Table Mountain Trip Report
Platteklip Gorge, 05/07/10
When I found I would be visiting Cape Town, South Africa for an academic conference, one of the major things I really wanted to do was go up Table Mountain. Known for its iconic setting between mountain and the sea, Cape Town provides the perfect jumping off point for a trip up the hill. Table Mountain itself is part of Table Mountain National Park, which extends all the way down the peninsula to the Cape of Good Hope.
My business brought me to Cape Town in early May, the beginning of the South African winter. I was there for 6 days, and my sightseeing time would be limited. Unfortunately, the weather was also a bit uncooperative, with rain, fog and wind most of the time. The easy way up the mountain, a cableway, is closed during inclement weather, and the views from a foggy summit are poor anyway. Fortunately, the weather cleared on the last day of the conference, and I was able to get away with a couple of other attendees and their spouses.
Table Mountain is fairly well-developed, and the trails and routes up the mountain are easy to see and find. My time was limited, so I joined a group of people heading up via the cable way. In spite of a couple of delays, we managed to catch the last ride up before closing, and while going up I looked over to Tim, one of my companions, and asked if he wanted to hike down, rather than take the cableway. He consented, and an adventure was born.
We knew the general route down the mountain, but didn't have a very good map. Luckily, there was a couple of plaques with maps on them at the upper cableway station, and we figured that as soon as we found a reasonable trail, the going would be easier. As sunlight was fading fast, we quickly made our way from the upper cableway station to the saddle above Platteklip Gorge, a typical decent route back to Cape Town.
The route was steep, and I was glad that we had opted to go down, and not up. I was wearing my standard walking shoes, but the on the rocky path, I found myself wanting my hiking boots, as I felt every pebble. The trail begun in the narrow upper reaches of the gorge, and switched back as it made its way down the face of the mountain. For much of the trail, the stones were arranged in a stair formation, which made the going easy, but tiresome.
We made pretty good time on our way down, especially since we were trying to get off the mountain before it was dark. Cape Town is safer than other parts of South Africa, but the guidebooks I had read prior to going said that there had been muggings on the mountain trails, and I wanted to avoid that fate if I could help it. Because of the encroaching darkness, we decided to go straight down to the Table Mountain road to meet the rest of our company, rather than hike the trail across the face of the mountain to the lower cable way station.
Our group met us shortly after we go to the road, where we piled into the car, and made our way to the waterfront for dinner and reflection on the hike. I'm glad I had the chance to visit this city, and spend some time on Table Mountain. Given the opportunity, I'd take more time to explore the other areas of the park, including Cape Point and the rest of the peninsula, but the trip was a great primmer in South African culture.