Photo of the week – June week #3: Hiking up the back of Table Mountain

View east from the base of Orange Buttress

View east from the base of Orange Buttress

The famous and iconic front (north) side of Table Mountain cannot be more different from the unseen back (south) of the mountain. Not unlike the dark side of the moon, it remains unfrequented and experienced only by the more inquisitive hiker eager to venture off-the-beaten track. The sheer and sun-baked front consists of sparse vegetation, the back slopes down at a lesser gradient, with much of it covered in indigenous Afro-montane forest reminiscent of a tropical rainforest. The mood, topography, views and vegetation of the two sides can hardly be imagined to exist on the same mountain. An aerial view of Table Mountain will reveal it to resemble a molar tooth in shape. The space between the two ‘roots’ represents Orange Kloof, a lush and secluded valley whose innermost side forms the actual back side of the Table Mountain massif. As a proclaimed Wilderness Area, you need a permit from Table Mountain National Park to enter; and no more than  12 people per day are allowed entry. Hiking in Orange Kloof adds a significant dimension to Table Mountain hiking: peace and solitude in a pristine, semi-tropical environment stands in stark contrast to what most people experience and see of the mountain. Several Table Mountain hikes lead up this part of the mountain, Disa Gorge being the main route and Frustration Gorge and Intake Ravine secondary routes. Some of Table Mountain’s biggest waterfalls and caves occur in the area, while the old Woodhead Tunnel and reservoir in Disa Gorge adds history to the many charms of the place. The slopes forming the west side of the valley are arguably the remotest part of Table Mountain; a few old, forgotten routes lead up there, but no one bothers with them. I’ve done a few and each rank as one of my all-time favourite outings on Table Mountain, reminding me of the diversity and pristine nature Table Mountain hiking has to offer. (c) www.hiketablemountain.co.za