Photo of the week – November week #4: Hiking Table Mountain from the east

Hiking Table Mountain from the east – the side of the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – differs greatly from hiking up from the north and west: different views, mood and vegetation. A unique feature is the indigenous Afro-montane forests carpeting the lower slopes and extending up the ravines. Not to be mistaken with boreal forests, these look more like tropical jungle, reminiscent of the Amazon jungle. Several routes lead up this side of the mountain, the most popular being the evergreen Skeleton Gorge. All the routes on this side lead through indigenous forest, or jungle, for the first hour or so, eventually clearing the tree line and continuing across open slope clad in indigenous shrub. Views from above the forest are inland, across False Bay and to the Country mountains around the Winelands.

With more or less 9 routes leading up the 12 Apostles (offering sea views on the ascent) and 4 routes leading up the iconic and imposing front of Table Mountain, why opt for a route up the lush eastern side? If you enjoy and appreciate jungles / forest settings, then hiking Table Mountain from the east is a good idea. It allows the hiker to experience all the floral zones on the mountain. The forested sections of the route offer shelter from the raging Southeaster wind and the scorching summer sun, so weather might also dictate your choice.

Routes leading up the eastern side start low down on the mountain, so lots of elevation gain. From south to north, the routes are as follow: Cecilia Ridge, Nursery Ravine, Nursery Buttress, Skeleton Gorge, Hiddingh-Ascension and, using the Ledges route for the top half, Els Ravine, Newlands Ravine and Dark Gorge.

Table Mountain hikes exist for every taste, sensibility and preference – if you know the routes.