Take a hike

Take a hike

With its classic flat-top silhouette, and flanked by Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head, Table Mountain is one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks. Viewed from the city, the mountain rears up from gentle foothills in a sudden acceleration of altitude, creating dizzy cliffs and deeply scoured ravines. At first glance, it seems that the only possible way up is via the cable car, but there are in fact two well-trodden paths up this iconic north face.

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Both easily accessible, they lead hikers to the famous Table Top, where their exertions are rewarded with sensational views of the city, Atlantic Ocean and surrounding mountain ranges. And since they both summit close to the cable car, a winning hike up/ride down combination is on the cards. Yes, I know your next question is, “Why can’t we ride up and hike down?”, but trust me, if you want to save your knees, it’s easier to hike up than down.

You can buy a one-way ticket online, or for R105 at the ticket office if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew and thought you could hike up and down (tickets are also for sale at the Upper Cable Station). Many regular hikers have a Cable Card.

But now you need to make a choice. Of the two routes, Platteklip Gorge is the easiest by miles. A straightforward walk up a series of switchbacks and staircases, the route involves no climbing over boulders or inching along crumbling ledges – but you will need to be reasonably fit, suitably equipped, well watered and sun-blocked.

Be prepare to share: the Platteklip route is very popular and often crowded in summer. It is, however, the safest route up, well patrolled and maintained, and there’s always time to stop and have a chat with fellow red-faced hikers.

image An experienced mountain guide is required when hiking up India Venster

The other route, India Venster, is quite a different proposition, and you will need an experienced guide to lead the way. Running up underneath the cable car (I know, I didn’t believe it at first), this route is strictly for scramblers and those with a head for heights. Whereas Platteklip Gorge can easily be done without a guide, India Venster needs one. It’s a far less-travelled route with plenty of teasing dead-ends and boulders to clamber over. And there’s a vital turn to make to avoid a 100m cliff face, something you don’t want to find yourself trapped on as the sun begins to set. But the views are fantastic, the challenge just right, and chances are you’ll be the only ones on the trail.

Both routes are accessed from Tafelberg Road, on which the Lower Cable Station stands. India Venster starts right at the cable car behind the tour buses; if you want Platteklip Gorge, it’s a kilometre further on – there’s a car park and a big sign. Both, however, summit at the same point, halfway along the Table Top. Now you have the rest of the mountain to explore, or you can return with the cable car – the Upper Cable Station is literally 10 minutes away. And you will be so glad you aren’t walking down.

image Platteklip Gorge is much easier to navigate, and is very popular with hikers
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