fall and spring. To get there, drive north from Cape Town for about three hours.

Rocklands area: Camp at DuBois farm. There's R30 or R40 a night. There's water there, and you can get supplies in Clanwilliam, only 20 minutes away. There's bouldering and sport climbing walking distance from camp. The best sport climbing though is in Rocklands itself. You need to drive back up the road to get there, and then park on your left at the top of the pass. Sometimes they charge an entrance fee...Cedar Rouge is a great 11c/d overhanging jug haul. Routes on Orange Plasma wall and Cowboy Wrangler are also a must. And of course there's tons of bouldering here, too. Trad climbing is on three buttresses that are on your right as you drive up the road to Rocklands proper. A bit of a walk to get in.

Tafelberg: trad climbing. A big "table mountain" full of trad lines. 3 hours to hike in, great camping in a cave at the base. There's a water source up there, on the other side of the spout from the cave, but it can dry up in summer. Technically you need permits from Cape Reserve. Directions: Before you reach Clanwilliam, turn off to your left following signs for Algeria. Keep driving along mostly dirt roads, past Algeria, over the pass, until you eventually hit a fork. Go left. End up at the base of some big Oak Trees. Park here and start hiking. It's an obvius trail the whole way up...just keep going up and slightly right. Rooibois (18/5.10a) and Comes a Time (21/5.10c) are great lines. There's a ton to climb up here for all abilities. 1-5 pitches.

Wofberg Cracks: trad climbing. Past Tafelberg, down at the end of the road is a campsite. Park here and walk about an hour up to the Cracks. Really quality 3-4 pitch climbs that aren't the same type of commitment that Tafelberg is.

Oudtshoorn (and Montagu), South Africa

Four hours from Cape Town is South Africa's only limestone crag. The main crag has the highest concentration of good routes. Nothing much below 5.11, all sport climbing. Camp right at the crags at De Hoek campsite, either in bungalows or in tents at sites. Camping is pretty cheap, the bungalows are not too expensive either. Get on Paws (26/5.12a/b) and Phallic Mechanic (24/5.11c). While you're there, check out the caverns that Oudtshoorn is famous for, but don't go on the adventure tour. Turns out climbing is a lot more fun than waiting for out of shape people to climb through small holes. You can also ride ostriches here, and buy ostrich eggs in the grocery store that make more than enough food for 4 people for breakfast.

On the way to Oudtshoorn you'll pass through Montagu and a lifetime of sport climbing. This area really should have it's own section, but I didn't climb there enough to know too much about it. Camp at the farm where you can walk to many of the crags. Camping is cheap. Mostly single pitch routes, but one multipitch cliff with some fun lines.

Spitzkoppe, Namibia

In the middle-of-nowhere Namibia are some huge, yellow granite domes. Even if you don't want to climb, this place is worth visiting. We went in September, and temperatures were still manageable. Much later and it'd be quite hot. Windhoek is the last big town you'll pass. You can get guidebooks there, if they aren't sold out. This will be the last grocery stop too, although water can be obtained from a gas station right before the park. There's no water in the park (and it's quite a ways to get anywhere) so bring lots of water. The park charges for overnight camping and day use. If you don't have a guidebook, ask to see the climber's log at the front gate- there's tons of beta in there.

There's both sport and trad climbing here. The sport is all really slabby stuff, so get your technical footwork on. Trad requires lots of big gear- like 3 #4s for some routes is what the guidebook recommends. Be prepared for big cracks if you want to climb a lot of trad. While there are lots of domes to climb on, the largest is the most exciting. The normal route is a great way to get to the top. Start beyond the fence on the north side (you can ask for a key to drive in further at the front gate) and approach for quite a ways until the climbing actually starts. Then easy, almost scrambling trad pitches to the top. Some cool narrow passages and tunnels to work you're way through. Rap the route and then walk off the way you approached. Give yourself a day for this, although it can take only half a day if you know where you're going. If you want some long, hard, technical face routes, try something on the south wall. Plenty of sport routes to try. You can bail from any point, but be aware that a lot of the anchors don't have rap rings. Bring a good amount of extra webbing or cord to leave behind. Another fun trad line is Watersports (18/5.10a), a layback crack that goes up a huge arch on the main dome.

If you've driven all the way to Namibia, stop at the border and check out the newly developed sport climbing in King's Throne Canyon. You'll need 4WD and high clearance to get there. Camp in any of the river lodges along the Orange River. There's even some deep water soloing/bouldering, and some of the lodges have rafts that you can use to get there.