Hiking Up Table Mountain: Platteklip Gorge
The hiking bug bites at practically first sight of Table Mountain – and a trip up on foot can be quite a rewarding experience (especially for those partial to the Stairmaster at gym!).
There are several routes to take to the top, but the best for people who are unfamiliar with the mountain is undoubtedly Platteklip Gorge. (“Platteklip” means “flat stone” in Afrikaans.) It’s a 1.5- to 2-hour trip up, from the starting point at the lower Cableway station.
First step before you go, though, is to check the weather. Does the mountain have its famous “tablecloth” of clouds, or is it very windy? If so in either case, then choose another day for the hike. A rule of thumb to follow is, if the Cableway is operating, then it’s a good day for a hike.
- Cableway weather info hotline: +27 (0) 21 424 0015
Facing the lower Cableway station, you’ll see a parking area for tourist buses to your right. Walk over, and, at the end, you’ll next see the start of a path, marked with a sign. This takes you uphill directly underneath the Cableway for about 10 minutes, whereupon you reach what’s known as the frontal contour path, a level trail that follows the upper base of the mountain.
Take the countour path to the left, and enjoy an easy stroll for 15-20 minutes as you leave the Cableway behind, seemingly walking away from your ultimate destination. You’ll soon reach the start of the Platteklip Gorge trail proper: take it to the right, and Stairmaster your way to the top! Look out for dassies (the rodent-like rock hyrax) in the rocks as you ascend, as well as raptors catching thermals overhead. The hike takes at least an hour, even if you don’t stop for a snack halfway up (which I recommend!).
Once you’re up, enjoy the mountain’s marvellous, windswept top, take in the wide circumference of views, and then take the Cableway back down (remember that it’s to the west of your final point of egress from the gorge): your knees don’t need the punishment of the Platteklip descent!
Safety and Responsible Hiking
Please remember to stay on the path when hiking up – bushwhacking, or, to use local parlance, “bundu bashing” is not encouraged, both because it causes soil erosion and because, like all wilderness areas, Table Mountain is a law unto itself. Each year, many people get lost in its seemingly straigtforward terrain and have to be rescued; a good percentage of these are badly injured from a fall; and one or two people die on the slopes. It’s good to have a cellphone with you when you begin your hike (there’s reception all over the mountain).
Be aware that the weather can change quite rapidly in Cape Town, and that the top of Table Mountain is always cooler than the bottom. Take an anorak along so that you don’t get too cold. Last, be aware that muggings are not unknown on Table Mountain’s slopes. Odds are very much against anything untoward happening (thousands hike Platteklip each month without incident), but it’s never a poor idea to hike up in groups of three or more.