Table Mountain hiking: who or what are the 12 Apostles? – 15 March 2019

Even the most casual research into Table Mountain hiking will yield references to the 12 Apostles, often leading to rich speculation on what they might be or represent. While most people are familiar with their Biblical association, few manage to uncover their connection to Table Mountain.

The 12 Apostles are a chain of peaks extending behind the famous tabletop summit of Table Mountain. There are actually 17 peaks, and this mini-range is considered part of Table Mountain. Many routes lead up this dissected bastion of the mountain, offering pristine nature and superb sea views. Routes vary from straightforward hiking to adventure scrambles off-the-beaten track. It therefore follows that no discussion on Table Mountain hiking is ever complete without mention of the Apostles.

Known as the Kasteelberge (Castle Mountains) by the early Dutch settlers, and also the Geuvelberge (Gable Mountains) – both names taken from the resemblance to a castle’s battlements and the range’s crenulated appearance – the 12 Apostles rises from the Atlantic Ocean in a series of striking peaks and buttresses. In my opinion, they contain the best Table Mountain hikes, offering adventure, diversity and solitude with magical views, all of it backdropped by an ocean.

One of the main drawcards is the peace and quiet. Set away from the city, and less frequented than other parts of the mountain, you get a real sense of being far away from civilization, often the only sound being the boom of surf far below. If you love communion with nature, enjoy peace and quiet and solitude in the great outdoors, or if you’re averse to encountering lots of hikers along the way, head right over to one of the many delightful routes up the Apostles.

Let’s look at few routes: Diagonal Route via Valken Labyrinths, topping out at Valley of the Rad Gods, vintage Table Mountain hiking in terrain and setting; Kasteelpoort, the easiest route up the Apostles, with the famous Diving Board rock-formation at the top; Woody Ravine, offering indigenous forest reminiscent of the Amazon jungle; Spring Buttress, a challenging adventure route off-the-beaten track involving lots of scrambling and some narrow ledges; Oudekraal Ravine, far-flung and sneaking past imposing cliffs, offering solitude in abundance. These options are but the tip of the iceberg.

Hiking Table Mountain offers far more than just the views, and nowhere on the mountain is this the case than on the Apostles. Rock-labyrinths, historic reservoirs, caves, secluded hollows, even a subterranean stream – with the peace and quiet of true wilderness. And you don’t have to ever choose between the 12 Apostles and Table Mountain: we extend every route we do on the Apostles to the famous tabletop summit of Table Mountain, gaining the iconic “Table” overlooking the city of Cape Town, so you get to see it all!

The 12 Apostles have been mistaken for many things, from being group members joining us on a particular route up the Apostles to Hike Table Mountain’s team of guides (we might be Apostles of Nature, but there are not 12 of us), but they should not be mistaken as something set apart from Table Mountain and therefore second best. Cape Town’s native people, the Khoi, called Table Mountain ‘Hoerikwaggo’, meaning ‘mountain in the sea’. Nowhere on Table Mountain does this description hold more true than on the Apostles.

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