Hiking Table Mountain via Skeleton Gorge – 11 February 2014

It’s not the first time that I write about Skeleton Gorge and it certainly won’t be the last. It’s one of the most popular routes up Table Mountain, but not necessarily the best. Then why is it so popular? Because it has some attractive features that make it a good option for the average hiker. Let’s look at what they are:

– Starting point is one of Cape Town’s top attractions, the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

– Takes in all the floral zones on the mountain i.e. indigenous forest, fynbos  (indigenous shrubland) and the summit vegetation (reeds and grasses – also fynbos, but different from lower down).

– Tops out at the highest point on the mountain (20 meters / 70 feet higher than the tabletop summit), from where you traverse the length of the “Table” to the upper cable station.

– By the time you reach the upper cable station, you will have seen views in all directions.

Raring to tackle Skeleton Gorge? Hold your horses – it’s not all positive. Here are the negatives:

– The first half leads through indigenous forest (‘forest’ is deceptive: it’s not a pine / Boreal  kind of forest, but reminiscent of a jungle, like in Amazon jungle), so no views; and not enjoyable if you don’t appreciate jungle settings.

– The route sneaks up the less-steep back of Table Mountain, offering little in the way of dramatic mountainscapes and rock-formations.

– If you’re adventurous, you will find the top half boring.

– It can get busy on weekends outside winter, so not much peace, quiet and solitude.

– It offers inland views on the ascent (along the top half; no views along the first half), so if you were dreaming of sea views while hiking up Table Mountain, then reset your expectations or go for another route.

Table Mountain hiking offers diverse experiences and meets a range of expectations and preferences. There is no ‘best route’ for all and sundry; different strokes for different folks, and nowhere is this more true than hiking Table Mountain. This is one of the reasons why it pays to enlist an experienced Table Mountain guide, to guide you through the various options and pair you with the ideal route based on your experience, fitness and preferences.

Skeleton Gorge is a good route – great for some, so-so for others, boring for a few. Just because one person raves about it doesn’t mean that you’re going to enjoy it. Just because it’s all over the internet doesn’t mean it’s the ultimate route up Table Mountain. At the end of the day, hiking Table Mountain is all good, as it allows you to experience the mountain first-hand. No matter what route you take, it’s far better than the cable car.

(c) www.hiketablemountain.co.za