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© Aerial Perspectives SA

Climb Platteklip Gorge - Come down by Cable Car -  © Mike Lundy

No trip to Cape Town, or indeed Southern Africa, can be complete without experiencing the unforgettable panorama seen from the top of Table Mountain. Seasoned travelers will tell you this view rivals anything they have seen anywhere else across the globe. Do not leave Cape Town without going up Table Mountain! Better still, if you are fit enough, here are the directions for a safe climb to the Upper Cable Station via "Platteklip Gorge". It takes 2 1/2 hours for a reasonably fit person, and just four minutes to come down in the cable car. If you allow at least 3 1/2 hours for this strenuous round trip, you will have time to enjoy the view and to have refreshments in the restaurant on top.

Before starting: Be sure to take warm clothes and something to drink. There is water at only one place near the beginning, and you will climb to an altitude of over 1000m, where it is invariably much cooler than down below. It is important to wear suitable footwear. This is not a route for children or dogs.

Start from the Lower Cable Station. The path begins at the extreme right hand end of the ticket area and bus parking lot. Your first aim is to get on the mountain side of the Lower Cable Station and then follow the cable car wires a short way up the mountain. This route goes up some steep rocky steps for 15-20 minutes, after which you will come to a rocky barrier and a signpost warning you not to continue on upwards. At this point the upward route is crossed by a clear path going from right to left. This is the "Contour Path" which goes around Table Mountain at more or less the same level, crossing through Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens and finally finishing at Constantia Nek some 7 hours walk away.

You need to turn left at this level Contour Path, to take you to the base of Platteklip Gorge. Platteklip means "flat stones", and you should reach it after walking for about 25 minutes along the level Contour Path towards Devils Peak. Avoid being tempted by a couple of paths going up the mountain along the way. After some 20 minutes on the level, the path forks. Avoid the left fork, which will simply take you down and back to the road again. You need to keep on the level and take the right fork, for a couple of minutes later you will turn a corner and go down into the lower reaches of Platteklip Gorge. Here you will find a perennial stream and the only year-round source of water on this walk.

Cross over the stream and proceed a further 100 meters until you come to a signpost showing the way up Platteklip Gorge. Looking up now you will see the "nick" in the TableTop as seen from afar. But from this angle it is a gaping split in the skyline. Head for it, for this is your way to the summit. This path now zig-zags laboriously up the left-hand side of the gorge for about 1 1/2 hours, before reaching the top. Stay on the path and do not cut corners, as this will add to the soil erosion. Please do not litter on the mountain. The path up is clear and well worn all the way to the top.

On reaching the top of Platteklip Gorge, turn sharp right after having a well-deserved breather. Within a few meters the path scrambles up a gentle rock face and spills onto a cemented path on the Table Top, from where you will soon see the top of the Upper Cable Station building and the chimney of the restaurant peeping out ahead. Before reaching them, don't miss looking at the large display relief map of the Cape Peninsula, and venture onto the observation platforms that offer magnificent views of the city below.

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Author - Mike Lundy

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The Cape Peninsula and the South Western Cape offer a wide variety of walks, climbs and day-drives. Mike Lundy has written numerous books on the subject, available from leading bookstores:

"Mike Lundy's Best Walks in the Cape Peninsula" includes a full guide to walking the Contour Path to Rhodes Memorial, Kirstenbosch or to Constantia Nek; the ascent of "Lion's Head" and "Devils Peak" and also the route up "Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine" lying above Kirstenbosch;
"Easy Walks in the Cape Peninsula" - 52 walks suitable for the whole family plus the dog;
"Weekend Trails in the Western Cape" - Sleeping out in the mountains of the Western Cape;
"Armchair Hiking in the Western Cape" - Take your mind up the mountains and leave your legs on the sofa.