Table Mountain Hike

Table Mountain looms large over the Western Cape. It’s the No. 1 attraction in every guidebook and for reasons unknown I had yet to take the cable car or one of the trails to the summit. James, one of the guys in my small group, asked me if I wanted to hike Platteklip Gorge to the summit before church Sunday and I quickly agreed. Platteklip Gorge is the easiest hike to the top of the mountain, often being referred to as the ‘N1’ highway to the top after Cape Town’s largest motorway. It’s the only route that most guidebooks recommend doing without a guide. This was going to be our route to the top.

James and his friend, Nathan, pulled up on my flat mid-morning Sunday and we headed off to Tafelburg Road that leads up the mountain to the lower cable car station. We continued past the cable car station and parked at the entrance to Platteklip Gorge from where you could see a stream of people climbing into the gorge. It’s not a terribly challenging hike but it does manage to sap a bit of energy as it covers roughly 2300 ft of vertical. There’s a interesting spectrum of people attempting the summit that include runners spiriting up and elderly hikers plodding along at a snails pace. We were joined by a dachshund for most of our hike … her owner having to pick her up over some of the steeper rocks.

The summit is stunning. You can peer down onto the City Bowl, Hout Bay, and the entire Southern Peninsula. We spent a couple hours wandering the top including a hike to Maclear’s Beacon, the highest point on Table Mt. When it came time to descend, we decided to to try the challenging India Venster route. The route is marked by several warning signs and for good reason. Most of the annual deaths that occur on Table Mountain are on this route. It starts off on the opposing side of Platteklip, swinging towards Camps Bay. The path meanders along a cliff as it traverses around to the back side of the mountain. Once your on the Camps Bay side, you have to descend down a 3-5 meter rock face. For anybody who has seen me on a high ropes course, this is a daunting task. I made my way out onto the ledge and immediately my legs got wobbly and my heart was bouncing inside my chest. Somehow I managed to navigate down the rock face and we continued on India Venster. From there the only other significant obstacle was a section known as the ‘chains and staples. The section involves a series of rock faces that must be navigated using chains and hooks (staples) anchored into the rock. Once that was cleared, we proceeded to the base of the cable car station just in time to get to church.

 

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