Hiking Table Mountain via the Grotto-Fountain-Cairn Traverse – 10 June 2020

If there is one Table Mountain hiking route that demonstrates the mountain’s wildness, it is the Grotto-Fountain-Cairn Traverse. Despite the proximity of the city and the nearby presence of a cableway, the GFC Traverse leads through a veritable wilderness with jaw-dropping grandeur and pristine nature. Yet, despite its attractions, you rarely encounter hikers along the way, and not once a signpost or man-made step. The reason: exposure to heights – to start with. Add rugged terrain, tricky scrambling and complex route-finding, and you have a route fit for an explorer. In fact, I would rate it as one of the top 3 most challenging Table Mountain hiking routes.

As the name suggests, the route involves a traverse as its main feature, connecting three ravines: Grotto, Fountain and Cairn. The traverse can only be described as sensational. It picks an unlikely line across sheer cliffs, following a narrow ledge that at times takes you to the edge of space. The ledge varies in width: for the most part, it is wide enough to walk comfortably, but along certain sections it narrows to only about two feet, reminding you why the route gets so little traffic. With a sheer drop on one side and beetling cliffs rising on the other, you inch your way across majestic mountain terrain.

Table Mountain hiking at its wildest. Along one of the spicy sections of the GFC Traverse.

The GFC Traverse is arguably the wildest and most exhilarating hiking route up Table Mountain. However, the route is not for everyone. You need a head for heights, a good fitness level, ideally some off-trail hiking experience and a solid sense of adventure. And you need a guide – not just any guide, but one that is competent and experienced in leading people across difficult and exposed terrain. This is crucial: going with someone who merely knows the route (and there are few who do) is not enough. The route is inherently dangerous and requires a high level of mountain-guiding competence.

Hike Table Mountain offers guided hikes up the GFC Traverse. Hikers are screened in advance as well as along the first hour or so of the route. We’ve been taking people up the GFC Traverse for the past decade, without a single incident, and know the route intimately, with a proficiency in managing people in this kind of environment.

If you are adventurous, love nature, have a good level of fitness and head for heights and keen to experience the wild, untamed side of Table Mountain, then the GFC Traverse will delight.

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