Climb that goddam mountain.
Gotta love Jack Kerouac for this inspiration. I did until 2 minutes into hiking Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge. Then I cursed him and my cousin who made actually made me do it. She is a lot more persuasive than Jack, and a lot fitter than me.
Hiking up Table Mountain is a rite of passage in Cape Town. Tourists take the cable car or just do Lion's Head, travelers hike up Table Mountain. It is a rite of passage that I managed to avoid while I lived there for seven years and on many subsequential visits. Not because I don't like hiking but because I realized over the last few years I have gotten increasingly unfit. While I wrote an extensive post on how to stay fit while traveling, I didn't practice what I preached.
This time around I decided that had to change and so I was grateful to be staying with a very outdoorsy family who works out a lot and didn't mind me tagging along, albeit panting. Walks on the beach, spinning classes, Biskop stairs (don't ask, it is torturous!), and finally Table Mountain.
The irony was that I had recently written about the different hiking Table Mountain routes and what they entailed. Needless to say, I didn't do my research well because if I had I may have stayed in bed. As it was I found myself climbing up neverending rock steps, panting and sweating profusely.
Platteklip Gorge is the shortest (about 3km long), most direct ascent up Table Mountain. With it being the shortest it also means it is the steepest (at least as far as non-rockclimbing routes are concerned).
You start with a pretty vertical scramble about 200m. Then you have the choice to turn right and return to the bottom cable car station or continue left. A little path will meander sometimes straight but usually up.
Eventually, my family sprinted along, which I didn't mind at all because this way I could take my time and have enough breaks to take pictures/ catch my breath.
As Platteklip Gorge is the shortest and one of the most popular routes, it means it gets quite busy. Something I also didn't mind because it meant that I felt safe should anything happen (it does get quite rocky at times) and it gave me an added motivation - if those people could do it, so could I!
The last part was the most challenging and the meaning of mind over matter became a whole new ... well, matter. I ran into a group taking a break and a girl told me I had almost made it. That was 40 minutes before I actually made it, something I luckily didn't know at the time. Once in while you need a good lie to keep you going. My crappy knees also helped as they kept me from going back down as did my stubborn mind. If I do put it to something, get a little bit of pride involved, I get shit done.
And so I made it eventually. Just know that once you think you are all the way up, you actually aren't and there will be a bit of rockface and some chains to pull yourself up before you are really all the way on top of Table Mountain. But once you are, you will feel proud and most likely tempted to high five some strangers or even take a wohooo I made it! victory picture - go ahead, you deserve it!
Was it worth it? Absolutely! Am I lying? Maybe. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter. Sometimes you just have to climb that goddamn mountain and prove just how stubborn you really are.
Tips on Hiking Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge
- You can drive up to the beginning of the hike and park your car here, just go beyond the cableway station until you see a green sign on the right saying Platteklip Gorge. Note that you will need to walk back to your car once you have made it down with the cableway.
- If hiking Table Mountain without a guide, Platteklip Gorge is the ideal route because you cannot get lost. There is only one point when you can go left or right and there are clear signs which way will lead you where. Other than that - the only way is up.
- Take enough water. I took a 0,75-litre bottle which was empty before I made it to the summit.
- There is no shade at all. Make sure to wear sunscreen and bring a hat. Get there early - we started at 8.30am, definitely too late for a nice sunny day. Do take a jersey as it can get chilly on top.
- While my nephew hikes up Table Mountain barefoot, I recommend good trainers. You don't need hiking boots but you want to wear something you are surefooted in.
- On the top, you will find a little cafe and you can buy your cableway ticket to get down. Bring cash or a card, the tickets are ZAR 150, and in most cases, you will not need to buy your ticket in advance.
For those who aren't too keen on cableways, yours truly included, note that the inside rotates so everyone can enjoy the view. Take a friend to hold on to if needed.
- Take a camera or cell phone - while it isn't the most scenic route there are some beautiful views over Devil's Peak, Signal Hill and Lion's Head, and you will need to take at least one selfie once you've made it to the top.
- Guidebooks will tell you the hike takes 3-4 hours. I managed it in just over two hours while it took my cousin and niece an hour. I also met a lady in her 60s who does the hike every day and manages in thirty minutes. Now that is motivation!
Have you hiked up Table Mountain before?