India Venster is arguably the best half-day hike to the tabletop summit of Table Mountain – if you have at least a fairly good head for heights. About 15% of the route involves scrambling (elementary climbing) and exposure to heights (vertical drops), nothing extreme, but not to be discounted either. If you’re not great with heights, then you need to be up for a challenge and prepared to step outside your comfort zone. If you’re terrified of heights, then you shouldn’t bother unless you’re a masochist, and I’ve seen a few of those over the years.
So what makes India Venster one of the best Table Mountain hiking routes? It leads up an imposing and exciting part of the mountain. It takes in three sides of the mountain, offering a range of views. It offers engaging and stimulating hiking spiced with adventure. It’s less strenuous than most Table Mountain hikes. It doesn’t involve much logistics: you start and finish at the lower cable station, a 7-minute drive from the city center. It offers breath-taking views and dramatic topography. It tops out on the famous tabletop summit of Table Mountain. It doesn’t get crowded.
Exactly how scary is the heights and scrambling? It varies from person to person. The average person finds it somewhat challenging, a bit scary, very exciting and greatly adding to the attraction of the route. It makes a big difference if you are up for a challenge or if you have a sense of adventure. I’ve taken 5-year-old girls up there and they loved it. I’ve had a 79-year-old couple once, and they ranked it as one of the best hikes they have ever done. Then again, I’ve had musclebound guys in their twenties trembling in their shoes. What also makes a massive difference is the presence of a competent guide. Someone with a mild fear of heights would take lots of strain doing it without a guide, and will look back on the experience as borderline terrifying, while he or she would’ve enjoyed the experience in the company of a competent guide.
Scrambling is a great way to, literally, get a hands-on experience of the mountain. It makes you feel like you’re really climbing the mountain, and gives you a great sense of achievement once you reach the summit. It also does a great job of breaking the monotony of mere slope-slogging. Hiking Table Mountain involves lots of uphill, needless to say, and scrambling allows you to gain elevation in a fun way. India Venster offers a great combination of hiking, scrambling and traversing, doing justice to the ruggedness and varied terrain of Table Mountain.
Table Mountain hikes offer varying levels of challenge, both mentally and physically. India Venster ticks a lot of boxes of what makes a great hiking route. If you’re not sure of your ability to deal with heights or steep terrain, best to tackle this route with a competent guide.