A Google search for anything related to Table Mountain hiking invariably throws up results containing ’12 Apostles’. So, what exactly are the 12 Apostles and how do they fit into the Table Mountain hiking picture?
The 12 Apostles is a chain of seaboard peaks extending behind the famous tabletop summit considered part of Table Mountain. Each peak or buttress in the range represents an apostle, which in reality total 17 apostles.
The first thing you should know about how the Apostles tie in to hiking Table Mountain is that they offer many route options to the famous tabletop summit. In fact, my favorite Table Mountain hiking routes lead up the Apostles.
Seen from above, Table Mountain resembles a molar tooth in shape. The crown represents the famous ‘Table’ and the left-hand root the 12 Apostles. Each side of the mountain offers different views, vegetation, topography and even mood. The Apostles’ distinguishing features are that they offer sea views, and lots of peace and quiet (pristine nature; solitude). This in stark contrast with the east side, which offers jungle setting on the first half and inland / suburban views on the second, and the north side, where you get city and harbor views.
The other unique attribute of the Apostles is diversity, both route difficulty and terrain. There is no shortage of choice, and routes can be fine-tuned to even the most fastidious hiker’s preferences. Of the 10-odd routes on offer, the easiest (and therefore also most popular) is Kasteelspoort, whose claim to fame is the Diving Board viewpoint. The route involves minimal scrambling and exposure to heights.
For more experienced hikers looking for challenge and adventure, there are routes like Blind Gully, Woody Buttress and Spring Buttress – all fantastic routes off the beaten track and involving scrambling and exposure to heights to varying degrees.
Once on the Apostle plateau (part of the Back Table, about two-thirds the height of Table Mountain proper), there are several points of interest like the historic reservoirs, caves and rock labyrinths. Moreover, there are 3 route variations up to the summit plateau, offering different views and features along the way.
All Apostle route are strenuous, so you need at least a moderate fitness level in order to enjoy them. If you are in decent shape, and you love nature and prefer sea views over city views or a jungle setting, then hiking Table Mountain via the 12 Apostles will most certainly delight. It’s worth noting that you get city views from the summit of Table Mountain, so hiking up via the Apostles doesn’t mean you miss out on an aerial view of Cape Town, only that you don’t have it on the ascent.
Such is the variety offered by the Apostles, that all levels of experience can be catered for. And if you are averse to meeting lots of other hikers along the way, and you appreciate undisturbed communion with nature, then the 12 Apostles is the way to go.
The diversity offered by Table Mountain hikes is arguably its dominant attribute as an outdoor experience, and nowhere on the mountain is this truer than the 12 Apostles.