Photo of the week – January week #3: Table Mountain traverses

Just north of Fountain Ravine, where the traverse narrows to less than a meter wide.

Just north of Fountain Ravine along the Grotto-Fountain-Cairn Traverse, where the traverse narrows to less than a meter wide.

Several Table Mountain hiking routes involves traverses to circumvent sheer cliffs, link up with adjacent routes or access a different side / part of the mountain. Most of them involve exposure to heights, some more than others, and a few touching on the extreme. If you have a good head for heights and a solid sense of adventure, then structuring your Table Mountain hike to include a traverse adds spice to the experience.

On the eastern / Suburban side of the mountain, Carrel’s Ledge above Ascension Ravine can be done as an add-on to the Hiddingh-Ascension route, providing an exhilarating finish to a challenging ascent. The traverse are easily accessible from the summit, though not obvious. Not recommended in winter. It involves only one scary bit: rounding the outside of a bulging rock on the edge of a considerable drop – not difficult, just intimidating, like most of the crux moves on traverses.

Further round the corner, above the Saddle (the neck linking Table Mountain with Devil’s Peak) can be found the Ledges-Silverstream Traverse. Much longer than Carrel’s, it involves only one exposed titbit, and can be accessed via Silverstream Ravine or the Ledges route.

One of the better known traverses, the Right Face-Arrow Face Traverse, is located about 16o meters below the upper cable station and slightly to the left. It spans a massive amphitheatre, linking two buttresses in the process, and involves two passageways, where the traverse sneaks behind massive rock sabs cleaving off the cliff. Easily accessible from high up India Venster route, or from the summit along Fountain Ledge.

Table Mountain hikes shouldn’t be seen as just a means to the summit, but as a journey, an adventure, an exploration. One of the more challenging traverses, the Grotto-Fountain-Cairn, links up three ravines, taking in a lot of the mountain in the process and providing unique perspectives on the landscape. Overlooking Camps Bay on the west side of the mountain, it picks a sensational line across majestic cliffs, involving ample exposure to heights and a few bits of scrambling.

Last but certainly not the least is the Wood-Spring Traverse, running from Spring Buttress – one of the 12 Apostles – into Woody, or Wood, Ravine. This is a pretty serious traverse, and a rope should be used at the crux, which is quite technical and very exposed, though short. The rest of the traverse is exposed for much of the way, but negotiable without rope or terror. Accessible from Woody Ravine, from the top of the Spring Buttress route or ground up along the same route. Leave this one for last, after you’ve ticked off the others – and make sure you’re with someone who can safely provide rope safety.

None of the above traverses should be attempted without the knowledge and experience of a mountain guide or person versed in all aspects of mountain safety and the route itself. Traverses can add much adventure and exhilaration to a hike if done properly, but downright dangerous if approached with a careless, ignorant or flippant attitude.

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