Climbing Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

Table Mountain is Cape Town’s dominant geological feature.  It towers almost exactly one kilometer above the city.

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Table Mountain and central Cape Town from the Robben Island ferry on Table Bay.  I planned on climbing the mountain later that day.

There are several popular trails to the summit.  They are easily reached by car, bus or simply walking from downtown Cape Town.  A cable car is the quickest and easiest way to get to the top.  I planned to hike up and take the cable car down.

This was my third exploration of the day.  Following the Robben island tour in the morning and then a tour of Cape Town sights, my guide dropped me at the Tafelberg Road trailhead a short drive past the cable car station.

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Trail Map at Tafelberg Road trailhead

The Platteklip Gorge trail is the shortest and fastest route to the top.  That also means it is the steepest trail although it is not rated as particularly difficult.  On this trail it takes about 2.5 hours to reach the plateau at the summit and traverse to the cable car station.  Those who are extremely physically fit can do it in less than half that time.  It was a spectacular day, and I was in no hurry stopping several times to rest and enjoy the views.

The trail is made of stones from the surrounding terrain that have been used to create seemingly endless stone steps.  The steps on this trail reminded me (not a fond memory by the way) of the Phedi to Dhampus section of the Annapurna Trail in Nepal.

The lower part of the trail is somewhat easier (or perhaps it was just that my legs were becoming exhausted later on).  Even in the steep sections, the trail is wide enough for two people to pass side by side.

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Part of the lower trail
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The weather was perfect for a hike

 

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In Platteklip Gorge the trail steepens.

The entire hike has great views of Cape Town, Table bay and surrounding areas.

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View from Platteklip Gorge, a narrow cut in the face of the mountain.  The gorge provides a direct route to the top without scaling the vertical rock cliffs.

The late start and slow but steady pace resulted in reaching the summit plateau at almost 5:30pm.

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Getting off the steep trail was cause for celebration.

The actual summit, Maclear’s Beacon, which is a few meters higher, lies to the north of this point.  It is another hour’s hike out and back.  The late hour and the need to reach the cable car station before the last car down at 6:00pm meant a trip to the beacon was out of the question.

Instead, I took the trail to the right to the cable car and enjoyed the magnificent sunset views.

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On the summit plateau at about 5:30pm.

Here the flatness of the trail allowed appreciating the diversity of the flora.  It is said that there are more species of flora on Table Mountain than in all of Great Britain.20170602_172224_resized

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More great sunset views on the final few steps to the cable car station

The cable car station on top has a restaurant, snack shop and gift shop.  I bypassed them and straightaway purchased my adult, one-way ticket for 135R (about $10).  I boarded at about 5:50pm.  This cable car revolves.  Just stand in one spot and it rotates slowly to give a complete 360 degree view.

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An ascending car passes on the five-minute descent to the lower cable car station.
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View of Cape Town and Table Bay on the descent.
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Cable car at the lower station after discharging passengers

Overall Impression

Hiking Table Mountain is well worth the effort.  For those short on time or wishing to avoid the exertion, the cable car is the best bet.  Either way, taking in the views from the top is a must for anyone visiting Cape Town.

 

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