Tag Archives: Table Mountain Walks

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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Myburgh Ravine Red Disa Hike

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Myburgh Ravine Family Hike, a set on Flickr.

With my sister out from Canada and Lindsay about to start a new job on Friday, we decided to take the opportunity on Wednesday to hike up Myburgh Ravine to see the red disas (Disa uniflora). These beautiful flowers are only seen between the end of January and the first few weeks of February and only in few locations on Table Mountain and some of the surrounding mountains. Inevitably unless you make a plan and get out and see them, the time passes quickly and they fade and are gone before you get there.

It was a misty morning, but cool and beautiful for walking. I had not done the route for quite a while and was pleased that Peter, who had done it the week before, had decided to join us. Starting in Hout Bay we had initially planned to hike up to the point where we had already established that the disas were blooming and return the same way. Getting to the start of the ravine is an easy and pleasant walk of about an hour through high stands of proteas. The start of the ravine is shady a shady section of afro-montane forest and there is a short scramble out of the ravine at one point, to get around a rock face, before returning the main path in ravine. This was a bit more challenging than anticipated, particularly having made the mistake of bringing dogs with us.

Once past this point it is a climb up over a boulder strewn section, not difficult, but uneven and a bit of a scramble over and around the rocks. With the mist and even light rain at times, it was quite slippery in places. Suddenly we were at the point where the disas were blooming. There must have been about thirty or more blooms of the delicate red and pink flowers. Most of the party had not seen these iconic Western Cape flowers before, so it was very rewarding and well worth the effort. We spent a bit of time just enjoying the spectacle and taking the obligatory photos of flowers and family.

The earlier scramble had proved more difficult than expected and we decided rather to continue up the ravine and return over the top, past Judas Peak and down Llandudno Ravine. The walk up through the rest of the ravine, is quite spectacular, with high cliffs either side. At the top, the route out itself is not that easy, with a very steep, sandy and rather degraded path. It has to be climbed very carefully and although there is a rocky alternative, on the day this was wet and slippery and not a viable option. Once at the top it was a stunning walk through the misty surroundings before heading down the steep Llandudno Ravine. Unfortunately the mist stayed down until we got quite close to Hout Bay, so we did not see the views of the Atlantic coast that you always get from on this route. Quite a tough day for family members not used to hiking, and a few sore legs the next day.

Warning: Not a hike to be undertaken without someone who knows the way. There are some fairly challenging scrambles where a head for heights is needed. The path at the top is quite badly eroded with a steep drop below. Not a route for dogs – a mistake that we made – adding to the challenge.

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In search of the Red Disa

Red Disas - Window Gorge, Table Mountain

Disa uniflora – the Pride of Table Mountain

The red disas (Disa uniflora) have started to make their annual appearance on Table Mountain. Although I have not seen them myself as yet, a friend was up in Myburgh Ravine yesterday and confirmed that they are already out there. The red disa is the largest of the South African orchids and only flower for approximately three to four week during late January and early February.

 There are a only few locations around Table Mountain and a few places close by, such as the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve (Betty’s Bay), where they can be seen. I will be doing a number of hikes over the next few days to have a look at the various locations. Once I know that they are in full bloom, anyone wishing to join day hikes to view these striking flowers can contact me on hostnet@mweb.co.za or complete the TRAIL ENQUIRY FORM .

 

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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.

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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

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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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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

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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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Noordhoek Beach to Silvermine, via Chapman’s Peak

I have probably written about this one before, but being one of my favourite hikes it is worth revisiting. The route up Chapman’s Peak was one of the few new paths that were created, specifically for the Hoerikwaggo Trail trekking route, and includes some of the most spectacular views in the whole of the Cape Peninsula.

Sunday was cool but clear, except for some wispy cloud on the tops of the mountain peaks. The wind was moderate, in the south east.  Ten of us, we met at Silvermine Dam to shuttle cars to the start at Noordhoek beach, with the plan to walk back up Chapman’s Peak to Silvermine. The idea of a swim in the dam after a long hike is always a good incentive.

The trail starts with a short walk across the beach towards the rock to your right to find the gap in the dune foliage that indicates the start of the boardwalk. The boardwalk has been constructed over this section to protect the dunes from erosion and provide a comfortable start to the trail as it climbs up to Chapman’s Peak Drive. Steep  wooden steps on the other side of the road lift hikers up a level to start the gradual trek up the abrupt slopes of this iconic summit.

Strangely, although it is continuously up hill, the path has been so well designed that it is not often that you feel you are on a continuous steep incline. There is some gradual contouring and a few very short scrambles and a ridge or two to negotiate, but provided you are not in a rush (and we were not), it is a reasonable hour and half walk to the top. There are plenty of places to stop to admire the views and many photo opportunities that provide an additional excuse to rest. Looking back at Noordhoek  Beach, looking forward to Hout Bay, looking across towards False Bay, South towards Cape Point or up to the summit are all part of the package. The clouds swirling, appearing and disappearing  across the various peaks and valleys added to the spectacle.

Some of the group were a bit faster than others, but we all met at the summit of Chapman’s Peak for a well-deserved rest and a dig in to the various tea goodies that everyone had brought along. Although the route is steep, the height exposure is very moderate, with the path set mostly well back.

From Chapman’s Peak, the path down in to the saddle is clear and easy going, with large stands of Proteas on either side. The orange breasted sunbirds were out in full force on the day, staying still only for enough time for to get the camera switched on and almost focused, before flitting off without the shot being captured.

As the descent in to the saddle comes to an end, Silvermine Ridge looms high above to the east. You look up and the legs already feel weary at the prospect of trekking up to it’s imposing highpoint. Quite a bit higher than Chapman’s Peak, the path to the ridge is a long slow trek. There are no challenging climbs and except for two short rock bands, no scrambles, but for the next hour and a half you will be walking up hill.

At last the white concrete beacon, indicating a high point on the ridge, comes in to view and a welcome rest for a dip in to the lunch box. We had made fairly good time, having started at about 08h30, we were above Silvermine Valley shortly after 13h15.

From here we followed the jeep track for a short while (beware of fast oving mountain bikers) before turning off on to a path leading to the ridge overlooking  Silvermine Valley. It was one of those days that the mist swirls in and out, revealing the beauty of the valley briefly before covering it again with cloud. There are some amazing rock formations on this route, as well as a impressive variety of proteas, ericas and restios along with other fynbos species, including an occasional blue disa, gladioli and pelargoniums.

At last the dam emerged out of the mist and as if inviting us for a swim the cloud cleared and the late summer sun showed that it still had some power. The walk ended with a very welcome swim – good end to another great hike in the Table Mountain chain.

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

Meridian Hiking Club – Noordhoek to Silvermine

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Baboons besieging Protea & Restio huts

In my previous up-date I talked about the baboons besieging the kitchen at the overnight huts on the Cape Point Trail. I had an experience with them once before and was wiser for it. This time I put all food away as I prepared it and kept the kitchen securely locked every time I moved in and out. These photos were taken over a period of about one and a half hours. I could walk in and out of the rooms without a problem as long as I did not carry any kind of packet or something that looked like food. When I did walk out with a packet of firelighters, the big male did advance towards me – when I threw it on the ground he went and looked at it, smelled it and lost interest.

They only left when the others returned from their walk to Cape Point lighthouse.

Cape Point Trail baboons

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