Five popular Cape Town hikes

2013-01-07 14:57

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Cape Town is unique in many ways. Especially so when you consider its close urban proximity to natural escapes. Try one of these five most popular hiking routes found within the Table Mountain National Park - as suggested by SANParks.

1 Lion’s Head Walk:  
The easy spiral walk starts on Signal Hill Drive, below Lion’s Head. Its 669m summit offers a 360-degree sweep of the city bowl; Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain, the Twelve Apostles, the stunning scenery of the Atlantic seaboard  and of course, Robben Island.

Hiker's alert: This hike gets especially busy during full moon as it provides spectacular views of the moon as it rises over the Hottentots Holland Mountains to the east.  Please remember alcohol, darkness and the initial steep descent can be a very dangerous combination.

Distance: about 2km one-way
Time: 1hr - 1hr 30mins up
Rating: easy with some minor rock scrambling
Children: yes but may require help at the chains
Dogs: Are not recommended.
Water: none available along this route


2. The Pipe Track Walk
This walk starts at the junction of Tafelberg Road and Kloof Nek - constructed to service a pipeline running below the series of peaks known as the Twelve Apostles. This pipeline was built to carry water from Disa Gorge in Table Mountain’s Back Table, via the Woodhead Tunnel through the mountain in Slangolie Ravine, to the Molteno Reservoir in Oranjezicht to help slake the thirst of the booming, late 19th century Cape Town. In several places the path is very stony, but it is an easily accessible and popular walk, with many locals making regular use of certain sections.

Hiker's alert: The Pipe Track is very exposed to the hot afternoon sun in summer; it is at its best early on summer mornings and especially during winter, when many of its Protea species are in bloom.

Distance: about 6km one-way to Corridor Ravine
Time: 4hrs - 4hr30mins return
Rating: easy to Slangolie, moderate to Corridor
Children: yes, but the full route is tough
Dogs: yes
Water: tap at the start; take lots in summer



3. Platteklip to Upper Cableway Station
Up - relentlessly up! That’s the only way to describe the path in Platteklip Gorge. It’s the most direct route to the top of the mountain and the most popular. However, it is not a route to be trifled with; the going can be tough.

Platteklip Gorge
The walk starts on Tafelberg Road and ascends the main gorge that divides the front face (Africa face) of Table Mountain. The path is well constructed with stone steps and anti-erosion gabions, and is not difficult to negotiate at any point. However, it is steep, and the best way to tackle Platteklip is slowly - don’t try to rush it, and frequent stops will give you a chance to look back at the great view of Cape Town and Table Bay below.
Allow sufficient time for walking down, even if your plan is to come down with the cableway. Rapid changes in weather conditions often cause the cableway to shut down unexpectedly, leaving hikers stranded in darkness at the upper cable station.

Hiker's alert: Don’t underestimate Platteklip Gorge, which can be extremely hot and/or very cold and windy. The temperature at the top can be much lower than on Tafelberg Road, with an icy wind blowing, even in January and February. Always take enough water, a hat, sun block and warm, windproof clothing with you - even on hot summer days!

Distance: about 3km up!
Time: between 1hr for the super fit to 3hrs for the slow
Rating: moderate to tough, depending on fitness and weather
Children: older children yes, but it is demanding
Dogs: not recommended, and not on the cableway
Water: always take plenty of your own, especially in summer
Upper Cableway Station to Maclear’s Beacon Walk

4. Maclear's Beacon
This walk is a must if you want to be able to say you've stood at the highest point on Table Mountain, even if at 1 088m it is only 21m above the Upper Cableway Station.

To the very top
From the Upper Cableway Station, choose the main path leading to the diagonally opposite corner of what is known as the Western Table – look for plaques as guide marks to make sure you're on the right track. It will take you 10 to 15 minutes to walk across to the point where chains and poles have been provided to assist the short climb down the rocky steps at the edge: it is not difficult. Do not attempt to climb down at any other point! The path to Maclear's Beacon is marked by painted yellow footprints.

Hiker's alert: Do not attempt this walk if there is low cloud or mist on the mountain. It is very easy to become disoriented and to lose your way.

Distance: 5.5km overall
Time: 45mins to an hour one-way to Maclear’s Beacon
Rating: easy
Children: yes
Dogs: not recommended
Water: none available along this route



5 Skeleton Gorge to Maclear’s Beacon: The Smuts Track
The Smuts Track is one of the most popular walks on Table Mountain, and especially in summer when the Afromontane forest offers shade almost all the way up skeleton Gorge, the toughest section. The climb is steep and unrelenting, although not difficult or requiring more than an ability to climb a wooden ladder and negotiate a few rocky steps. However, many people underestimate the effort required, particularly when they go all the way to Maclear's Beacon. Be prepared; don't make the same mistake.

The walk starts in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, but the heart of this route begins at the intersection of Skeleton Gorge and the Contour Path. The first 40 to 75 minutes is spent in the forest climbing log and stone steps. About two-thirds of the way up a series of wooden ladders eases the way over steep rocks, which can be slippery when, wet.

Hiker's alert: Parts of Skeleton Gorge are slippery, even in summer; take special care after rain and in winter. Avoid this route during and immediately after heavy rain.

Distance: +/-4km
Time: from 2hrs for the super-fit to 4hrs for the less-than-fit (one-way)
Rating: moderate, no shade in the second half
Children: yes
Dogs: not recommended
Water: mountain streams usually flow, but it’s best to take your own

Numbers which could come in handy:
Emergency SAPS (South African Police Service): 10111 (02110111 on cell)
Emergency CT Emergency Services: (021) 480 7700
Emergency CT Central OPS Centre: (021) 467 8002
Emergency NSRI: 082 911
Emergency TM Cable Car Company: (021) 424 0015

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