The cable cars silently glide over my burnt orange rocky perch and from this vantage point I can peer into the glass fronted levitated car. Inside is a cram of people all sporting sunglasses sunhats and DSLR cameras slung around their necks. I felt smug for my route up table mountain, the solitude I had coupled with views overlooking the cape peninsula surely beat being penned in a cable car. If anyone in the car looked downwards they may have seen me waving and I'm sure they would've felt the opposite, feeling smug for their quick and comfortable journey up to the top. But for any mountain it's about the journey more than the destination which holds for even for this benign looking mountain and hiking/scrambling up was the only way I would be getting to the top.
There are a number of ways up to the top of table mountain but the most popular route is the Platteklip gorge route that is a purely hiking route (No hands required). The reason though that I had the mountain to myself was that I was on the India Venster trail, a more vertical route up the mountain with a handful of scrambling sections that are, as I was due to find out, reasonably exposed.
Where the two trails separate a sign warns of the danger of the india venster trail and suitable only for experienced people and the necessity of climbing in a group of four. This is all good sense as people have fallen and died on this trail. I was, on the other hand, by myself and I was okay with that - for anyone going off on routes by themselves, myself included, has already weighed up the consequences of something going wrong against the charms of solitude and self reliance.
Not knowing the mountain itself wasn't an issue as the route was well marked with intermittently placed yellow painted footprints (if you haven't seen a footprint for awhile you're probably going the wrong way) and a well trodden path (on the more horizontal sections). Half way up, though, things get a little more vertical. A smattering of easy and protected scrambling leads to a ten metre section that is requiring a head for heights, some upper body strength and previous scrambling experience. A couple of ladder rungs and chain are intermittently placed intending to supplement the rock. Exposure here is reasonably high. By the time I got to this section I caught up with the only other group on this route which happened to be a guided group of three. As it happened it was quite handy to see the most efficient way up this section and I would highly recommend the less experienced to get a guide, who are all reasonably priced. Within a couple of minutes this section is over and then simple scrambling and hiking takes you all the way to the top apart from one small additional section that requires a little care.
Apart from that one group I didn’t come across anyone else on the route which is crazy considering that this beautiful mountain is right on the doorstep of a major city. But I wasn’t complaining and being alone on the route is why I love the outdoors and mountains. I had birds flying around me, so close, and dassies, those fat, funny rodents, munching away until I was almost on top of them. It was lovely to think that this is their world and I was an unlikely visitor. I had private views of the coastline, seeing the white topped waves crashing onto the white sand beaches and of course a birds eye view of the city.
It took me three and a half hours to reach the top, which I would put to a pretty average pace. As the route topped out onto table mountain, however, the meditative hike was broken by the sheer number of people on the top - come up either from the cable car or the more popular hiking routes. Walking around the top of table mountain is still pretty cool with views from both sides of the mountain but it was the quiet solitude of the journey up that was the real destination.
Ps. Don’t try and climb down the India Venster trail as it’s always harder to go down a route than go up. Take plenty of water and a few snacks and if in doubt take a guide.