Photo of the week – June week #4: Cairn Ravine

At the head of Cairn Ravine, Table Mountain

At the head of Cairn Ravine

You can hike up every single ravine on Table Mountain – and there are many – only to find Cairn Ravine completely different in almost every way. Not exactly the most frequented ravine, Cairn Ravine cuts up the west side of the famous and iconic tabletop summit of Table Mountain, not quite making it to the top of the mountain, but providing varied hiking and fun scrambling in a dramatic setting. Table Mountain hikes all have a character of their own, and Cairn Ravine does not lag behind in any department. It’s a challenging route, involving moderately exposed scrambling and, from the head of the ravine to the summit, some tricky route-finding.

Best done in dry conditions, the route strikes up the slopes above the Pipe Track just beyond Kloof Buttress. You reach the first rock band a short distance to the left of the ravine bed. Traversing to the right leads past intriguing built-up caves. A short distance on brings you to the direct start of the route: a tricky scramble. An easier variation lies to the left of the built-up cave: breaking through the first rock band, you head right into the ravine bed from where you stay in the ravine for much of the way. True to Table Mountain hiking off-the-beaten track, route-finding is tricky at times. Exiting the ravine to the right at its head, you latch onto the tail end of the Grotto-Fountain-Cairn Traverse, which takes you to Fountain Ledge from where the summit is easily gained.

Cairn Ravine epitomizes much of what Table Mountain hiking is all about: pristine mountain environment, varied hiking, a dramatic setting and superb views. You won’t encounter other hikers on this route, so if you’re looking for an experience of nature, then this route will delight you. But be careful: Cairn Ravine is not for the inexperienced. Several sections ideally require the use of a rope; and the terrain is unforgiving for losing your way. Cape Town hiking offers everything a nature-lover and adventurer could ask for and more. But you should not underestimate Table Mountain hikes just because they are close to a city.

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