The fire in the Cederberg wilderness area of South Africa started by a lightning storm early last week was said to be under control Thursday. The Cederberg wilderness has a special place in the heart of the climbing community, as it houses the world-famous bouldering destination Rocklands. “I hope that all the great workers that live there—the farmers, the children, everyone is okay,” Paul Robinson, co-owner of PRAK media said. PRAK media, also owned by Paul’s girlfriend Alexandra Kahn, has recently released it’s first film, Chasing Winter—the latest of adventures in the infinite playground of Rocklands, this time with Japanese prodigy Ashima Shiraishi and veteran boulderers Carlo Traversi and Paul himself. “I also hope that it didn’t do damage to the rock and that people will be able to climb there for years and years to come. It really is a magical place.”
The Cederberg fire claimed the life of one man—59 year old Christo Fourie, whose car was engulfed in flames while driving down the Pakhuis Pass. The cause of death has not been confirmed. The fires have burned over 500 kilometers of land. While fires are common to this area of South Africa, because of the sensitivity and high impact use of Rocklands, certain areas will need to be protected. Of course the question for climbers is, “Will it be closed?” CapeNature, the biodiversity conservation group that owns the wilderness area will be deciding what areas need to be closed and what areas can still be used by climbers. “The whole of Rocklands is unclimbable and access is closed to any visitors until further notice”, said Rocklands local climber Julia Chen. “[However], word on the street is that Rocklands will be accessible this season.” As for what will be open in the upcoming season, that has yet to be decided. CapeNature and Clanwilliam Tourism will be meeting in the coming weeks to decide what areas need to be closed due to “extreme ecological sensitivity,” and what areas are safe to leave open. The fires that have claimed thousands of hectares in the wine country between Paarl and Franschhoek and have yet to be declared safe. People have evacuated their homes, but there have luckily been no deaths associated with any other fires in the area.
Whatever happens, hopefully we can all agree, climber or not, that the health of the environment and safety of the people living in the area comes first. As for climbing access, only time will tell.
For more pictures and up to date information, visit climbing.co.za.