Kasteelspoort is a hiking route up Table Mountain, of late popularized by a dramatic and photogenic viewpoint known as the Diving Board. Here’s what you need to know about this classic Table Mountain route.
Kasteelspoort means Castle’s Portal in Afrikaans (originally Dutch). The route leads up the Twelve Apostles, a chain of seaboard peaks extending behind the famous tabular summit of Table Mountain. Once known as the Kasteelberge (Castle Mountains) and also Geuvelberge (Gable Mountains) due to their castellated and crenulated appearance from below, the Twelve Apostles range is considered part of Table Mountain. The route’s name comes from the fact that it leads up the easiest ravine on the Apostles (the portal to the ‘castle’), combined with the route’s location next to a peak / buttress formerly known as Kasteel’s Berg (now known as Postern Buttress).
Strictly speaking, Kasteelspoort terminates on the summit of the Apostles, a long way from the famous flat-topped summit of Table Mountain, where the upper cable station is located. Most non-local hikers want to reach the summit of Table Mountain and prefer a cable car descent (as opposed to hiking down). Given these preferences, we extend the route to the summit of Table Mountain. Further reference to the route in this article includes the extension unless specified otherwise.
Kasteelspoort is technically easy, meaning it involves minimal scrambling and narrow ledges. However, it is strenuous, involving considerable distance (about 6.5 km / 4 miles) and elevation gain (about 900 m / 3000 feet). Factoring in both these components, it’s the easiest route up the Apostles to the summit of Table Mountain. Many other routes lead up the Apostles: some are more technical, some more strenuous, or both.
How does Kasteelspoort compare to other popular Table Mountain hiking routes? Here are the key distinguishing features:
Compared to Platteklip Gorge –
- Offers more nature and views
- About 35% more strenuous (more distance as well as elevation gain)
- Sea views vs city views
- A bit more technical (scrambling and exposure to heights)
- Much less people; more peace and quiet
Compared to Skeleton Gorge –
- Sea views on the first half vs jungle setting on the first half
- Same level of technicality and physicality
- Less people; somewhat more peace and quiet
- Cooler in summer, less slippery in winter
Compared to India Venster –
- About 30% more strenuous
- Involves less scrambling and heights (therefore less adventurous)
- Sea views vs city and sea views
- Less dramatic rock-formations
- Somewhat less people
Who would enjoy Kasteelspoort most? You’re in pretty good shape, averse to busy trails, love nature, dislike heights (narrow ledges) and / or don’t need adventure when hiking. Who should avoid the route? You’re adventurous, not in great shape and don’t care that much about nature.
How do the views compare to other popular routes? This is a tough one. Different views and landscapes appeal to different people. India Venster arguably offers the best views, closely followed by Kasteelspoort and Skeleton Gorge, with Platteklip Gorge lagging quite a bit.
How fit should you be? A moderate fitness level and good stamina are required to enjoy the route. Even so, you need to be prepared to push physically. The elevation gain is around 950 meters / 3100 feet over a distance of about 6.5 kilometers / 4 miles. The terrain consists of rock steps, often uneven, with a few bits of scrambling here and there. If your fitness is below average, you’re going to need more determination and grit to complete the route. The route is not suitable for anyone suffering from impaired balance.
Kasteelspoort offers several attractions along the way: the historic reservoirs, a subterranean stream, a rock labyrinth, caves and of course the Diving Board. The latter is an airy rock projection overlooking Camps Bay and the Atlantic coast. It offers an exhilarating photo opportunity, but shouldn’t dictate route choice.
The extension (top half of the overall route) that leads to the summit of Table Mountain undulates through secluded valleys and past wind-sculpted rocks, with a fascinating diversity of indigenous shrub (called fynbos) throughout. Further up, you get superb views down the length of the Cape Peninsula, as far as Cape Point on a clear day. Overall, the route takes in a big chunk of Table Mountain and showcases unique features of the mountain in the course of its 4 to 4.5 hours’ duration.