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Table Mountain

Some facts/fictions about Table Mountain

Table Mountain figures in 2 very tall stories. The first of these was known as the “Great Moon Hoax”. Apparently, through a telescope on Table Mountain, “the inhabitants of the moon” could be seen, this was described in a series of newspaper articles published in the United States of America in 1835. Numerous people believed the story which was told by an imaginative writer, Richard Adams Lock, in the New York Daily Sun.

The journal reported that it was quoting the startling account of the “moon people” which could be found in an Edinburgh science journal. It was further reported that Sir John Herschel, a noted astronomer, had viewed the moon through a new type of telescope which had been erected on Table Mountain. The telescope’s mirror was said to be 24 feet in diameter. Through this instrument the most incredible discovery had been made. The people of the moon were bat-men and bat-women, whose habits were described in detail. There were also apparently bison-like animals roaming the grassy moon plains. The account of course, had no substance in fact. Even though the hoax was exposed many gullible people still bought reprints of the articles.

The second of these also involved another bogus moon visitor. He was the much celebrated Baron Munchhausen who was a past master in the art of fabricating tall stories. His fantastic travels to various places were first distributed in 1785. He claimed that he had flattened the great rock behind Cape Town, which then subsequently came to be known as Table Mountain. He claimed that he drove a chariot which had 10 000 springs and was drawn by a team of bulls. When he drove too close to the celebrated rock pile, the wheels shattered it in a horizontal direction, which flattened it and causing it to look like a table.

Walks Up Table Mountain

Some easy ways to the top

Warning Visitors considering trips of this kind are advised to Furnish themselves with a pocket map of the mountain, which is issued By the Mountain Club, on which all the leading routes and Paths will be found. These maps may be obtained from any of the leading stationers.
A visitor to Cape Town wishing to climb Table Mountain has a choice of about 70 varieties of routes but you will find that some of these are nothing more than variations of similar routes. You might want to enjoy a simple walk up the Newlands or Constantia slopes or even one of the most frequented ravines, or you may venture various rock climbs with all degrees of difficulty. You should only attempt the latter if in expert company.
Probably the most popular of them is to go from Kirstenbosch Gardens and then walk up either one of Nursery Ravine or Skeleton Gorge. These trails are not very demanding and the top can usually be reached in about 6 hours.

The weather on the mountain is often unpredictable and you should prepare for either warm or cold weather. A warm top and sun-cream should both be packed as a must.

Once at the top, there is plenty of opportunity to rest after the long walk. You can visit the restaurant and various curio stores, or used the pay-to-view telescope which adds clarity to a fantastic view which we believe is unparalleled and allows a view of both the Indian and Atlantic ocean as well as a substantial section of Cape Town.

When leaving, you can choose to either walk back down the route which you came up or take the Cable Car down. The latter is normally more appealing as the length of the trail could mean you would have to do some walking with no daylight which is a highly dangerous option. If the Cable Car is the chosen option, you would need to arrange transport as you would finish at a different spot to where you began.

Stinkwater Ravine From the Camps Bay side

The first of the easier routes is called Stinkwater Ravine, sadly this is not frequented as much as one might expect. Water, wooded areas and shade are abundant, and there is just enough scrambling to suit those who do not care for actual climbing. There is a path which clearly indicates the route. At the point where the ravine continues just below the waterfall, there is a view which after heavy rains is well worth seeing. The view when looking upward is a superb with the precipitous walls supporting the Stinkwater Needle towering above one on the right. The waterfall, a climb which should not be attempted, is outflanked by a path leading up the slopes on the south (right) side. Higher up there are some easy rocks which you may climb, but if you wish to avoid them, you may just quit the bed of the stream.

Skeleton and Nursery Ravines (Suburban Side).

Of the ravines by which the suburban side of the mountain is fluted, virtually only two are feasible without indulging in a certain amount of rock scrambling. These are the “Skeleton” and the “Nursery.” Access to the former is obtained through the gate at Kirstenbosch, bearing a little to the right but keeping throughout on the left-hand side of the water-course. The Nursery Ravine lies immediately to the south of the Skeleton, and is also reached from Kirstenbosch, bearing to the left. In both cases some humpy ground is traversed before actually getting into these ravines. Both are interesting walks, bringing one out opposite the Cape Town reservoirs on the lower plateau of the mountain. But while Nursery is less frequented and may commend

itself on that score, the Skeleton is the more direct route to the plateau, and is the finer of the two ravines. It is the route most favoured on the suburban side; but traffic, fire and vandalism among the ferns have all spoiled its charms in the upper reaches. From the top a path diverges to the right up to the head of the Window Gorge and the Table, the main track continuing a little way through the first round the south side of the reservoirs, whence one may either cross the lower side of the wall to Kasteels Poort or continue in a southerly direction past the Wynberg reservoirs down the Diamond Spring route, or still further south down the Bridle Path to Constantia Nek.

Platteklip Gorge (Town Side).

To the ordinary visitor, the time-honoured Platteklip Gorge will probably commend itself as simplest and safest. The route is from upper Buitenkant Street to the right of the wash-houses, and a stranger cannot well get lost, even in mist, as the sheer walls on either side of the gorge forbid egress. Arrived on the top an unfailing spring of water will be found a few hundred yards down the Fountain Ravine on the right. This latter ravine, however, can not be descended. The view, looking downwards through the portals of the Platteklip Gorge, is impressive, but in other respects is less commanding than that on other routes, being shut in by the Devil’s Peak and by the deep walls of the gorge itself.
Kasteels Poort and Slangolie (Camp’s Bay Side). Proceeding further along the pipe track one reaches Kasteels Poort, which is perhaps the most popular route with non-limbers on the sea front of the mountain. This route requires no description and is easily identified by the standards which formerly were part of the aerial gear erected for use during the construction of the mountain reservoirs. At the head of Kasteels Poort is a rough shelter, and the Mountain Club hut is the building on the extreme left. The Water Works Cottage with telephone are close at hand. A favourite walk from the head of Kasteels Poort is to cross the lower reservoir wall and descend by the Skeleton Ravine to Newlands. Further along the pipe track is the Slangolie Ravine, from the head of which one can proceed down Orange Kloof or up the famous Disa Gorge, which before the construction of the reservoir was one of the chief beauty spots of the mountain, and is even now well worth a visit.

Bridle Path. The Bridle Path from Constantia Nek has become dethroned as a ladies’ route owing to the much greater familiarity of the fair sex with other ways of descent. It is no doubt easy to feeble knees, and is certainly not lacking in ‘definition,’ while its scenic charms are indisputable. But those resident north of Wynberg will find it a terribly long way to and from the upper Table contrasted with, say, the Saddle Face route, by which a mountaineer will easily descend from the summit edge to Newlands Avenue within an hour.

Long Kloof, Hout Bay Nek to Platteklip.

To those not afraid of a long day’s walk, no finer outing can be recommended than to cross Constantia Nek and make for the Long Kloof, the last high ravine this side of Hout Bay Nek. The river is best crossed near the Homestead in order to avoid potential difficulties. In the Kloof itself, where by the way the yellow disas grow, climbers may amuse themselves on quite nice bits of waterfall. Others may avoid these by going up on the righthand side. The Kloof is not so long as its name implies, and is distinctly interesting. From the top, heading a little north-west, one soon strikes a path by which the whole mountain may be traversed virtually from end to end. It passes the Slangolie buttress on to Kasteel’s Poort, immediately across the head of which the path continues up a well-watered little valley and close to the western edge of the mountain, crossing the head of Porcupine and Stinkwater ravines, past the Grotto and on to the high Table, whence there are splendid views looking back towards Hout Bay, Chapman’s Peak, Hangberg, etc. Proceeding, the path lands one at the top of Platteklip Gorge, down which, or alternatively down one of the preceding ravines, the descent may be made.

Saddle Face (Town or Suburban Side.)

The most popular of all the climbing routes up the mountain is that by the Saddle Face. It is an easy rock scramble, quite within the capabilities of the average goer possessing a cool head; anyone accustomed to rocks would readily find the way, which is up a well-defined path, while the pieces of rock work encountered offer interesting variety. For scenic effect the Saddle Face is hard to beat, and as an almost direct route to and from the highest point of the mountain it is the one usually chosen by regular climbers as their quickest means of descent. On the suburban side the shortest way is by the path leading from the “Forester’s Arms,” in the Newlands Avenue.

For a newcomer this is not quite easy to follow, owing to the various intersecting paths and bush-cutters’ tracks. In summer the mountain is shut out by the foliage in the woods; but the central of the three gullies leading up to the Saddle is the one to make for when it can be seen. A screen of stones on the slope affords a good landmark, the path running up immediately on its right. Arriving on the Saddle itself, the track leads sharp up to the left. From the town side the simplest route is from Mill Street, past Nazareth House, whence the path will be seen leading up under a line of firs cresting a fold of slope. On striking the track leading round the face of the mountain turn a few hundred yards to the right, when a path will be found leading diagonally up to the Saddle.

Follow this across the Saddle, until it joins the one from the Newlands side already referred From this point the most interesting part of the route commences. First up rather a steep slope to what is known as the “Knife Edge,” a narrow ridge whence there is an imposing view overlooking on the one side the suburbs, False Bay, the Cape Flats, and the mountains beyond. On the north side Cape Town lies in the hollow, and the view extends along the coast line as far north as Saldanha Bay, Dassen Island on clear days being also distinctly visible.

Proceeding along the ‘Knife Edge” the path turns north-westwards along the first of three main ledges, which are the feature of the Saddle Face route. From the first rocks it leads back again along a minor ledge and up by further easy rocks until the second ledge is gained where the first serious climbing pitch begins. Here, either by a narrow crack or by a little face work, a narrow rock ledge is reached. Following this to the right the climber finds himself just below a small chimney, access to which is afforded by a high hand hold to the right.

This accomplished, there is no difficulty in scaling the chimney and reaching the third and uppermost ledge, on which beneath an overhanging rock wall is a welcome and never failing spring. From this point one traverses the broad ledge, again in a north-westerly direction, until confronted above by a huge wall protruding at a right angle. Just short of this the summit is gained by a kind of natural staircase up either a piece of open face work or a narrow crack on its right. This route can not be classed as a climb up which anyone may indiscriminately be advised to proceed, but, as a rock climb and to those who have had a little experience of actual rock climbing; its difficulties are very small.