Table Mountain’s flat top is as synonymous with South Africa as Nelson Mandela or Bishop Tutu. The icon is a tourist magnet, attracting visitors from all over the world. More than 24 million people have been transported to the summit since the cable way opened in 1929.
While the mountain excites visitors to our city, it’s what gives us Captonians our “chill” reputation. We’re defined by the weight of the mountain pressing down on us. I don’t mean literally, we’re not flat like those cardboard cut-outs of actors you see at the cinema. It’s more that living with a view on an awe-inspiring mountain has an effect on our collective psyche. We slow down to drink in the beauty*.
Riding in the cable car is fun, but you can queue for over an hour in season. Plus, you’ll see so much more if hike the slopes – 2200 plant species for example, some of which are endemic and found nowhere else in the world. If you’re in good health and the weather is fine, strap on a pair of comfy boots and grab a camera. Nothing tops an exhilarating ascent on foot for a kick to the endorphins.
Here’s a quick review of our three favourite tracks.
India Venster is a popular but challenging route to the summit that begins 50m to the right of the lower cable car station. This one is for the experienced hiker. Don’t attempt if you’ve only ever walked to the shops for a packet of cigarettes. You’ll live to regret your bravado, or maybe you won’t.
Fitness Level: Tough to Difficult
Hiking Time: 2–4 hours (up). You can take the cable car back down.
Technical Challenges: Some scrambling up rocks and mild climbing.
Views: Spectacular, obviously.
Lion’s Head is a short hike for the moderately fit. The path is so well-maintained you can even hike it on bright nights. In fact, it’s a Cape Town tradition to hike Lion’s Head during full moon. Grab your torch and windbreaker. Watching the sun sink into the sea while the giant yellow moon rises over the city is a sight you’ll remember forever.
Fitness Level: Moderate
Hiking Time: 1 – 2 hours (up and down)
Technical Challenges: None, unless you’re acrophobic in which case a couple of the ladders to the summit might turn your stomach. Add a thrill by scrambling up and down the chains.
Views: The view from the top is the visual equivalent of surround sound. Sea, city, mountain. You name it, you can see it.
The Pipe Track
The Pipe Track is a path constructed to service a pipeline running below The Twelve Apostles. The pipeline was built in the 19th century to carry water from Disa Gorge to the Molteno Reservoir in Oranjezicht. The hike follows a contour path along the Atlantic seaboard side of Table Mountain.
Fitness Level: Your granny can do it to Slangolie. All the way to Corridor requires a moderate level of fitness.
Hiking time: 4 and a half hours return, if you go all the way. However, you can turn around anytime as the way in is also the way out.
Technical Challenges: The track is very exposed to the afternoon sun in summer. Hike either in the A.M. in summer, or better yet, on a gorgeous winter’s day when the proteas are in bloom.
No matter you level of fitness or bravery, always be safe. Read the safety guide on San Park’s website before you set foot on the mountain.
Factoid 1: Table Mountain is more than 600 million years old. Respect!
Factoid 2: in 2012, Table Mountain was named one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Our most famous Archbishop Desmond Tutu made this video he was so proud.
* We also drink wine.
Post by Rachel Zadok @rachelzadok