Hiking Table Mountain along its backwater routes – 4 December 2013

Table Mountain is much more than just its famous and iconic tabletop summit. In fact, about 90% of Table Mountain lies behind the ‘Table’ – and so does 90% of the hiking. Getting to the summit plateau (i.e. the tabletop) is a non-negotiable for most first-time hikers on Table Mountain, and rightly so: it’s the highest and the famous part of the mountain, and the cable car is at hand for an effortless descent. Few hiking routes start out at the base and tops out on the ‘Table’, and most of them involves scrambling and exposure to heights – not everyone’s cup of tea. The majority of Table Mountain hiking routes sneak up the less-precipitous back and sides of the mountain, up the 12 Apostles on the west and the dwindling chain of buttresses extending south of the main Eastern Buttresses on the east. Of course, the tabletop can be gained via all these routes, but the further back (south) you start, the longer the walk to get to the summit plateau. And it’s the southern portion of the mountain that offers some of the best views along with the most pristine nature and unique topography. Table Mountain hikes like Myburgh’s Waterfall Ravine, Llandudno Ravine, Constantia Corner via Turret Gully, Nursery Buttress, Oudekraal Ravine and Disa Gorge are all off the beaten track and each showcases unique facets of the mountain not seen on routes leading up the ‘Table’ or on the more frequented routes coming up the sides like Kasteelspoort and Skeleton Gorge. Outcrops and peaks on this part of the mountain command the best views of the ‘Table’ as well as the entire Table Mountain massif. Several of my favorite viewpoints, localities and rock-formations are all located in the vicinity. Perhaps as a complementary hike to an ascent of the ‘Table’, hiking Table Mountain up one of the above routes will go far to fill out your perception and enhance your experience of ‘The Old Grey Father’, as Table Mountain was sometimes referred to in bygone days.

(c) www.hiketablemountain.co.za