Table Mountain - Platteklip Gorge - South Africa
Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa. It is a significant tourist attraction, with many visitors using the cableway or hiking to the top. Elevation: 1 085 m First ascent: 1503 Prominence: 1 055 m Easiest route: Platteklip Gorge First ascender: António de Saldanha HIKING UP AND DOWN PLATTEKLIP If you decide to give the Cableway a miss in favour of a hike to the top of the mountain, do not be misled by the 3km distance from bottom to top. The distance may sound short, but the hike is a physically demanding “moderate to tough” route that takes between one and three or more hours to complete. The hike is suitable for older children who are in peak physical condition. Although the path is easy to negotiate, it is quite steep and should be tackled at an easy pace, affording hikers time to appreciate the flora, fauna and scenic views. The route starts at the parking lot 2km past the lower cable station. The main feature of Table Mountain is the level plateau approximately 3 kilometres (2 mi) from side to side, edged by impressive cliffs. The plateau, flanked by Devil's Peak to the east and by Lion's Head to the west, forms a dramatic backdrop to Cape Town. This broad sweep of mountainous heights, together with Signal Hill, forms the natural amphitheatre of the City Bowl and Table Bay harbour. The highest point on Table Mountain is towards the eastern end of the plateau and is marked by Maclear's Beacon, a stone cairn built in 1865 by Sir Thomas Maclear for trigonometrical survey. It is 1,086 metres (3,563 ft) above sea level, and about 19 metres (62 ft) higher than the cable station at the western end of the plateau. The cliffs of the main plateau are split by Platteklip Gorge ("Flat Stone Gorge"), which provides an easy and direct ascent to the summit and was the route taken by António de Saldanha on the first recorded ascent of the mountain in 1503. The flat top of the mountain is often covered by orographic clouds, formed when a south-easterly wind is directed up the mountain's slopes into colder air, where the moisture condenses to form the so-called "table cloth" of cloud. Legend attributes this phenomenon to a smoking contest between the Devil and a local pirate called Van Hunks. When the table cloth is seen, it symbolizes the contest. Table Mountain is at the northern end of a sandstone mountain range that forms the spine of the Cape Peninsula that terminates approximately 50 km to the south at the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. Immediately to the south of Table Mountain is a rugged "plateau" at a somewhat lower elevation than the Table Mountain Plateau (at about 1000 m), called the "Back Table". The "Back Table" extends southwards for approximately 6 km to the Constantia Nek-Hout Bay valley. The Atlantic side of the Back Table, is known as the Twelve Apostles, which extends from Kloof Nek (the saddle between Table Mountain and Lion's Head) to Hout Bay. The eastern side of this portion of the Peninsula's mountain chain, extending from Devil's Peak, the eastern side of Table Mountain (Erica and Fernwood Buttresses), and the Back Table to Constantia Nek, does not have single name, as on the western side. It is better known by the names of the conservation areas on its lower slopes: Groote Schuur Estate, Newlands Forest, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cecilia Park, and Constantia Nek. IMPORTANT RULES FOR HIKERS Never hike alone. A group of four is ideal. Nominate a leader to guide you and make decisions on behalf of the group. The group should hike at the rate of the slowest member and should never split up. Take more than enough drinking water, especially in summer. Select your route best suited to your group’s experience, fitness levels and capability. Remember that the Cableway can close at any time due to unpredictable weather conditions. Don't rely on being able to ride it up or down, even if you've already checked whether it's open. Allow sufficient time to ascend and descend before dark, making allowance for a stop at the summit for a rest and refreshments. If you intend taking the Cableway down, make sure that it is operating on the day but leave yourself enough time to hike down before sunset if needs be. Hike with someone who is familiar with the route or use a recent map or guidebook. Alternatively consult someone who has personally climbed the route. With the exception of guide dogs, dogs (with or without a leash) are not allowed to travel in the cable car due to health and safety reasons. Never stray off designated routes, take short cuts or enter unknown ravines. Take note of signs that warn of danger ahead. Always ensure that someone knows exactly which route you intend taking and when you expect to return (do not deviate from this plan). Take proper weatherproof and windproof clothing in your backpack in case the weather changes or you are delayed for some reason. Be aware of changes in the weather and turn back if bad weather threatens, or if you’re battling on the chosen route. In an emergency, find a spot that offers some form of shelter from the wind. Never try to continue climbing in the dark or in heavy mist. If you get lost, retrace your steps. If you can't find your original path, move down broad, open slopes.