Tag Archives: Platteklip Gorge

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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Platteklip Gorge 1 July


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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Platteklip Gorge – June 2012

Platteklip Gorge 14062012 by slackpackersa

On days like this you have got to believe that winter is the best time to hike in Cape Town. The day was warm, not too hot; clear but with a bit of high, wispy cloud, remnants of the passing cold front. A last minute request from Dina and Amit to guide them to the top of Table Mountain, gave me the chance to get out and clear the last of a slight cold out of the system. With the onset of winter, I have been hiking a bit less than usual and decided I needed to join the gym to keep the fitness levels up. Having not had a cold for four or five years, I am convinced that this is where it came from.

No matter how many times I do Platteklip Gorge, the start always challenges the legs and gets the breathing going. This was no exception and I was happy to stop fairly regularly to admire the view. The orange breasted sunbirds were also taking advantage of the warm sunshine and a few proteas were breaking in to bloom on the lower slopes. The top seemed quite far away and although we started mid-morning there were not too many hikers out on the route

We spotted a group of very fit looking young guys behind us and once at the top they turned out to be part of the England Under 20 World Cup squad. I suppressed the urge to comment on Saturday’s game, so brilliantly won be the young under 20 Springbok side. If you see photographs of them on at the top of the Gorge on related Facebook pages, they may have been taken by yours truly.

From the top it is an easy stroll to Maclear’s Beacon and a really good idea, in weather like this, is to take the inner path on the way out and the front face path on the way back, to the spectacular views of Table Bay, Cape Town, Lions Head, Signal Hill and the Cable Way. (This path is not recommended in misty or rainy conditions unless you have a guide or someone who knows the route well.) My guests were keen to get back down however as they wanted to visit Monkeytown out in Somerset West, so after a quick look around the top we took the easy option and the cable car back down.

IMG_4399 by slackpackersa

Amit & Dina – hiking up Platteklip Gorge

Your Cape Town Host (and hike leader)

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Quote of the day

From an American tourist who had been in South Africa for three weeks, to a group of students, just arrived, who were hiking with me up Platteklip Gorge to the top of Table Mountain: “Warning – South Africa is a dangerous country – you are in danger of falling in love with it and wanting to spend more time here. There is such incredile diversity and the people are so friendly.”

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Platteklip Gorge – the classic route to the top of Table Mountain.

This is the only route that is recommended for groups not wanting to employ a qualified mountain guide. Warning: Individuals – never hike alone – even on this route, use a guide or find someone to walk with. All other routes should be led by someone who knows the route and knows the mountain. (See Safety)

The way up

Platteklip Gorge is certainly the most popular hiking route to the top of Table Mountain – sometimes known as the ‘N1’ highway to the top. The term Platteklip means ‘flat rock’ and is named for the smooth flat rocks that are found in the lower part of the gorge. It is also thought that there was one particular area of flat rock further down the Gorge where in times gone by slaves and servants used to come to do washing for their masters and employers.

The reason for its popularity is not hard to understand – it is the most obvious and clear way up the mountain, with a path that is very easy to follow. On a busy day you’re likely to meet a wide range of people, from local families and youth groups on a day outing, to international tourists, determined to be able to say ‘I climbed Table Mountain!’. There are local fitness fanatics who treat the route as a running track to the top, as well as those who plod up slowly, stopping often to admire the views. It is not unusual to hear as many as ten different languages on your way up or down. You’re also likely to interact with the full spectrum of colourful South Africans. Perhaps the ‘social highway’ to the top would be a better description. People are friendly and ready to greet – they offer encouragement, curse the steepness of ascent on their way up and cheerfully tell you how far to the top on their way down.

Although the path is clear, the climb is steep. There is no getting away from the fact that you have to get from 350 metres above sea level (on Tafelberg Rd.) to 1 020 metres at the top – a climb of just less than 700 metres, from the start, to the cairn at the top – your indication that you have made it.

A closer look

On a hot day it may seem longer and steeper (temperatures can get up over 35 degrees C in Cape Town), on a cold and misty day it may be damp and slippery. It is also true that what can start out as a fine warm day can turn into a cold and rainy day very quickly – and the other way around. Cape Town weather is unpredictable and the weather on the mountain even more so.

The route is also not all easy going, with some rough and rocky sections where you will need to watch your footing. You should have good walking shoes or boots and a hiking pole helps. Start early, particularly in hot weather. Take plenty of water, sun block and a hat. The temperature is always a few degrees colder at the top, so take a warm jacket with you in a day pack, together with your water, food and a few energy snacks for the route. Don’t go in wet weather unless you are with an experienced group or a guide who knows the mountain – even clear paths can be dangerous in these conditions.

About half way

Many people take this route because you can walk up and take a cable car ride down. A word of caution – weather conditions can change quickly and may stop the cable car from running: you could have to walk down again. Wind conditions at the top are not always the same as those at the bottom – check weather conditions before you go. Light rain or mist will not normally stop the cable car operation but windy or very wet conditions will.

 If you are not sure, arrange for a mountain guide to accompany you. A guide can also add interest to your walk; history, people, stories, geological features, local flora and much, much more.

Route summary.


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Slackpacker SA

Now THIS is the way to experience the outdoors!

  • You want to have an active, outdoor holiday and experience South African trekking – but you want to travel light
  • You want to walk the trails – but all you want to carry is your water, lunch, waterproofs and camera
  • You want to breathe the fresh air, smell the fynbos, absorb the views and feed your soul – but you want a guide to lead the way
  • Come the end of the day, you want your drink cold, your shower hot, your meal home cooked and your accommodation comfortable – but you want to be spared the logistics and the schlep

Well, congratulations – you’ve come to the right place – that’s what Slackpacking is all about

  • ……….. and if you don’t have the time or the inclination to hike the overnight trails we can guide you on some amazing day walks in most parts of  Table Mountain and the Cape Peninsula.

For more information complete the TRAIL ENQUIRY FORM or e-mail info@slackpackersa.co.za or read on.

Slackpacker SA offers multi-day trails that last from two to six days. Overnight stops are in top-notch camps or lodges set in beautiful surroundings. You’ll have your own qualified guide with all the specialist knowledge required. You’ll be shuttled to and from the beginning and end-points and your luggage will be transferred between overnight venues. Best of all, you’ll be served a home-cooked meal and a choice of drinks at the end of the day’s trek. After an active day and good company you will sleep comfortably in serviced accommodation.

Great hikes, great photo opportunities, great chat, great memories

For those with less time, there are day hikes on Table Mountain and in the Cape Point Nature Reserve, as well as walking-tours in the Cape Winelands.

Based in Cape Town, in the Western Cape, we operate within the Table Mountain National Park – stretching from the city centre to Cape Point, 60 km away – as well as in the Cape Winelands, Garden Route, Overberg and West Coast. We also partner with trails on the Wild Coast, in the KwaZulu Natal Drakensberg and other parts of South Africa. But wherever we take you, it’ll be in true Slackpacker SA style.

Traditional South African hospitality, exquisite natural scenery
and healthy physical activity all rolled into one

Slackpacker SA can also take care of the tour arrangements for your entire visit – your itinerary, accommodation, airport shuttles, visits to interesting venues and attractions, wine tours and other outdoor activities. You could join one of our pre-arranged tours, or we could create a private itinerary just for you.

Whether you join us as individuals, couples or groups, for a special event or as a team-building group for a corporate event, rather focus on the serious business of having a good time – and let us take care of the rest.

Imagine waking up on top of a mountain in a Natural World Heritage Site, in the middle of a vibrant city!
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