Table Mountain hiking routes: A lifetime of exploration – 11 October 2019

Hike Table Mountain is the only mountain-guiding outfit that offers guided hikes up all Table Mountain hiking routes – testimony to our passion for Table Mountain. We love exploring the mountain, poking our noses into obscure nooks and crannies, finding variations to existing routes, even opening entire new routes. Scaling cliffs and pinnacles, hiking the mountain in foul weather – gale-force wind and driving rain, for the sheer exhilaration of experiencing the many faces of the mountain, all the while learning and absorbing, broadening our knowledge of the plant life, the rocks, the mountain’s history, the lie of the land, caves, waterfalls and natural rock labyrinths. And having the time of our lives in the process. When not guiding, we’re at play on the mountain, sampling one of the more than 1000 climbing routes and around 85 hiking routes.

Route options galore

The vast majority of Cape Town visitors takes the cable car to the summit. The small percentage tackling the mountain by foot typically do so via Platteklip Gorge, the quickest and easiest route to the summit, but not the nicest. While it’s still better than simply riding up in the cable car, it doesn’t quite do Table Mountain justice. If you’re not in good shape, not into nature, and looking to conquer the mountain on foot without complication and adventure, then it’s the route for you. But if you wish to explore more, experience more and see more of Table Mountain, sign up for one of the many other routes on offer. Each route has its own character – like people – and offers different views, topography and adventure levels. No two routes are alike, and that’s without the caprices of the weather thrown into the mix.

Exactly how many Table Mountain hiking routes are there?

It’s interesting to note that it is impossible to say exactly how many Table Mountain hiking routes exist. Strict parameters need to be set down if you want to reach a definitive answer. For example, some routes were opened in the early 1900s and never see hikers; the trail has long vanished and the only record of their existence can be found in the yellowed pages of old, musty Mountain Club Journals. Do these routes still qualify? What about routes that terminate someway up the mountain, not the actual summit? Or routes that only start someway up the mountain? There might be 85-odd hiking routes on Table Mountain, but not necessarily up Table Mountain. Add another contentious parameter, the issue of what constitutes a route as opposed to a sub-route as opposed to a variation, and it only becomes trickier.

Something for everyone

Whatever the answer, the point is that there’s something for everyone. Few people realize how much wilderness still occurs on Table Mountain. There are places where people rarely set foot; where you can hike for days without meeting anyone. For those wanting a truly intimate experience of the mountain, or wish to experience pristine nature, the options are numerous. How about wilderness combined with adventure? Pick your fancy. As far as Table Mountain hikes go, adventure comprises a combination of scrambling, exposure to heights (narrow ledges) and rugged terrain (bush, loose rock, dissected terrain). Routes can sometimes be combined to cater more specifically to your preferences and sense of adventure.

While route selection might seem bewildering, it’s part of our job to pair you with the most suitable route, using your fitness level, sense of adventure, experience level, skills and preferences to guide us. Route choice is a crucial component to optimizing your Table Mountain hiking experience, and we do our best to match you with the right route. Our flagship route is India Venster, and for good reason: it ticks most boxes of what the average hiker wants out of a Table Mountain hike. Superb views, dramatic topography, adventure, all with a moderate level of physicality. But while India Venster is a great route, it’s not for everyone – too badass for some, too tame for others – which brings us to other options like Skeleton Gorge, Diagonal Route, Blind Gully, Hiddingh-Ascension, the list goes on. Many routes top out remote from the famous tabletop summit of Table Mountain (where the upper cable station is located), allowing us to explore some of the many hidden gems along the way, time and energy permitting.

Knowing Table Mountain and its hiking routes is one thing. Knowing how to keep people safe on the mountain and tune into their strengths, weaknesses, idiosyncrasies, unspoken interests and expectations is another. While we know Table Mountain’s routes intimately, we also understand those routes to be different to each person. We all experience a route in a different way, on many levels, and as experienced mountain-guides we’re acutely aware of this dynamic when sharing the mountain with others. And this is where the true joy of mountain-guiding resides. It’s not uncommon for our awareness of the mountain to expand through the eyes of those hiking it for the first time.

(c) www.hiketablemountain.co.za