Photo of the month – 10 June 2015: Hiking Table Mountain off-the-beaten track

Hiking Table Mountain via Grotto Ravine.

Midway up Grotto Ravine.

There are about 38 Table Mountain hiking routes that takes you from the base of the mountain to the summit, with many more variations. About 80% of people who hike up Table Mountain do so via Platteklip Gorge, the quickest and easiest route to the summit, but also the least scenic and exciting. Of the remaining 20%, about 15% hike up via either Skeleton Gorge, Constantia Corner and Kasteelspoort. That leaves about 34 routes that get only 5% of the overall traffic on the mountain. Some of these routes barely qualify as official hiking routes, because they haven’t been done in years, even decades. They’re overgrown and forgotten, existing only in the yellowed pages of old Mountain Club journals dating back to the early 1900s. A few have been included on modern-day guidebooks, but still languish in obscurity despite recent publication. Hike Table Mountain is the only guiding company that offers guided hikes up every single one of these routes.

Many people make the mistake of thinking of Table Mountain as tame due to its location next to a city. But the reality is, the mountain still offers a lot of wilderness for those adventurous enough to take the road less travelled. Hiking Table Mountain along the byways and backwater trails provides a unique wilderness experience. These Table Mountain hikes can be described as ‘Table Mountain unplugged’, as they showcase the essence and raw character of the mountain. You rarely encounter other hikers on these routes; on some, you rarely even encounter a half-decent trail. But despite the challenge they present (mostly in the form of rugged terrain – bush and loose rock along with scrambling), they offer a richly rewarding experience that will forever change the way you look at the mountain.

If you know the routes, then Table Mountain hiking can be adjusted to suit your preferences, fitness level and sense of adventure to a surprising degree, ranging from leisurely strolls along manicured and well-defined paths to scrambling up near-vertical faces and across broken terrain in close proximity to sheer drops. The above photo of hikers on a route called Grotto Ravine shows what rugged terrain sometimes involves. The views and locations these kind of routes get you into are dramatic and unique. But while most of the ‘main’ routes up the mountain also provide great views, the real incentive for tackling an off-the-beaten-track route is the sense of wildness and solitude you get from it combined with the adventure from negotiating the challenging terrain. For those with an adventurous spirit, love for nature and inquisitive mind, hiking Table Mountain via one of its wilder routes will be an experience long remembered.