No Table Mountain hiking route receives more popularity and discussion than Platteklip Gorge. The resulting glut of information – and misinformation – available online can be bewildering. This article aims to cut through the clutter and provide insights and essential facts about Platteklip Gorge to guide you in selecting the right route.
Route-selection is a vital consideration in ensuring an enjoyable Table Mountain hike. The wrong route can leave you either disappointed and dissatisfied or exhausted and / or terrified. Many routes lead up Table Mountain, all of them unique in character and difficulty. Making use of a competent, experienced and attentive Table Mountain guide is the most effective way to ensure you end up on the best route for you. But it is still important for you to have basic background information on the route of choice.
Platteklip Gorge is popular not because it is the best route, but the easiest. This is important to understand. We typically associate popularity with merit, but this axiom does not hold true on the realm of Table Mountain hiking. I hasten to add that the above is a generalization: to some, Platteklip Gorge really is the best route (for reasons to be discussed). But it cannot be claimed that Platteklip Gorge is the best route based on its popularity. Nor can it be claimed that it is the best route for everyone (as some online videos and articles suggest).
Platteklip Gorge is the quickest, easiest, oldest and shortest route to the summit of Table Mountain, but also the least scenic and exciting. This statement does not mean it is easy, or ugly; it means that in the scheme of Table Mountain hiking routes, it is the easiest of the lot, and the least scenic and exciting of the lot. While the hiking is rather tedious, it still offers dramatic surroundings, great views and, at the top, a sense of achievement. But on all other routes, the hiking is more diverse and engaging, the surroundings more stimulating, the views better and more varied and nature more pristine.
Easiest doesn’t mean easy. Reference is sometimes made to Platteklip Gorge being the “easy” way up Table Mountain. While some do find it easy, I have shared the route with thousands who found it tough, even gruelling. The adage ‘Different strokes for different folks’ certainly holds true when it comes to Table Mountain hikes. There are those who condemn hiking Platteklip Gorge as an irredeemable ordeal, and other who regard it as a life-changing experience.
As a mountain-guide bent on giving people the ultimate experience of Table Mountain, I try to steer them away from Platteklip Gorge, knowing very well that it does not do Table Mountain justice as far as hiking goes. However, I do so while remaining acutely aware of the fact that to some people, Platteklip Gorge is the best route.
If you are not in good shape, have little interest in nature and suffer from fear of heights, then consider Platteklip Gorge the best route for you. Shades of grey exist as to who should try harder routes, determined only through a proper assessment by a competent mountain-guide. Fitness level is key in route-selection, followed by head for heights. Other factors include sense of adventure, love for nature, aversion to crowds, determination, view or landscape preferences and time available.
To make use of a guide for Platteklip Gorge or not is a contentious issue. My short answer: the be safe and to optimize your experience of Table Mountain, go with a guide. Platteklip Gorge might be the easiest route, and many do it unguided, there is still an element of environmental risk, primarily Table Mountain’s changeable weather. Platteklip Gorge sees many rescues, testimony to the fact that it is not to be trifled with. Making use of a guide allows you to relax in the knowledge that you will be safe. This peace of mind greatly enhances the experience.
Beyond safety, you also learn much about Table Mountain’s fascinating history, geology, fauna and flora when making use of a guide. This educational component along with insights and observations offered by a competent and experienced mountain-guide, ensures an optimal experience of Table Mountain.