21 December 2010

Platteklip Gorge & Western Table

Date: 19 December 2010

Location: Table Mountain

Walkers: Michele, Helen & Delphi

*** Route plotted here ***

Before this walk I'd climbed up Platteklip Gorge twice. The first time, three or four years ago, was on a hot February day and I got sunstroke. That weekend a tourist died after collapsing on the same route, so I got a big fright: not only is sunstroke very unpleasant, it is also extremely dangerous. The second time I made the ascent (here) I found it a challenging and strenuous walk. I reckoned it was time to try the route again, as a fitness test. Michele and Delphi decided to come along too. We opted for an early start - 6am - so that the climb was done before the day warmed up. We met at the start of the walk on Tafelberg Road. It was misty: really, really misty. We could only just make out the bulky shape of Table Mountain above us. Up we went through the gloomy mist. It was very atmospheric!




Shortly after we crossed the contour path we got above the mist and could see all the way up the gorge. The path zig-zags all the way to the gap. It is only a 3km walk, but all uphill. Up to an elevation of approximately 1000m.



It was wonderful to be above the mist. Every so often a cloud would drift up and envelop us, but as we climbed higher we finally left it behind.






And above the mist: glorious sunshine! This is the sort of view one usually gets from an aeroplane window... we felt on top of the world even though we were only half way up the mountain.



The climb itself was straightforward. Stone steps uphill alternate with short sections on the level. It is tough, but we were pleasantly surprised at how easily we managed it. There wasn't too much huffing and puffing, and we took only brief stops to drink water, marvel at the incredible views and snap photos. All that fitness training we've been doing is definitely paying off!




We noticed that many of the rocks have graffiti messages on them - certainly more than last time we did this walk. I'm not happy to see that this has become a 'thing'. It's vandalism and very unsightly!



As we got higher we could see across to Oppelskop and Devil's Peak.



Several flowers spotted alongside the path...





The great cloud sea covered the whole city and flats beyond, with the Hottentots Holland and Stellenbosch mountains visible in the far distance.



The gorge narrows towards the top. The day was warming up and it was hot in the sun. We were so glad we'd started the walk early.



My favourite part was right near the top where we skirted past boulders.



One last glimpse behind us, and then we were up!



From here we took the path right up onto the Western Table. Another walker had mentioned to us that one can buy early-bird hiker tickets down the Aerial Cableway, so we thought we'd investigate. I hate walking downhill so whizzing down this way sounded very appealing.



From the Western Table we could see Constantiaberg behind us, peeking out above the cloud that was covering the southern peninsula too.



Table Mountain is astonishingly flat on top. Not sure why this always surprises me!



We walked across to the shop at the upper cable station and bought our tickets for the descent by cable car, taking advantage of their hiker's special (one-way tickets down for R45.00, purchased before 9.30am). According to their rates page this deal will run until the end of January 2011.



Now we had some time to explore the top of the mountain. First we took a bench overlooking the Twelve Apostles. Time for snacks. The cloud was pouring down the peaks. So beautiful.





Further round we spotted Lion's Head sticking out above the cloud.



There were viewing machines available - not that there was much to see below us except cloud! We did spot some dassies sunning themselves on the rocks below. One was barking. We couldn't see what the problem was - he shrieked loudly for several minutes, and then seemed to fall asleep. Odd little creatures these.



Next we walked back along the way we'd come across the Western Table a little earlier and saw that the mist was now coming through the Platteklip Gorge gap. The cloud had risen and the wind was getting up.



We thought we'd better hurry to the front of the mountain and see what we could, in case the weather was changing for the worse. But it was still sunny and calm on that side, with spectacular views of the cloud over the city below. The cableway was running, ferrying tourists up the mountain.




The City Bowl was below us, but covered with misty cloud.



Towards the Eastern Table more cloud was rushing over the edge. It didn't seem to be the usual 'table cloth' that comes about when the south-easter wind blows, although I'm not sure what was going on weather-wise to cause these cloud effects. All I know is it was truly spectacular and we felt so lucky to be witnessing it.






We continued our circuit around the Western Table. It is all very civilised up there, with pathways and information boards and viewing decks.




In the sheltered spots between the rocks we saw spotted some flowers.



This appears to be some sort of orchid. Perhaps Disa harveiana?



As we headed back round to the south we could see the cloud was still rising, and every now and then wisps would fly past us. And it was gusty. We took note of the high wind warning, and thought it best to head down sooner rather than later. Back to the cable station then.



As we passed the Apostles again we could see that the cloud was beginning to break up.



From the upper station we found a spot on the next cable car down. It was a few minutes wait before we left, and then a short trip down. It took only a couple of minutes, and the car rotated so that everyone got to see the views in all directions. Whee... the easiest way down, for sure!





As we landed and then walked back along Tafelberg Road to our cars we were amazed to see that almost all the cloud was gone, and it was hot, still and sunny below.


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2 comments:

Firefly said...

I was oooo'ing and ahhhh'ing all the way up and along the top with you. I even called my wife to come and have a look at the photos. Beautiful. Going up Platteklip Gorge to the top of Table Mountain is right at the top of my "to do" list in Cape Town. We are heading for the Drakensberg this year, but has already said that next December we want to do a week somewhere in the WC (probably near Ceres) and then a week in Cape Town. On that trip this will be a priority.

Helen said...

Thanks. This is an amazing walk - such a sense of achievement when one gets to the top!
I look forward to seeing your pics of the Drakensberg - one of my favourite places in the world. Happy holidays to you!