Category Archives: Table Mountain

Skeleton Gorge with Meridian

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

Meridian Skeleton Gorge Feb 2013_046

Red disa – Window Gorge Stream

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.

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Meridian Hiking Club on Aquaduct Path

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. It was a fairly strong Meridian Hiking Club group, so the pace was reasonably good. We soon reached the top where there were a few of sort after flower hanging from the cliff face. Further down Smuts Track, at the Window Gorge stream there was a much more abundant display, with their red reflections in the water doubling the effect.

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King Protea on Nursery Ravine

Along the route we were lucky enough to spot quite a few Blue disa (Disa graminifolia) and the occasional display by the red Cluster disa (Disa ferruginea). Up in the Aquaduct there was evidence of what must have been quite a magnificent exhibition of the Red disas, but most were now past their best. There will probably still be a few around this coming weekend, but that will probably be the last opportunity of the season.

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Crossing the Aqueduct – Disas below

We continued our walk down the valley towards the reservoirs where we had our picnic lunch, before heading back through Nursery Ravine. About half-way down Nursery there is the most wonderful show of King Protea (Protea cynaroides). Even though this is not my own favourite route down (or up) the mountain, it is worth the effort just to see this.

It was good to get on to the contour path and head back for Cecelia Forest and the inevitable cold beer at the finish.

Meridian Skeleton Gorge Feb 2013

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Table Mountain Trail – Dec 2012

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Table Mountain Trail van Vuuren family, a set on Flickr.

Table Mountain Trail with the van Vuuren family – Dec 2012

Johan had been planning this pre-Christmas Table Mountain Trail overnight hiking trip since the beginning of May this year, so when the day finally arrived it felt as if I already knew the family well. The original plan was to start at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and take the reasonably easy route up Skeleton Gorge to Smuts Track and the cottage. The prediction of rain for the 24th however, dictated a rethink, as hiking in the rain would have meant missing out on the views from the top of the mountain. The alternative was to start at Table Mountain cable station and do the trail in the opposite direction, either using the cable car to get to the top or to take the steep walking route up Platteklip Gorge. I was quite impressed when they all made the decision to tackle the ‘Gorge’.

The climb up Platteklip Gorge covers a distance of about 2 km in the ascent of the zig-zag path, from just over 300 metres on Tafelberg Rd. to just over 1000 metres at the top. For those not used to this type of walking it can be quite a challenge, particularly on a hot day. The day was one of the hotter days we had experienced this summer, so it was never going to be easy. The girls were up for it and ready to set the pace, but the adults took it slow and steady, particularly as we got higher up the slope, where patches of shade are scarce. Nevertheless, with plenty of stops to ‘admire the view’, take photographs and to make sure hydration levels were maintained, everyone made it. The biggest mistake that is made on this route is not taking enough water.

Once at the top we headed to the restaurant near the cable station, for a welcome cold drink, plenty of ice and recovery, ready for the easier, but longer trek across the mountain to Maclears Beacon and eventually, the Overseers Cottage. Leaving at about 1 pm., we retraced our steps to the beacon on Platteklip Gorge and then across the flat plain to the highest point. From here, we caught a glimpse of Overseers Cottage, our overnight accommodation, tantalizingly in the distance. The feature of this route is the ever changing views, and after Maclear’s Beacon the ever changing terrain along Smuts Track (named after the war time Prime Minister of South Africa, who was himself a keen mountain hiker).

Quite soon after leaving Maclear’s Beacon, the outlook shifts from one of Table Bay to the north, to one of the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, the Cape Flats and False Bay to the east and Hout Bay and the Back Table of the Mountain to the west. To the south, hidden behind the mountains above Simonstown, is Cape Point. On a good day, this has to be one of the most spectacular trekking routes in the world.

Adel was struggling with sore feet, so going was slow, but who needs to hurry with views like this and when you are in part of the most diverse floral kingdom in the world. The view of the cottage disappeared as we headed down to the valley above Window Gorge, past Echo Valley and the Aquaduct. Some of us took a short diversion in to the Aquaduct to view the beautiful, delicate drip disas sprouting improbably from the rock face. Then it was off to the top of Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine before finally coming out of Ash Valley to see the Cottage in front of us again, almost within touching distance now. This was a welcome site and the girls rushed ahead to reach the comfort of getting the shoes off and having a shower. By the time the rest of us got there they were already looking relaxed and refreshed. Vicky was there with the basic meal preparation already complete and it remained only for me to get the fire going for the evening braai.

Once Adel got her shoes off the cause of the sore feet was revealed in a huge blister on the big toe. My admiration for her increased immensely, that must have been very sore to walk with.

As is usual in this cosy cottage, once the feet are up and drinks in hand, the memory of the painful feet and sore muscles fades, while the magic of the environment and walking in this very special part of Table Mountain and the Cape Floral Kingdom remains. The tradition of the South African braai, stimulates interesting conversation and creates friendships and this night was no different.

With rain predicted for the morning and thoughts of further exploring of the Back Table banished for the moment, there were some tired bodies that hit the beds that night, looking forward to reasonably late sleep in.

During the night the wind came up and by the time we woke there was plenty of cloud about, vindicating the decision to walk the trail in reverse. At times it looked as if the rain would pass us by and then suddenly the cloud would be all around and a rain squall would set in, before moving on again, leaving light mist and views of the cloud bank below. After a bit of lie in, breakfast was ready. Over breakfast, the decision was made that Adel and Nina would go with Vicky down the shortest route to Constania Nek and the car, while I would take Johan and the other two girls down via Cecelia Forest to the finish in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Fortunately the rain had more or less passed over by this time and we had a dry walk down to meet Vicky and the others in the Gardens.

Johan treated us all to a wonderful end of hike lunch at the Forresters Arms. A fitting finish for a superb two day trail. I feel very privileged to be able to lead such diverse and interesting people on trails in this part of the world.

Your Cape Town Host

For guided day walks in Table Mountain or a variety of overnight trails please contact us by completing the Contact form or e-mail frank@slackpackersa.co.za

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Hout Bay to Oude Skip

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Hout Bay to Oude Skip, a set on Flickr.

A warning – this is a route only to be tackled with the utmost care and planning. I am pleased to have done it, but not again in a hurry.

There are sections where you can only get through at low tide and in calm conditions. We thought we had planned sufficiently for the low tide but were caught by high waves and ended up trapped, with no way back. The escape gully is steep and dangerous, with loose granite rocks and scrambling through thick bush. We were lucky, with some advice from mountain rescue via cell phone, to find our way out.

The route also has a good deal of exposure on steep granite slopes that fall off into the sea. The last part, on Duiker Ridge, where there used to be a well established path, is also in the process of being cleared of alien vegetation by SANParks and the path disappears suddenly. It requires considerableg bundu bashing towards the block house. Not good, especially if you don’t know where the path used to be and where you are heading.

It was an 11.5 km walk and took over nine hours.

Nevertheless, it is a spectacular route, with great views and interesting coastline.

Hout Bay to Oude Skip – 2nd Sept 2012

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Table Mountain overnight trek – July 2012

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The Bauer family on an overnight trek on Table Mountain. Starting in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, we hiked up to the Overseers Cottage. There was a bit of rain about, so we dried out and had lunch before setting off to explore the Back Table of the Mountain. The rain was sufficiently light not to deter us and we were lucky enough that the mist cleared over Kasteelspoort to give us a view over the Atlantic Ocean and Camps Bay. The younger family members took the jeep track back to the cottage while the rest of us hiked through Nursery Ravine path and on to Smuts Track. Back at the Cottage, after a bit of a struggle we managed to get the fire going and warmed up quickly. That evening we had a nice hot mixed ‘potjiekos’ for dinner with couscous and vegetable bake accommpanied by a nice bottle of Wolftrap red wine. Malva Pudding finished off the dinner.

The next morning the rain had cleared away, although the cloud sat over most of the city for the whole day. We were above the cloud, making for a magnificent view. There were a few detours to look at views (over Orangekloof) and the interesting ‘beach’ on Skeleton Gorge. After lunch we arrived at Maclears Beacon, the highest point of the Mountain, at 1084 metres. Then it was on to the cable station for a quick look around at the 360 degree views of the City of Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula, before the trek down Platteklip Gorge and the end of the Trail.

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Table Mountain Trail – Bauer Family July 2012

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Platteklip Gorge 1 July

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Platteklip Gorge 1 July, a set on Flickr.

PG Tops group. The day was cool and misty, great weather for a trek up Platteklip Gorge. It cleared sufficiently for us to see the magnificent views from the top of Table Mountain and on the cable car ride down. There may have been a few stiff legs the next morning.

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Meridian-Getaway Corridor Ravine Hike

Atlantic coast from Tranquility Cracks

Hiking the Pipe Track

After hearing that in the region of 100 people had booked for this hike through Getaway Magazine, I had grave reservations about the wisdom of the event, particularly as there had been quite a bit of cloud on the Mountain over the previous few days.

Slangolie Waterfall

The day turned out to be one of Cape Town’s perfect late autumn days, with absolutely clear sky and very little wind. Still with some reservations, I felt a bit more comfortable with the situation. There were a few good hike leaders that were bringing up the rear and were prepared to monitor and return with those that would find the route too strenuous. It was certainly a diverse group, with some seasoned hikers, complete hiking novices and family groups with kids. If nothing else it was festive.

Scramble through the forest

The route would take us down to the end of the Pipe Track, up Corridor Ravine to the Twelve Apostles path and back down Kasteelspoort. A good days hiking covering everything from easy walking along the contour, to some steep climbing uphill, a variable path along the top and mild downhill scrambling. It is amazing how quickly a group of this size can spread out, bringing back memories for me of the Argus Cycle Tour, where you can set out in a group of 1000 and end up cycling almost alone in places. The fast guys set off at pace and soon disappeared along the Pipe Track. I was probably somewhere in the middle and there was good conversation and undemanding walking. By the time we got to this section, there were a few hikers that were clearly not going to make it up Corridor. We managed to link them up with the group turning back and I continued up the Ravine with a small group that now formed the rear guard, although I later discovered that there was a group behind us.

Corridor Ravine

Corridor is a pleasant route up on a good path, that has recently seem some good maintenance work by Table Mountain National Park. It is not too steep, but gets the heart rate up and made me feel that I had a some good exercise after the easy first part. At the top we met up with some of the rest, but the main party had already moved on. This was a good place for lunch and the ripe camembert and cucumber sandwich I had brought along, tasted pretty good.

Having not done this route for some time I was happy that my memory of it was spot on as we set out towards Kasteelspoort. The path is good and going straightforward. The small group I was with wanted to do a deviation to Tranquility Cracks, which is always a rewarding experience. By the time we had done this detour it put us right at the back of the main group but we did catch up with some of the other backmarkers at Kasteelspoort.

Orange breasted sunbird

By this time some of the less regular hikers were starting to feel the effects of the unaccustomed exercise and there were a few sore muscles and stiff knees, resulting in a fairly slow trek down to the contour path. It always seems to take longer than I expect to get back to the Pipe Track when coming down Kasteelspoort and it was good to get back on the level path. It is still quite a way from here until the finish at Kloof Nek, but it was a jovial group that had enjoyed the day out. It was an enjoyable day, but I was pleased to be sure that everyone in our group was back safe and sound. Although it was a good day, I am sure that I would not want to do it with a group this size in less perfect weather conditions.

For guided Table Mountain hikes and overnight hiking trails contact Frank:  frank@slackpackersa.co.za

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Noordhoek Peak via Steenberg Ridge & Panorama Path

Looking towards False Bay and Simonstown

The direct path from Silvermine Dam to the Blackburn Ravine view point platform is a regular for me, being part of the Hoerikwaggo Trail and a quick and easy way to this popular lookout point. It was great therefore to join Meridian Hiking Club to take a slightly different route up Steenberg Ridge, to walk at a slightly higher level overlooking the Constantia Valley, the Cape Flats and False Bay. After the short climb from the parking area up to the ridge it is fairly level and it is an easy walk to across the top. The path is clear and most of the invasive vegetation has been removed from this area now,

Pausing for photographers to catch up

including the stark, dead pine trees that marked the top of the ridge for a long time. The dead logs are still lying around but the fynbos is looking particularly good and looking down to the Silvermine Dam into the Protea covered Silvermine Valley one has to appreciate how lucky we are to live in the Cape. At the end of the ridge path drops down to cross the Elephants Eye path and link up with the jeep track to the top of Blackburn. The view over Hout Bay, as always, was magnificent. Being a slightly cooler day than we have been used to, with a cool wind blowing and knowing that the views could be admired while we were walking, we did not stay long and retraced our steps to take the path up to the peak above Blackburn Ravine. Strangely, although this is a fairly prominent peak, with a stiff climb to the summit, no map I have consulted gives it a name. At the summit, we paused allow some of the stragglers to catch up the group come together. It does not matter where you stop on this walk, there is superb view in all directions. The higher level allows

Silvermine Valley

you to see Hout Bay, Table Mountain, Constantiaberg, Chapmans Peak, False Bay and the Kalk Bay and Muizenberg Peaks from the same point. The path down from this peak is known as the Panorama

Hout Bay from the Panorama path

Path, for good reason. The main view is over Hout Bay but it is scenic overload. At the next convenient outlook point we stopped for a tea break and to just enjoy the setting. I am not sure if it was just protected from the wind or the weather was being kind to us as we sat to enjoy our refreshments and the warmth of the sun. On an impossible rocky outcrop, not far from where we sat perched two fledgling Rock Kestrels. We watched as they gathered themselves and eventually launched in to flight, encouraged by a small

Orange Breasted Sunbird that buzzed around them. It is some time since I had done this route had anticipated that the walk from where we had tea to Noordhoek Peak, was going to be very short. There were a few more ups and downs than I remembered and time to enjoy the quiet of this fabulous area with the ever changing rock formations and vegetation. After Noordhoek Peak the path comes out on the jeep track where hikers need to be careful of the ever present mountain bikers coming down at speed. It is better for hikers to get off the road on to the adjacent hiking paths as soon as possible. We found the short cut to the Amphitheatre path on the opposite side of the Silvermine Valley to where we started. This is also a path that I have used often and is particularl

Chapmans Peak in the distance

y impressive for the striking layered rock formations near shelter rock. Silvermine Dam and the car park was now in view, although this is also one of those paths that take a bit long

er than one expects, but the end was in sight, just in time for lunch and quick trip down to the Red Herring in Noordhoek for a beer and a snack basket.

For guided day hikes and overnight hiking trails contact Frank: frank@slackpackersa.co.za – Cell: 082-8824388

 

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