Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.
Advertisements

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…

View original post 256 more words

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

https://photos.gstatic.com/media/slideshow.swf

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.

Vlakkenberg Ridge - Fire aftermath April 2015_0012

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.

Vlakkenberg Ridge - Fire aftermath April 2015_0023Vlakkenberg Ridge - Fire aftermath April 2015_0021

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.

Vlakkenberg Ridge - Fire aftermath April 2015_0051

Vlakkenberg Ridge - Fire aftermath April 2015_0047

Vlakkenberg Ridge – Fire aftermath April 2015

Red Disa hike with Meridian Hiking Club

Meridian - Red Disa hike - Jan 2014_0007 Meridian - Red Disa hike - Jan 2014_0012 Meridian - Red Disa hike - Jan 2014_0014 Meridian - Red Disa hike - Jan 2014_0018 Meridian - Red Disa hike - Jan 2014_0023 Meridian - Red Disa hike - Jan 2014_0025 Meridian - Red Disa hike - Jan 2014_0026Perfect day to hike up Skeleton Gorge to see the red disas. All in full bloom at the moment, it is a magnificent site in a maginficent setting. We are so priviledged to live where we do and be able to experience the flora of this great place. The disas are out in Window Stream, the Aquaduct Path and a few in Nursery Ravine. Great day, great group and nice picnic in the shade in Nursery Valley.

Meridian – Red Disa hike – Jan 2014

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

Skeleton Gorge and the Aquaduct – Red & Blue Disas and more

Saturday was a perfect Cape Town day for a hike up the southern side of Table Mountain, in search of the Red disa (Disa uniflora). These magnificent flowers only show themselves towards the end of January and usually fade away around the end of February. How quickly time flies when one wants to do something like this, before you know what has happened they have disappeared for another year. This year I have been lucky to see them in two different places, Myburgh and Disa Ravine, but they are always most prolific in the Window Gorge Stream and Aquaduct areas.

The weather was a bit cooler than it has been lately, with a little bit of cloud around to bring the temperatures down. From Cecelia Forest we headed up to the Contour Path and on to Skeleton Gorge…

View original post 233 more words

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

579786_10200608278988602_1468886283_n

Walking in the rain is ok as long as you start in the dry. Saturday was different. Karen had organised a permit for Orangekloof – limited to 12 people per day and very much in demand at this time of the year, with the Red disas in bloom. It was raining as we started – not too heavily but clearly not likely to lift any time soon. But with permits in short supply and looking like a hardy group we put on our waterproofs and set out anyway.

At the start it was not too bad, just a few drips and plenty of mist, with more moisture generated from inside the rain gear than from outside. It certainly was not cold. We had planned to do Hell’s Gate and climb up to the Woodhead Tunnel, but with the wet it was going to be too slippery, so we turned off…

View original post 235 more words