I call this hike crazy because it’s probably the steepest climb that you can do as an amateur without ropes!!!!
I’ve had this hike on my bucket list for a couple years and now that I’ve done it I don’t know why I waited so long. It was incredible!!!!
This route starts at Tafelberg road at the lower Aerial Cable Car Station and heads straight up the lower slopes to the contour path and then winds up the upper slopes towards the upper Aerial Cable Car Station at the top of Table Mountain.
Part 1: Lower Cable Car to Contour Path
We started around 8.30am on Saturday with a small group of our regular hiking group. The initial path follows directly below the wires of the cable car gondola which gives you the feeling that you’re being swooped upon every now and then as the gondola passes over with its huge shadow.
As we climbed the rocky steps we huffed and puffed and sweated and stripped off the extra layers of warm clothing. We’ve all learnt to always come prepared for this mountain, because conditions can change fast. Already, the cloud that we had seen when we arrived had lifted and the wind had changed.
Our first rest stop was the contour path that follows the lower edge of the cliffs of Table Mountain. The contour itself is a great hike for anyone of any fitness. Once you climb the steps to get to it, it’s a wonderful flattish walk along the front face of the mountain. But we weren’t taking the contour. Our path cut straight across it and headed up the trickier rock face of the upper slopes flanked by an ominous sign.
Part 2: contour Path to the upper Cliffs
Not deterred by the warning we followed the yellow footprints up the next rockier steps that immediately were steeper than the previous ones. We were determined to push on and continued to put one foot in front of the other up the slopes.
From this point onwards the path cut along the bottom edge of a very steep cliff. The walking was easy until we reached our first real scramble. Here the path increased in difficulty substantially and although I love a climb I’m always aware of those that are not as agile.
Part 3: the Climbs 🔴 🔵 🟢
The red dot 🔴 climb was our first big Scramble pictured below.
The first serious scramble 🔴
The first scramble was completely unassisted as there were no pins or chains to help you climb and some of the stretches required a good amount of upper body strength. It was also definitely a bit more of a struggle for any of our more petite hikers.
After a couple ladies got an extra little boost up some of the higher climbs, we all took a break to catch our breath to take in the glorious views of the mountain and the city bowl of Cape Town CBD below.
The Blue dot 🔵 climb
The next climb was scarier as essentially we were climbing a rock face, but this time we had the help of pins and chains to get ourselves up there. I really enjoyed these more technical sections and find them more exciting than scary, but I know that a couple of the ladies made a real effort not to look down 😢.
The Green dot 🟢 Climb
This section followed shortly after the Blue dot climb and didn’t leave much time for recovery. Onwards and upwards, this time climbing through a crevice between two Boulder rock faces. This section called for agility and less strength as you either squeezed between our skirted around large rock formations.
Once we reached the top of the crevice it was relatively easy and only a short way further to a beautiful rest spot directly below the Upper Cable Station. Every took a sigh of relief as we stopped for lunch and had a decent break.
Just across from us on the largest rock face was a lonesome rock climber in a bright Orange top. I think that’s the o my reason we spotted him. He was just a speck in a sea of grey stone and shadows. Swinging, climbing, lowering down, climbing again. We were fascinated and in awe.
Part 4: The Fountain Ledges
I don’t know why we thought the hardest part was over because the fun was just beginning!
Cable Car Station above
The edge of the mountain ahead
The views of Lions Head, Signal Hill and the City below.
Up we got and followed the path around the rock face to the back of Table Mountain as an entirely new view opened up before us. Below we found the suburb of Camps Bay with its pristine white beaches and palm trees and the Atlantic Ocean.
We followed this new contour called the Fountain trail and we’re surprised by one last scramble. Three of us got up the first easy bit and then got a bit stuck as the best way up wasn’t very clear.
Just as we were trying to get ourselves some space to manoeuvre a young man came racing past almost knocking us down as he attempted to climb the face just alongside us to our left. A split second later he shockingly lost his footing and slipped straight off the rock face and free fell through the air!!!!
I think he had angels because his hiking partner caught him in his arms like a cradle and unfortunately landed against my friends leg crushing it against the rocks that we were standing on. She was ok but I’m sure has a big bruise to show for it today.
We were all shocked, shaken and utterly dismayed that someone could a) be that stupid and b) be so lucky to be caught and c) could have knocked us all off our little perch on the face like dominoes!
I tend to go calm in a crisis so I didn’t get a big adrenaline rush. I just went into work mode to get these ladies up this section because after this the rest was easy. They handed up their bags and then slowly made the climb up and then we all took a moment to collect ourselves and vent for a couple minutes.
All together again we made our way along the Fountain Ledges around the Rocky outcrops and into the ravine where the flora changed dramatically from sparse rock to lush protea and bush.
And just as we came to the end of the Ledges we were reminded by how treacherous the route that we had just done really was. The sign was well appointed telling folk not to go that way.
We came to a four way crossing and hung a left towards the path leading to the Upper Cable Station. And a short time later we were officially at the top of Table Mountain!!!! Hooraaaaaaay!
Part 5: the Cable Car ride down
I don’t actually remember the last time I went up Table Mountain via Cable Car although I think it was when my son was tiny baby. So this all felt quite exciting and fresh. The buildings have been refurbished. The systems work well. The signage and staff are helpful. I guess you shouldn’t expect anything less of a UNESCO World Heritage Site but we are still in Africa and things don’t always go to plan.
We bought a Hikers 1-way ticket for R200 from the upstairs lounge and joined the cue of folk wanting to exit the mountain.
I took one last photo of this spectacular view before we climbed on the cable car. And as soon as the doors closed I remembered that the floor turns allowing every passenger to get the 360 degree views of the mountain and city.
Here’s a video of the ride down - hope it doesn’t make you feel sick!
The Final route and Stats
I can’t wait to get back and do this route again. It was epic, exciting, challenging and stunningly beautiful.
For those regular hikers out there, look me up if you ever make it to Cape Town and I’ll do this one again with you!
Sending love from Cape Town, South Africa