An aerial view of Table Montain reveals it to resemble a molar tooth in shape, the famous flat-topped summit making up the crown, the 12 Apostles the left-hand root and the Suburban or Eastern buttresses (for lack of a better name) the right-hand root. Different sides offer different views, different topography and different moods.
Skeleton Gorge is the most popular route up the eastern or right-hand root. Indignous forest (resembling tropical jungle) covers the lower eastern slopes of Table Mountain, extending up ravines. Table Mountain hikes on this side of the mountain offers jungle setting at first with inland views further up, and includes the following routes: Vaalkat Ravine, Nursery Ravine, Nursery Buttress, Skeleton Gorge, Hiddingh-Ascension and Els Ravine. Lush, primordial, Tolkienesque and streaked with cascades and waterfalls in winter, Table Mountain’s eastern slopes seem to exist in defiance of the sprawling city. If you appreciate the mystery and verdure of jungles, then consider hiking Table Mountain up one of the above routes; but if you find jungles monotonous, uninspiring and claustrophobic, then head for the north or west side.
Routes leading up the ‘crown’ or famous tabletop summit overlook the inner city. This side of the mountain, the north side or front face, offers the following routes: Silverstream Ravine, Left Face ‘B’, Platteklip Gorge (the quickest, easiest and most popular route up the mountain, but not the nicest), India Venster and Kloof Corner. Hiking Table Mountain up its famous front face is an exhilirating experience, as it gives you the sense of tackling the mountain head-on, up the iconic facade that contributes much to the mountain’s fame and uniqueness. Nowhere on the mountain does nature contrasts so starkly with civilization than on the sun-baked north face: the city is at your feet, the hum of traffic drifts up from below, you can hear dogs bark and sirens wail, yet midway up the mountain you’re hemmed in by sheer cliffs bristling with overhangs, and the mountain seems to exude an unexpected wildness. You seem cut off from the bustle below and immersed in pristine nature in plain view of the unsuspecting millions below.
Then there’s the western root, the 12 Apostles, a chain of seaboard peaks extending behind the famous tabletop summit of Table Mountain, and considered part of Table Mountain. This dissected bastion of the mountain offers some of the best Table Mountain hiking routes – too numerous to list. Blind Gully, Porcupine Ravine, Kasteelspoort, Woody Ravine, Oudekraal Ravine, Spring Buttress, to name a few. Apostle routes overlooks the Atlantic Ocean with little interference from the city. If you love nature and getting off-the-beaten track, if you appreciate solitude and wilderness, then head for this side of the mountain. Hiking Table Mountain up a route like Porcupine Ravine gives you a true impression of what the mountain is all about. It’s vintage Table Mountain hiking. It’s Table Mountain unplugged. The real thing. A route of this sort requires a good fitness level and a sense of adventure or a deep appreciation of nature in all its rugged splendour.
Whichever side you hike the mountain, Table Mountain is sure to delight. Each side of the mountain, just like each route, possesses a unique character, so there’s no shortage of diversity, and you won’t run out of choice anytime soon. The caprices of the weather aside, hiking Table Mountain via different routes can be likened to experiencing the different moods and quirks, traits and facets of an old friend.