Roger Nattrass first raised the bar with his Climber’s Guide to Natal Rock back in 1994. Now he has produced a new guidebook that is simply outstanding! All subsequent South African guidebook authors will curse the high standard that he has set for the genre. It must have cost a bomb to print as it is full colour throughout (on glossy art paper) with over 180 photographs, some of them glorious double-page spreads. The book is a visual feast – that alone is reason enough to want it on your bookshelf. A Climber’s Guide to KZN Rock has been divided into four sections: Kloof Gorge, Shongweni, The Umgeni River Valley and a section on Trad Climbing. All of the popular crags are included: The Wave Cave, Umgeni Valley, Howick Falls, The Canyon and Monteseel to name a few. Around 800 routes are described (about 550 sport and 250 trad routes), each with a personalised description that will draw you to climb the line. This is not a book of lists!
The introduction has travel-related information, a commentary on the geology of the area and a brief history of crag climbing in KZN, including mention of all the legends who founded many of KZN’s crags. The maps are clear and the descriptions interesting and motivating. Numerous topo drawings supplement the information. Each chapter opens with a list of recommended routes and every route has a tick box. The index has been pain-stakingly constructed with all the routes sorted by grade, sport and trad, star rating and alphabetically.
If the book has any problems they lie with its size. At 256 pages it’s no flimsy photocopy to stuff into your pack. It also looks so good that you will want to leave it on your coffee table, not buried in your climbing gear. I bought two copies to solve this dilemma and suggest that you do the same!