Weighing in as one of the most challenging Table Mountain hikes, Hiddingh-Ascension via Ferny Dell leads up the formidable and lush eastern face of Table Mountain. It involves intricate route finding, rugged terrain, lots of elevation gain (compared to other routes), scrambling and exposure to heights. You emerge on the summit feeling like India Jones – and ready for a cable car descent. At times, it feels more like you’re climbing Table Mountain, as opposed to hiking. Some bits involve tricky and exposed scrambling, necessitating the use of a rope. Ferny Dell is a more challenging and exciting, and more scenic, variation to the middle third of the Hiddingh-Ascension standard route. It leads up a steep, jungle-choked gully lined with ferns, draped with vinesk – a most enchanting place reminiscent of primeval earth. The brilliant greenness, featuring every shade of green; the stillness and solitude; the wild surroundings; the grotesque trees, moss-covered boulders – all contribute to a feeling of being in the dinosaurian era.
Table Mountain hiking offers more adventure and wilderness than its proximity to a city might suggest. If Ferny Dell doesn’t quench your thirst for adventure, then spice might be added to the day’s activities through the addition of Carrel’s Ledge, a sensational traverse at the top of the route and just below the tabletop summit of Table Mountain. You need a solid head for heights, as it at narrows to a two-feet-wide ledge at one point over a considerable drop. The traverse is not technical, but intimidating, and very exhilarating.