If there is one landmark that characterises Cape Town it is Table Mountain. Often underestimated as a pure tourist attraction, the flat-topped mountain is a piece of true wilderness in one of Africa’s major tourism hubs. Find out how to ascend the top of Cape Town at your own pace.
Table Mountain tops the to-do list of most Cape Town travellers. Unfortunately the ascent of the 1086m plateau doesn’t come cheap and ill-prepared tourists have to be rescued too often. But with some reasonable preparation and average levels of fitness the views from the plateau will be one of the highlights of your stay in Cape Town. Here’s where to start.
From Cape Town: Platteklip and Cable Car
If you want to get to the top quickly, you will want to start your journey from town. From Tafelberg Road you can either take the Cable Car or take a steep 2hrs hike up Plattteklip Gorge. Platteklip is the most accessible and direct route to the top. While it is not the most interesting path, the views offer ample reward for your efforts. Prepare to be baked on sunny days or chilled to the bone when the Tablecloth (the thick cloud that characteristically covers the mountain in south-easterly winds) blows over.
Taking on a 1086m mountain is a real challenge and there is no shame in opting out of it. The Cable Car offers the same stunning views at R180 for a return journey (book online here). Make sure to catch the Summer Sunset Special available from November to the end of February.
From Kirstenbosh: Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine
The routes from Kirstenbosch combine the ascent of Cape Town’s premier landmark, with one of the world’s most beautiful and diverse botanical gardens. A fee of R35 is payable at the park entrance, but if you make it to the gates before 7.30am you can slip in free of charge.
Once in the garden you have two signposted options: Nursery Ravine and Skeleton Gorge. While Nursery Ravine offers scenic views framed by towering cliffs, Skeleton Gorge follows a mountain stream through thick forest. Both routes take about 2hrs to the top. Note that these routes do not take you to the plateau. It will take you another 1.5hrs to get to Maclear’s Beacon or the Cable Station, but there is really not obligation to do so. Both Kirstenbosch routes are perfectly rewarding in themselves.
From Camps Bay: Kasteelspoort and Diagonal Traverse
The Camps Bay side of Table Mountain offers magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean. The hikes on this side all start from the Pipe Track. You can get to it from either the parking lot at Kloof Nek or via Camps Bay Drive and up Fiskaal Road. The Pipe Track in itself is an easy walk with great views. Those who wish to ascent the mountain can turn off onto either Kasteelsport or the Diagonal Traverse. Both routes are quite exposed and conditions can change quickly. Be prepared for intense sunshine as well as sudden cloud cover.
10 Essential Safety Measures
As you start the ascent of Table Mountain you leave civilisation and its amenities behind. Climbing Table Mountain is safe, if you are well prepared that is. Too many people fail to comply with basic safety measures and find themselves in situations they cannot handle. So please be smart and consider the following simple rules:
- Never leave the path – you will put yourself at risk and damage the environment
- Don’t hike alone – it’s best to go with experienced hiker or a professional guide
- Be prepared for all kinds of weather – the weather in Cape Town is notoriously unpredictable
- Take enough water – you need it and you can’t buy it on the mountain
- Wear sturdy shoes (comfortable trainers are ok, hiking boots are better)
- Take sun screen and a sun hat – Cape Town’s sun is INTENSE
- Take a warm top and rain proof – directly related to the moody weather
- If you get stuck call for help and stay put – moving targets are harder to locate
- Mountain Rescue – if you really can’t get out of a situation call 10177
- Don’t over challenge yourself – there is no obligation to make it to the top. Be reasonable.