Table Mountain hikes off-the-beaten track: Grootkop – 16 May 2017

Few locals bother with Grootkop, let alone overseas visitors. Yet, it is one of the most interesting peaks that make up the 12 Apostles (the chain of peaks extending behind the famous tabletop summit of Table Mountain) and offers some of the best views on the mountain. For most, hiking Table Mountain is incomplete without gaining the ‘Table’, or upper plateau, but there is much more to the mountain than just its flat-topped summit.

Grootkop is an odd combination of two Afrikaans words: ‘groot’ meaning ‘big’ and ‘kop’ meaning ‘small hill’, so in effect the name means Big Small Hill. The G in Grootkop is guttural, pronounced as the sound you make when clearing a piece of popcorn from your throat – not as charming as the peak itself. Awkward for non-Afrikaners to get right, an American hiker-friend of mine pronounces it ‘hurt corp’, and with such conviction as to render the right pronounciation downright weird.

Grootkop is one of the largest Apostles – of which there are 17, not 12: named by a religious zealot back in 1820 who wanted to be Biblically correct – and also the remotest. It requires a solid hike to get to there, and another 30 minutes of uphill to get to the summit, but the views and solitude amply compensates for the effort. Few Table Mountain hikes offer the range and angle of views you get from Hurt Corp: I’ve been there many times and each time I find myself in raptures over the views.

Grootkop is honeycombed with caves, so lots of fun for those intrepid and inquisitive souls who like to poke their noses in obscure nooks and crannies. Be sure to check out a certain cave on the southeast corner marked by a yellowwood tree at its entrance: looking out from just inside the entrance, the sidewalls resemble two huge stone faces that seem to grimace and gape respectively, and therefore earned the name of Grimace & Gape. Just outside the cave is a delightful patch of soft, luxuriant vegetation where comfortable repose awaits the weary hiker: named Katie’s Nest, it makes for a perfect lunch spot on a hot summer’s day, as it seldom gets sun. A sensational traverse leads along its western flanks, offering even more views as well as adventure. The peak is rugged and in places dissected, featuring striking rock-formations.

Once known as Saint Peter (one of about 6 peaks who actually bore the names of Apostles), Grootkop abounds with hidden gems. Too many hikers get preoccupied with the famous flat-top, missing out on the delights found elsewhere on the mountain. Certainly, if you appreciate nature and a seeker of solitude, then take the long and winding trail to Grootkop. In my opinion, Table Mountain hiking doesn’t get any better than a full-day outing to the summit of Grootkop, lunch and coffee at Katie’s Nest, and finishing off with the Atlantic Traverse along its western flanks before descending back to civilization via either Oudekraal Ravine or Llandudno Ravine, both scenic enough to warrant a separate trip.

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