Photo of the week – September week #3: Table Mountain from the west

Sep 16, 2012

Table Mountain’s iconic profile – the tabletop summit flanked by Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head – can only be seen when the mountain is viewed from the north. Known as the ‘front’ or ‘face’ of Table Mountain, it has fascinated visitors from the days of the first explorers. Much less celebrated, and no less impressive, is the west or right side of Table Mountain – the side that catches the last rays of the setting sun.

Looking at the picture above (click to view full image), the upper cable station can be made out as a square blip on the summit cone. The cone constitutes the top layer of the Table, along whose base the upper sections of the India Venster route traverses. The big triangular mass on the left is Kloof Buttress, its left skyline forming part of a prominent ridge known as Kloof Corner, marking the junction of the north and west side of the mountain, and whose upper sections can be seen leading up from the apex of Kloof Buttress to the left skyline of the summit cone. The tiny buttress to the left is called Medusa Buttress.

Other features include the following: to the immediate right of Kloof Buttress is Cairn Ravine, followed by Cairn Buttress, Fountain Buttress and Fountain Ravine. The pointed peak to the right of the summit cone is Fountain Peak, marking the summit of Fountain Peak Buttress. The shallow ravine to the right is Grotto Ravine (named after caves at its head). Then comes Blinkwater Ravine, marking the end of Table Mountain proper and the beginning of the Twelve Apostles. The flat-topped peak to the right is Blinkwater Peak, the first Apostle.

Several hiking routes (and many climbing routes) lead up this part of the mountain, but they are rarely done. The Kloof Corner route on the left skyline of Kloof Buttress is a great C-grade with tricky and often exposed scrambling. The Kloof Buttress Arete route (C+) sneaks up the right side of the triangle – very rarely done, overgrown and obscure. The Cairn Ravine route (B) offers great B-grade scrambling on clean rock; best done in summer, when the ravine is dry. Grotto Ravine (B) offers its own way to the summit; somewhat bushy with lose rock, but worthwhile nonetheless. One of the best adventure routes on Table Mountain leads across these cliffs and buttresses: the Grotto-Fountain-Cairn Traverse, a sensational and challenging route for those looking to experience the wild side of the mountain. Blinkwater Ravine is the next route (B), providing fun scrambling in a beautiful and secluded setting.The indistinct ridge to the right of Blinkwater Ravine is part of the Blinkwater Needle route (D), the Needle being a rock spire two-thirds the way up.

Table Mountain hiking offers a world of opportunity to the nature lover, outdoor enthusiast and adrenalin junkie. Romantic settings for couples and honeymooners, challenges for the adventurous, peace and solitude for the stressed, leisurely walks for the family or the not-so-fit. It’s all there if you make the effort to get out there.