Photo of the week – September week #4: Kloof Buttress Arete

Table Mountain hiking

Top pitch of Kloof Buttress Arete (C)

Pottering around in misty conditions on an unfrequented route on Table Mountain the other day, I was again forcibly reminded of how deceptive a route’s grade can be. Kloof Buttress Arete goes at a ‘mere’ C grade, which constitutes a steep hike from a climber’s perspective and a robust scramble from a hiker’s (scrambling being the grey area between walking and climbing). I don’t usually pack a rope when climbing C-grade, but I hadn’t done this route in its entirety and knew that friable rock over considerable exposure was going to complicate matters, so the rope (and a few pieces of gear) went into the bag.

Unable to find the meaty middle section, we slope-slogged around that rock belt to the top section: a near-vertical gully that loomed up through the mist. The decision was made to treat it like a proper climbing pitch and good that we did. The combination of suspect and damp rock together with a cold and blustery wind made it feel a few notches harder than C-grade. The rope and gear proved invaluable, and though most climbers wouldn’t deign to use a rope on a C-grade, we all felt grateful for it under the circumstances.

Kloof Buttress Arete’s middle section continues to elude me. The route gets its name from the buttress it climbs: Kloof Buttress, a triangular mass whose right-hand edge (or arete) provides the line. Opened back in 1907, it is rarely done nowadays – and that might be an understatement. The route’s name is unusual in that it describes three physical features:  a kloof (Afrikaans for ‘valley’), buttress and arete (a narrow, sharp-crested ridge).

With over 900 routes, Table Mountain offers the hiker and climber several lifetimes of entertainment. Each route has its own character, no less than is the case with people. You could climb two routes next to each other and have a completely different experience, which is why I have yet to tire of hiking and climbing on Table Mountain. And lest we forget, wind and mist can add considerable spice to a route…

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