Table Mountain Hikers Guide

1st July 2019 – posts that are not dated may be out of date. We are currently updating information.
Warning: Hiking in Table Mountain should not be undertaken without adequate preparation – do not take advice from someone who does not understand hiking and the Mountain:

The Table Mountain Cableway is closed from 8th July to 18th August 2019 for annual maintenance. The only alternative is a hike to the top – using a guide is advised.

  1. Are you fit enough and do you have the right skills for the route you are undertaking?
  2. Do you know the route or have someone with you who does know the route, maps and directions?
  3. Do you know how long the route will take, what the distance is and what the terrain is like?
  4. Does someone know where you are going, what routes and what time you are expected back?
  5. Do you have the correct equipment, footwear, warm clothing, rain gear, hats and sunblock?
  6. Do you have enough water and snacks / food for the route you are doing?
  7. Do you have the emergency numbers and a fully charged cell phone?
  • Cape Town City Emergency: 021 480 7700 or
  • Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) 021 937 0300
  • Table Mountain National Park: 086 110 6417

 

DO NOT HIKE ALONE – GROUPS OF 4 or MORE ARE RECOMMENDED!!!
  • Table Mountain is not flat – behind the ‘flat Table top’ are cliffs and ridges, valleys & peaks, seasonal waterfalls and slippery slopes.
  • Main paths in Table Mountain are marked at certain strategic junctions only, subsidiary paths are not marked at all.
  • The weather on Table Mountain can change very quickly, with cloud and mist that makes seemingly clear paths disappear into oblivion and bringing temperatures down.
  • The temperature at the top of the Mountain is usually considerably colder than in the City and surrounding areas, with wind often creating a wind chill factor.
  • There is no potable water on the Mountain, with many areas of the Mountain having no running water at all, particularly in summer.
  • The cableway closes in high wind conditions, so cannot always be relied upon as a route down.
  • There are an estimated 250 km of hiking paths in the Mountain and many rock scrambles and climbing routes known only to experienced regular hikers and climbers. What may seem easy to one person, may be very difficult for another.

For more information or to book a guide: hostnet@mweb.co.za or go to the contact form.

 

 

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Table Mountain Fires

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The area of Table Mountain between Noordhoek & Clovelly in the South and Muizenberg and Tokai in the North have been badly devastated by fire over the last week. The area covers approximately 6000 hectares and stretches between the Atalantic Coast to the False Bay Coast. Many of the hiking paths and trails have been badly damaged and are effectively closed for the foreseeable future. Although access my not be completely controlled we do not recommend hiking in these areas until Table Mountain National Park have done an assessment and reported on the safety or rehabilitation on the paths.

There are a great many photographs in the social media and we will publish appropriate photographs as the situation becomes clear.

Table Mountain Multi-Day Hiking Trails

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Table Mountain and Lions Head

These pages are dedicated to trying to unpack some of the confusion about the various multi-day trails in Table Mountain and how the overnight facilities operate.The pages are managed by Slackpacker SA and although we offer catering, logistical support and guiding by qualified mountain guides, we provide you with the information that will assist you in assessing the alternatives.

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If you are looking for any or all of these services, please complete the TRAIL ENQUIRY FORM

From Blackburn Ravine - towards Hout Bay

Hout Bay from Blackburn Ravine – Hoerikwaggo Trail

All the overnight facilities within the Table Mountain National Park, including the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, are managed by SA National Parks and can be booked through SANParks booking system. While we try to keep up to date with the way these facilities are managed, changes do take place from time to time and Table Mountain National Parks (TMNP)management are under no obligation to inform us.

There are two recognised and designated hiking trails: the two day, Cape Point Hiking Trail in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and the five day Hoerikwaggo Trail, from Cape Point to Table Mountain. There is a third trail that we describe as the Table Mountain Trail, based around the use of Overseers Cottage, although there are various paths and routes that can be associated with this facility. These hiking routes are described separately in more detail, together with some background and history on the Hoerikwaggo trek and the alternatives.

Accommodation

There are three types of facilities available that can be linked to multi-day hiking trails:

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Overseers Cottage – Table Mountain Trail

1.       Overseers Cottage

Associated with the Table Mountain Trail:

Situated close to de Villiers Dam on the Back Table Jeep Track, this is a stone built facility providing accommodation for up to 16 people, in two cottages. Klipspringer, the main cottage, sleeps 10 and Disa, just next door sleeps 6 …..read more.

2.       Hoerikwaggo Tented Camps (4)

Orangekloof Tented Camp - Hoerikwaggo Trail

Orangekloof Tented Camp – Hoerikwaggo Trail

There are four tented camps. They are comfortable, permanent structures, originally built as part of the proposed Hoerikwaggo Trail, from Cape Point to Table Mountain  ….. read more

3.       Cape Point Hiking Trail Bungalows

The Cape Point Hiking Trail is the oldest and most established of the trekking routes in the Cape Peninsula. There is accommodation for up to 18 hikers inside the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. The beds are comfortable, but the facilities fairly basic. There is no access by private vehicle and it can only be booked if you are hiking the trail …. Read more .

TRAIL ENQUIRY FORM

There are alternative accommodation facilities within the Reserve for non-hikers.

Safety Advice for Table Mountain Hiking

General Safety Advice for Table Mountain Hiking

Table Mountain National Park covers an area of about 220 square km (54000 acres). The Table Mountain chain is a spine of peaks, ridges and valleys that stretch approximately 80 km from the well known ‘flat’ Western & Central Tables above the city centre of Cape Town, to Cape Point at the end of the Cape Peninsula in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. Except for the 7 700 hectare fenced Nature Reserve it is an open access park with an estimated 200 km of hiking paths. Local hikers who know the Mountain and hike the area regularly, usually hike in groups and with a hike leader who knows the paths and routes, as well as the weather variations and dangers. There are various hiking clubs and private groups that put on hikes on a regular basis in all parts of the Mountain, mostly on weekends but sometimes during the week.

The most commonly recognized area and the hike that most people want to do at some stage, is to walk up to the flat areas known as the Western Table, where the Upper Cable Station is situated, and the Eastern Table where the highest point on the Mountain is located at Maclear’s Beacon. The Western and Eastern Tables are divided by Platteklip Gorge, where there is a small valley, with the walk from the Cable Station to Maclears Beacon being approximately 2.5 km. Behind the ‘flat’ section of the Mountain is a series of peaks and valleys, cliff faces, ledges and clefts that require good knowledge and understanding of the Mountain to negotiate on a hike.

Warning: Table Mountain is not all flat, there are serious climbs and drops that may be obvious to those familiar with the Mountain and it’s paths, but which can be extremely dangerous for someone not on familiar territory. The main paths are marked at major intersections only and in misty, cloudy or rainy weather, obvious paths can disappear and minor paths and paths to view points can be mistaken for main paths.

There were over 270 rescues in Table Mountain in 2017, very often in poor weather conditions, putting the safety of rescuers and support personnel at risk.

There are numerous routes to the top of Table Mountain (Western Table). The only route that we recommend should be taken without someone who knows the Mountain well, is the Platteklip Gorge Route and even this should be only be done following the safety guidelines below. Point numbers 1, 5, 8 and 14 are the most frequently ignored and lead to the most problems.

Safety Tips for hikers

  1. Never hike alone, no matter what route. A minimum of 4 people and have at least one person who knows the route, how long it will take and the degree of fitness required.
  2. Have a good map and description of the route even if the leader knows the way – something can happen to a leader. Slingsby maps are the only recommended commercially available maps. There are also various guide books with route descriptions.
  3. Inform someone responsible of where you are going, when you starting and when you expect to finish. Make sure they have your cell phone number.
  4. Log on to @safetymountain tracking system (see hikernetwork.co.za/safetymountian or SafetyMountain Tracking on Facebook for details) – or similar (it is necessary to register with admin of this site before you can use it.)
  5. If you are paying someone to guide you, they must be a qualified and registered Adventure Guide with the appropriate Mountain walking qualifications and experience to do the route they are guiding.
  6. Make sure you have the correct emergency numbers:
  • City of Cape Town Emergency Management Centre – 021 4807700.
  • Wilderness Search & Rescue (WSAR) – 021 9370300;
  1. Have a fully charged cell phone.
  2. Have good hiking footwear with good grip and comfortable socks. This may vary according to length of hike, but leather soled shoes, soft sneakers and slip slops are not appropriate.
  3. Have warm clothing even on a hot day – it is colder on top of the Mountain than in the city and wind, cloud, mist or rain can make it colder. Weather can change very quickly on the Mountain.
  4. Take a rain jacket / windcheater.
  5. Take a wide brimmed hat / cap with chin strap in summer and / or beanie in cold weather.
  6. Have an appropriate day pack for clothing, water, snacks and other equipment.
  7. Hike in appropriate hiking gear – jeans are heavy, can be tight and can be very uncomfortable when you get hot and particularly when wet.
  8. Take weather conditions in to account – do not start hiking when rainy / stormy or even high winds are likely, unless you are very sure of the required level of competence, equipment and leadership.
  9. If you are planning to use the cableway to come down, take weather conditions into account, the cableway is frequently closed in high winds or other adverse weather conditions.
  10. Take enough water – this will vary according to route & distance but a 2 lit is a recommended minimum. Do not rely on water on the Mountain at any time of the year. Drink regularly & keep yourself hydrated during the hike.
  11. Take snacks for short hikes and sufficient food / lunch for longer ones.
  12. Inform the leader / group of any medical conditions – diabetic, asthma or required medication. Assess any injuries you may have had according to the routes.
  13. Make sure that you have the appropriate level of fitness for the route you are tackling.
  14. If you are the leader, make sure you know the route and brief the group before departure.
  15. If the route requires an element of scrambling or has height exposure, make sure that you have a competent, experienced leader who knows the route and the skills required and all in the party are competent to handle the level of difficulty.
  16. There should be at least one appropriate mountain first aid kit with the group.

Security precautions and strategies

There have been incidents of crime and muggings in the greater Table Mountain area, while these are usually limited to certain known ‘hotspots’, due care should be taken in all parts of the mountain. For visitors not familiar with the area, consultation with local experts is advisable. Table Mountain Watch on Facebook or Table Mountain Security Action Group (TMSAG) on WhatsApp. Below is the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) advice to members:

  • Hike in a group. While this does not preclude being attacked, it may serve as a deterrent.
  • Be aware of potential threats. The suddenness of an attack leads to panic, which may exacerbate the situation. An alert, obviously aware group, poses a harder target.
  • If attacked, it is advisable NOT to resist. Handing over your “valuables” decreases the chances of being harmed (although unfortunately, this is not always the case).
  • In the event that you can see that an attack is imminent, hide your cellphone in the vegetation or rocks, so that you are able to summon help much faster afterwards.
  • Keep the emergency contact numbers on your phones. Check that all members of the party have these numbers. Also keep those numbers somewhere on your person.
  • Keep a look out on social media for the various ‘Safe Hikes’ and ‘Take Back Our Mountain’ initiatives, in which the MCSA is an active participant, and lend your support. These are proving to be highly successful.

 Behaviour:

  1. Be respectful of other mountain users – no loud music, over robust behaviour, running on steep paths etc.
  2. Cell phones should be on silent and not used while hiking, except for photographs and in emergencies.
  3. Take all rubbish with you, including biodegradable peels, cores, skins, tissues etc. Follow the wilderness maxim of ‘take only photos, leave only footprints’. Take a small bag for litter.
  4. Chipping of rocks or defacing of rock and other surfaces with graffiti is a punishable offence and disrespectful of nature and can lead to arrest and a considerable fine.
  5. Preferably no smoking on the Mountain – if you have to, make sure cigarettes are extinguished and please take your cigarette butts away with you.
  6. The Fynbos biome has a high fire danger, do not make any fires or use gas stoves. Fire is a risk to all hikers and mountain users.
  7. Stick to the clear paths, do not take short cuts.
  8. Obey the instructions of the hike leader.
  9. Keep within sight of your group, if you need to answer the call of nature, inform the hike leader.
  10. Do not burn toilet paper in the Fynbos environment, take a zip bag and remove it from the mountain.
  11. The lighting of fires or use of gas burners is forbidden in Table Mountain, except in designated accommodation areas.

Cape Point – Day Walk Alternatives

South African Trekking and Catered, Guided Multi-Day Hiking Trails

Cape Point - Meridian June 2015054

The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve is one of our favourite areas for some reasonably easy but very rewarding hiking. The views down the False Bay side of the coast are quite extra-ordinary and the Atlantic Coast has some beautiful beach and the special interest of the Shipwreck Trail. Our regular, shorter, easier, circular routes are on the Atlantic Coast, with the slightly more strenuous options being on the False Bay coast.

A spate of recent fires in the greater Table Mountain National Park did not leave this area untouched, with a freak lightening strike igniting a fire along the Atlantic Coast, just at a time when the Silvermine fires were being brought under control. For the short term, this means that most of our Atlantic side trails are closed.

Cape Point - Meridian June 2015180With this in mind we have been exploring the options on the more spectacular False Bay coast. The best…

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Kasteelspoort rain challenge

Kasteelspoort rain challenge_001 With winter finally coming to Cape Town, the hiking enthusiasts, especially the weekend are faced with the temptation to curl up in bed with a good book on a Sunday morning, instead of getting out there and enjoying the Mountain in the rain. Hannes (hike leader) thought the only way to overcome this was to issue a challenge to motivate a few stalwarts in to action.
Kasteelspoort rain challenge_015It did not seem to have much effect however as only two of us joined him. Nevertheless it was a very rewarding hike, with the rain staying away for the most part. Parking at Kloofnek, so that we could do a circular route, we hiked along the Table Mountain Pipe Track, meeting plenty of runners and a few walkers on this section, until we came to the Kasteelspoort path intersection. I always enjoy this path as it is steep enough to be challenging but has enough variation and views to distract from the effort.

Kasteelspoort rain challenge_012At the top there were quite a few surprising displays of pink Watsonias, deep blue Arosteas and bright red and white Anaxeton and some fading King Proteas.

It looked as if we were going to have a rain free hike, but as often happens in our Mountain, what it looks like and what happens is not always the same. As we climbed out of the Valley of the Red Gods, the rain started to come down. As it was heading for lunch time, we found shelter in the cave in the Valley of Isolation. In spite of the stream running through the middle and the waterfall on the outside we managed to find dry places to sit and enjoy our snacks and flasks of hot drinks.

Kasteelspoort rain challenge_016As we moved on the rain was more of a light misty drizzle with a weak sun trying to break through every now and again. Hopeful of avoiding the steep trek down Platteklip Gorge, we headed through Echo Valley and up the short ladders to the cable station. As we got closer the clouds cleared for a moment, showing off the beaches of Camps Bay and the rough seas beyond. Very close to the top, was a royal display of red King protea, contrasting with a magnificent golden brown of a fading group retained their shape and beauty in spite of the colour loss.

Kasteelspoort rain challenge_027We reached the cable station just in time to grab a quick cup of coffee, before the cableway closed and we caught one of the last rides down for the day. Pleased with ourselves for having met the challenge we headed for the one of our favourite watering holes and a well deserved beer.

 

Kasteelspoort rain challenge – May 2015

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Vlakkenberg Ridge – aftermath of the fire

Vlakkenberg Ridge - Fire aftermath April 2015_0001

As I get the opportunity to walk through the fire affected areas of Vlakkenberg and Silvermine and all the areas in between, I will publish my photos and reflections on the destruction and the recovery. This is the first of those as I got to walk on Vlakkenberg Ridge yesterday.

Vlakkenberg Ridge - Fire aftermath April 2015_0002

The walk up from Constantia Nek shows just how close the fire came to descending in to Constantia Nek itself and the potential for crossing over the road. We can be grateful that this did not happen as there are huge stands of gum trees and other alien vegetation in this area.

Vlakkenberg Ridge - Fire aftermath April 2015_0015

Looking across from the saddle the burnt area extends as far as the eye can see, over the Constantiaberg and across to Silvermine and Muizenberg Peak. Looking down to the Constantia vineyards, there is stark contrast between the green of agricultural area and the burnt National Park and pine forest. It also highlights how close it came the residential areas.

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The area on top of the ridge is a desolate landscape with contract between the white of the underlying sand and blackened protea bushes. Nevertheless, the green restios with blackened tips are pushing through, growing quickly to provide the signs of new life and the messenger of things to come.

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Standing out among the new growth are the bright orange paintbrush flowers that are popping up in a few places, one of them attracting a beautiful butterfly, quietly going about it’s work of pollination.

Vlakkenberg Ridge - Fire aftermath April 2015_0050Vlakkenberg Ridge - Fire aftermath April 2015_0027 Vlakkenberg Ridge - Fire aftermath April 2015_0037

Down in the valley below there is a ridge of Silvertrees that stand out as what seems to have been a barrier to the fire, bearing out what I was told about the fire dying down when it came in to contact with these unique species.

Amazing how the Silvertrees seemed to have stopped the fire there.

There are many small signs of new life, although the recovery to it’s full former condition with the stunning flowering protea, is clearly going to be a long way off. Monitoring the changes over the next few months and years is going to be an interesting exercise. A link to the full album of pictures is below.

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Vlakkenberg Ridge – Fire aftermath April 2015

Tranquilty Cracks

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This is a special place in Table Mountain that has a reputation for being difficult to find. At one time, people who knew the route kept is a closely guarded secret. Although today it is still easy to miss the turnoff, once you know where to look it is not difficult to find.

Meridian - Tranquility Cracks Sept 2014_0001When the day starts with amazing numbers of beautiful sunbirds and sugarbirds feasting on the newly opened yellow pincushion  Proteas, you know it is going to be a good one. It was a perfect Cape Town spring day, with only a bit of high cloud around as we headed up Kasteelspoort. Unfortunately one of the party discovered that his winter hibernation had caught up with him and wisely decided to turn around, accompanied by his concerned family. This left only four of us.

Meridian - Tranquility Cracks Sept 2014_0003One member had never been up the route before, so we stopped a few times to catch our breath and admire the view. A visit to the old cableway docking station and diving board viewpoint is a must, with it’s stunning vista over Camps Bay and the Atlantic Coast.Meridian - Tranquility Cracks Sept 2014_0042


From there it is an easy walk down the Twelve Apostles path, past the turnoff’s to Woody Ravine, the Firs and Slangolie before coming to the Tranquility path. A short walk and scramble and we were up above the Cracks, where we put our packs down and spent a bit of time exploring.

Meridian - Tranquility Cracks Sept 2014_0015

There was time also just to sit and enjoy the environment, watch the cableway ascending and descending in the distance and have an early lunch.

Meridian - Tranquility Cracks Sept 2014_0026

It is a really short walk from there to the Corridor Ravine path, marked by a large cairn. The route is steep, but short and apart from a few places where there are loose stones, a relatively easy path down.

Meridian - Tranquility Cracks Sept 2014_0031A slip on the slope nearly saw me putting my hand on a baboon spider hidden under a rock.Meridian - Tranquility Cracks Sept 2014_0035

The views from this path are magnificent, as it joins up with the Pipe Track that leads back to Camps Bay. Another beautiful day in Table Mountain.

Meridian - Tranquility Cracks Sept 2014_0021

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