Four hiking routes – and several hundred climbing routes – lead up the iconic and formidable front face of Table Mountain. Two more hiking routes lead about two-thirds up the mountain before linking up with one of the other four. Only two of these six hiking routes remain on the face of the mountain throughout, not sneaking round to the less-steep back of the mountain or making use of a ravine to break through the sheer uppermost cliffs: Silverstream Ravine and Left Face ‘B’. The former follows a ravine for much of the way, but takes to near-vertical faces near the top of the mountain, involving tricky scrambling and exposure to heights. The latter takes an ingenious line, threading through a series of cliffs to gain the summit smack in the middle of the ‘Table’, involving moderate scrambling and one bit of severe, non-technical exposure to heights.
If you’re a purist bent on a full-frontal ascent of Table Mountain, then consider Silverstream Ravine or the less-challenging (but by no means easy) Left Face ‘B’. All the other 38-odd Table Mountain hiking routes lead up the sides or back of the mountain, providing different terrain, views and mood. The front, or north face, of the mountain offers city and harbour views on the ascent. A route like India Venster wraps around to the back of the mountain along the top quarter, offering different views. Platteklip Gorge – the quickest, easiest and oldest route to the summit – also leads up the front face, following a deep ravine all the way, with little variation and technical challenge.
Table Mountain hikes up the front face offer much in the way of dramatic topography. Bristling with overhangs and stacked with sheer cliffs, you often wonder how you will ever get to the top without resorting to rope and climbing gear. The first climbing routes were also opened on this side of the mountain: despite its forbidding appearance, it threw out a strong challenge to purist cragsmen of the time who subscribed to the ethos of the time of ascending a mountain direct and from the front.
Regardless the side you choose, hiking Table Mountain provides unique views, insights and experiences that will remain with you for a very long time. Diversity in terrain, routes, views and flora ensure that all preferences and interests are met, and allows for multiple ascents without the least bit of repetition.