Photo of the week – July week #4: Els Ravine

One of several waterfalls to be negotiated.

One of several waterfalls to be negotiated in Els Ravine

If you love jungles and solitude as well as adventure, then hiking Table Mountain via Els Ravine will delight you. Few people ever ascend this route, so you have the pristine nature to yourself. Three routes lead up to the Saddle (the neck linking Table Mountain with Devil’s Peak) from the Newlands side of Table Mountain, all of them following ravines. Els Ravine is the southernmost of the three and also the longest as well as the most challenging. It involves several C-grade waterfalls that should only be attempted in dry conditions (late summer). The route tops out on the Knife Edge, a well-defined ridge running up from the southeast corner of the Saddle the first rock band on Table Mountain at the start of Ledges, another C-grade route that can be used to gain to summit of Table Mountain. This route combination provides consistent C-grade scrambling in diverse surroundings. Both these Table Mountain hikes are challenging and the route-finding tricky, so not for the inexperienced. Best to make use of a competent Table Mountain guide.

Two sizeable rock overhangs (commonly called ‘caves’ in the context of Table Mountain hiking) can be found in Els Ravine, both requiring a short traverse out left along a ledge. The upper porti0n of the route ascends a steep, bushy slope, offering superb views back down the ravine and out over the Cape Flats. On reaching the Knife Edge, you are rewarded with views to the north across the city center and Table Bay. From here, you ascend the open face via the Ledges route to eventually top out at Firtree Ravine on the eastern edge of the famous tabletop summit of Table Mountain.

Although Els Ravine does not lead you to the summit of Table Mountain, it gains about two-thirds its heights and provides challenging hiking in a pristine jungle setting. If you’ve ticked off the usual Table Mountain hikes up the Eastern Buttresses, perhaps it’s time to test yourself on Els Ravine.

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