Quote of the week – February week #2: Table Mountain hiking routes of yesteryear

“… but until comparatively recent times (about 1880), there were only about half-a-dozen routes which were used. These included Platte Klip Gorge, Kasteel’s Poort, Slangolie Gorge, Skeleton Ravine and a route up the suburban side of Table Mountain, near the Saddle.”

– Extract from an article in The Annual of the Mountain Club of South Africa, 1926

Needless to say, a good number of routes have since been added to the above route list. Nowadays, there are perhaps 25 complete hiking routes up Table Mountain (depending on your definition of a route – a contentious issue) and more than 900 climbing routes.

Let’s briefly look at the above routes from a modern perspective:

– Platte Klip Gorge: now written as Platteklip Gorge, the oldest, quickest, easiest and most popular route up the mountain, but also the least scenic and exciting.

– Kasteel’s Poort: now written as Kasteelspoort, the easiest and most popular route up the 12 Apostles, offers pleasant hiking with sea views.

– Slangolie Gorge: now referred to as Slangolie Ravine, loose and quite dangerous after a rock slide in the 1950s rendered parts of the ravine bed unstable, so not a recognized route anymore.

– Skeleton Ravine: now referred to as Skeleton Gorge (who made these distinctions?), a very popular route and regarded as a Table Mountain classic.

– ‘route up the Suburban side, near the Saddle’: a bit of a mystery. The only route thereabouts that can be considered a hiking route, and that might have been used pre-1880 is Ledges, which involves tricky scrambling at a few points along the way. Rarely done nowadays, mostly by the Mountain Club and Table Mountain stalwarts.

No matter what route you take to the summit, the mere fact that you are hiking Table Mountain (as opposed to taking the cable car) will provide you with a memorable experience far superior to a sterile cable car ride to the summit. To get the most out of the hike, you need to take great care when deciding on the route, not only with regards enjoyment, but also safety. This is where a competent and experienced Table Mountain guide comes in handy.

(c) www.hiketablemountain.co.za