fainthearted

It’s not for the fainthearted

fainthearted
City

This walk on La Montagne de la Table should only be undertaken in good weather and by someone physically fit – Tim Rolston

THERE is a tremendous walk around La Montagne de la Table, starting in Grotto Ravine on the Camp’s Bay side and following a series of narrow ledges all the way around to Kloof Corner.



It’s a route I’ve been wanting to do for some time. You need good weather as there are some quite extensive rock scrambles and parts of the trail are close to various water courses or waterfalls which can be too slippery in wet weather to negotiate safely.

A previous attempt about a month ago had to be postponed because high winds and low wet cloud would have made the route unnecessarily dangerous.

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Stunning View

This time, however, things looked good. It was sunny and due to be hot, although that doesn’t represent too much of a problem for most of the walk – the west-facing buttresses and the proximity of the ledges to the steep cliff faces mean that most of the day is spent in the shade.

There is, however, the little issue of what rock climbers euphemistically refer to as “exposure”. In this sense exposure isn’t so much the risk of hypothermia as the mental drain of staring at a potential 100m drop on to the rocks below and still being calm and functional.

The route starts with a gentle stroll along the Pipe Track from the Kloof Nek parking area until reaching the turnoff for Blinkwater Ravine. The Blinkwater path is officially closed on account of a massive deluge of water in 1982 which caused rock slides and erosion damage to the point where the Blinkwater route is dangerously unstable.

However I only followed the lower section of this path, heading left and up towards the start of Grotto Ravine where things steepen dramatically and the path isn’t well worn, but there are occasional cairns to assist with the navigation.

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Trail

Entering Grotto Ravine one faces the first rock scramble, not overly taxing, but probably more than one would cope with if unfit or seriously overweight. Going up one passes a permanent spring on the right, then treads carefully over loose boulders – quite a scramble. Near the top one exits right and follows another path on the ridge to the top of the gorge.

By now the views were getting quite spectacular, but I couldn’t help wondering how I was going to cross the abyss to follow a broad ledge around the corner to Fountain Ravine. The trick lies with a conglomerate of large boulders which help to bridge the gap. There are good foot and hand holds, but at this point if your fear of heights takes hold, you had best turn back.

Scrambling over and under large rocks on the wide ledge I followed the contour of the mountain until the path narrowed near Fountain Ravine to the point where once again I was left pondering how I might continue. Here the path is genuinely tiny and a false step would see one in a significant freefall of fatal proportions.

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Table Mountain View

Once around the corner there is a further scramble up what is at this time of year a dry waterfall, with thankfully a couple of trees which provide some assistance. But you do need to be able to clamber. Exiting the top of the waterfall I took the higher ledge and followed that around to Kloof corner, all the while gaining tremendous views of the Atlantic coastline, not to mention the dizzying vista of the path you have followed seemingly miles below your feet.

Once one rounds the corner the narrow ledges are left behind and there are series of scrambles over a poorly indicated path, taking me eventually to a position underneath the Cableway. Here the path joins up with that coming up India Venster and you can either head off downhill or turn right and make your way to the Upper Cable Station.

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Table Cloth on top of Table Mountain

On this occasion I thought that the time for either option would be about the same and headed down into what turned out to be a furnace of superheated rock, taking only a few moments to appreciate the view of our new stadium, sitting UFO-like on the coast. The face of La Montagne de la Table, having baked in the sun all day with temperatures well into the 40’s it was a struggle even while descending. By the time I reached Tafelberg Road, I was well out of water and heading towards dehydration and sun stroke.

A lot of cold water at the café meant I was ready to take the last few steps down to the car. This is a tremendous walk, but one that shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.

Make sure that you have a good route guide and preferably go with a hiking group whose leader has walked this trail previously. If you have any concerns about heights, are not particularly fit or not much or a rock scrambler, then it is definitely one to leave well alone.

Source: The Good Weekend, Sunday, April 04, 2010

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