The buttress just to the left of the popular Skeleton Gorge route is called Nursery Buttress (after the adjacent Nursery Ravine, named after the erstwhile tree nursery at its head dating back to 1892) and it offers a fine way to the top of the southern segment of Table Mountain’s Eastern Buttresses. Viewed from the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Nursery Buttress can be recognized by the three rock lobes, or turrets that grace its top, reminiscent of the battlements of a castle, appropriately named Castle Rocks.
Nursery Buttress is a fun route off-the-beaten track involving sections of intermediate scrambling. A rope is advisable for inexperienced scramblers. Much of the way leads along a faint trail, so best to go with someone who knows the route or with a Table Mountain guide. As a cherry on the cake, or the castle, the summit of Nursery Buttress features weird rock-formations that’s worth exploring. A short walk brings you to the main path from where you can access Nursery Ravine or Skeleton Gorge for an easy descent, or walk across the mountain past the reservoirs to the 12 Apostles, or follow the Smuts Track to Maclear’s Beacon on the summit plateau.
For those looking for an adventure route on the eastern / forested side of Table Mountain, perhaps as an afternoon outing when the route gets shade, Nursery Buttress is a no-brainer. The route offers grand views onto the indigenous Afro-Montane forests of Table Mountain and the imposing Fernwood Buttress, arguably the largest buttress on Table Mountain.
Nursery Buttress is yet another example why hiking Table Mountain is far more than just a slope-slog. With thousands of Table Mountain hikes and climbs under my belt, I did Nursery Buttress the other day and thoroughly enjoyed it. We didn’t see or hear a soul along the entire route and were delighted with the ‘rock garden’ on the summit.