UNLESS YOU HAVE reduced mobility or some other forgivable excuse, you need to ditch the cable car and hike your ass up Table Mountain. It’s worth every step. There are dozens of routes up, each of which offers something unique. Here are our five favorite ways to summit.
1. India Venster
This route travels directly beneath the cable car for much of the hike. It allows you to wave smugly at the passengers above you. But there’s more to this walk than showing off your hiking skills. It heads almost directly up the front face of Table Mountain. You’ll stop at regular intervals and wonder how you got to where you are, and how you’ll get to the top. It requires some scrambling and a bit of climbing on staples embedded into the rocks. Though not significantly difficult, the route has had its share of accidents and fatalities due to hikers being underprepared or wandering off trail. But with a reasonable level of fitness, a clear idea of the route, and adequate preparation, there’s no reason why cautious and moderately experienced hikers shouldn’t tackle this rewarding route.
2. Platteklip Gorge
Platteklip Gorge gets a bad rap from seasoned Table Mountain hikers. Though not unattractive, it offers less scenic views than those that ascend in the open. Most of the criticism comes from the heavy traffic that this hike sees. It’s the safest and most popular route to the top, which means in summer months it’s common to get caught up in hiking traffic jams. But head out at sunrise, and you’ll have the serene gorge all to yourself. Fitter hikers can also get to the top in under an hour, leaving you plenty of time to explore the summit.
3. Kloof Corner
Kloof Corner is a popular route up Table Mountain, but it’s also one of the most hair-raising for first-time hikers. If you can keep your nerve, though, it’s one of the most dramatic and exhilarating ways to reach the summit. You’ll get panoramic views of the 12 Apostles, Lion’s Head, the Atlantic Seaboard, and the Cape Town City Bowl as you ascend seemingly impossible rock faces with the aid of permanent chains and staples.
Summiting Table Mountain via Kasteelspoort takes a lot longer than other approaches, given that you arrive at the back end of Table Mountain. But it’s a safe, easy, and scenically beautiful hike that takes in multiple vantage points before walking you through an under explored stretch of the mountain. Once at the top, you’ll see the famous Table Mountain reservoirs and mountain huts and then continue through vast isolated valleys until eventually, you spot the civilization of the upper cable station.
5. Mowbray Ridge
Though not technically to the top of Table Mountain, but rather to the summit of the jagged Devil’s Peak, this walk is one of the most enjoyable on the mountain. As an added bonus, you get views of the famous mountain and Lion’s Head as you approach the summit. The hike offers a unique vantage over the Cape Flats and the Southern Suburbs dishes up some historical sights at Rhodes Memorial and the so-called Blockhouses – old fortifications high up the slopes of the mountain.
Caution note: Hiking up Table Mountain requires a fair amount of physical fitness and you shouldn’t attempt it without a warm jacket, enough water, some snacks, a good map or, preferably, someone with local knowledge. However, the views that await you en-route, and at the top, along with the sense of achievement, are well worth any pain and suffering you might feel on the way up. And if you’re feeling a little dizzy once you get there, you can always hop in the cable car for a quick ride back down to round off a perfect day in Cape Town.
All photos are the author’s.