From the white sandy beaches of Clifton Beach, along the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Town, it appears as if the 12 Apostles are eyeing out the bikini-clad beauties. In this case, the 12 Apostles are a range of buttresses that form part of The Table Mountain National Park. And, in this aspect, one of the best routes to climb the mountain.
“There are sea views all along the way and, in summer, this side of the mountain is in the shade so it is much more comfortable,” says Barry Washkansky of Take a Hike, a guide with more than 20-year’s experience.
As the postcard image of Cape Town, Table Mountain looks friendlier than it is. “People on the beach look up at the mountain and think they can climb it wearing a t-shirt and slip-slops”, warns Barry. Not only does the temperature drop dramatically as the altitude increases but also the climate can and does change frequently. What Capetonians call the Table Cloth, white fluffy clouds that rest on the top of the mountain may mean very limited visibility to people inside the cloud on the mountain. For all these reasons, a guide is invaluable.
The breadth of Take a Hike’s experience means that a hike, on Table Mountain or elsewhere in the South African Cape Peninsula, will be tailored to your interests and fitness levels. Do however allow Washkansky to stretch you a little out of your comfort zone. I’m a regular hiker but tend to stick to routes (and fitness levels) I’m easily comfortable with.
The Pipe Track follows one of the original water pipes that took water from the reservoirs on the mountain to the city. There are some characteristic brick buildings – like an early pumphouse – along the way that are interesting to see. Our mid-September visit meant that many of the Pincushion Proteas where in flower and a host of other fynbos, largely endemic to Table Mountain. We saw plenty of brightly coloured sunbirds with their emerald collars and long-tailed sugar birds.
It was a steady ascent.
We were doused in the waterfall on one of the scariest yet most exhilarating parts. There is a narrow ledge with just a piece of chain to hold on to. Seeing Barry’s outstretched hand on the other side of the waterfall was enough to give me the courage to cross. I would, ordinarily, have turned back at this point.
When we finally reached the top of the back table, most of the mountain was shrouded in mist and we were very glad that we brought warm down puffer jackets and gloves against the cold.
Tranquillity Cracks is reached via Corridor Ravine. We squeezed between boulders and ducked under mossy tree trunks until we reached a clearing that in the mist looked like the set of a Lord of The Rings movie.
As a special treat knowing how much I love good coffee, Barry carried a Moka espresso pot and cups with him up the mountain. The smell of ground Arabica brewing on a flame on the top of the mountain was another highlight of this trip. With the coffee stopover, we headed across the back Table to the Diving Board: a precipitous promontory on which crazies take selfies. Not me!
Our downward route was via Kasteels Poort. Although counter-intuitive, I found the descent more challenging than the climb. I think on the next occasion I’d prefer to walk the 90-minutes to the Cable Station and funicular down the mountain and Uber back to the car.
In total, we walked for about 13 kilometres in about six-and-half hours.
Now that three days of stiffness has subsided all that remains is the warmth of self- congratulation and the knowledge that we can all cope with more than we imagine. And even enjoy it!