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Table Mountain
Mountain/Rock

Table Mountain

 
Table Mountain

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: Cape Town, South Africa, Africa

Lat/Lon: 33.95°S / 18.41670°E

Object Title: Table Mountain

Activities: Hiking, Trad Climbing, Bouldering, Scrambling

Elevation: 3566 ft / 1087 m

 

Page By: ben jammin

Created/Edited: Dec 19, 2001 / Feb 22, 2006

Object ID: 150750

Hits: 28141 

Page Score: 86.85%  - 23 Votes 

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Overview

Table Mountain is the central and most prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town.

There are many ways to get to the top ranging from the gruelling cable car ride to an abundance of walks, scrambles and rock climbs. This entry focuses on the latter.

Table Mountain offers superb climbing on compact Table Mountain sandstone and the views from the climbing routes are breathtaking. Contrary to what one would expect from sandstone the quartzitic rock is in fact very hard and offers good friction.

On Table Mountain there are routes to satisfy climbers of all skill levels, and many of the classics are graded between (French) 5a and 6b. Most routes are between 3 and 5 pitches long and the hardest route right now is Clinton Martinengo's creation "Mary Poppins and Her Great Umbrella" at around 8b / 32.

The climbing on Table Mountain is exclusively trad and bolting is prohibited.

For those who prefer to clip bolts, or who are scared of heights, there are plenty of sport climbing and bouldering opportunities elsewhere in Cape Town and the surrounding regions.

History

The first recorded ascent of Table Mountain was by the Portugese explorer Admiral Antonio de Saldanha who put into Table Bay with his fleet in 1503 and then climbed to the top of Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge in an attempt to figure out where he was.

The indigenous Khoi-San population almost certainly beat him to the summit by a couple of centuries though!

Rock climbing on Table Mountain only began in the late 19th century with one George F. Travers-Jackson being particularly active and opening many routes. Since then development has continued at a steady pace with Mike Mamacos opening many of the current day classics in the 50's and 60's.

There has been something of a renaissance in recent years, and new-route activity has been filling in some superb new hard lines between the existing routes. You'd better be comfortable trad-climbing around 6c+ to 7b to take advantage of these though.

Getting There

Most of the good climbing on TM is concentrated in the following 3 areas:

1. Africa Ledge
2. Fountain Ledge
3. Lower Buttresses

The first two are high on the mountain in the immediate vicinity of the upper cable station and overlook downtown Cape Town and Camps Bay respectively. The Lower Buttresses are (clearly!) lower down and are crossed on the way up to Africa Ledge.

For all three of these the best starting point is to get to the lower cable station on Tafelberg Road. The nearest road junction is Kloof Nek, which can be reached by:

1. Car - clearly the best way if one is available. Park on Tafelberg Road at the cable station.
2. Public transport - is not very reliable in Cape Town and doesn't really get you close to the mountain in any case. Some public buses have been known to heave their way over Kloof Nek at times (?).
3. Meter taxi - dingy and not recommended.
4. Minibus taxi - for the adventurous! This is an experience in itself and the adrenalin rush will probably rival anything you'll get climbing.
5. Shuttle bus or Tuk-tuk - available from the Waterfront and some of the guest lodges.
6. Bicycle - the hill up Kloof Nek is very steep!
7. Foot - see point 6. Extra points are scored to the aspirant hardman / hardwoman for this method of approach, though.

Once at the lower cable station you have a choice between walking up to the crags or joining the lard-ass tourists and taking the cable car to the top of the mountain.

The best route for walking up to Africa and Fountain ledges is called "India-Fenster". The path starts immediately behind the lower cable station (on the right hand side) and then follows a fairly direct line up underneath the cable car. It involves a few sections of easy scrambling and can be done comfortably in an hour. The lower buttresses are accessed by the same path, but the walk is much shorter.

For those taking the soft option of approaching the climbing by cable car, the areas of Fountain and Africa ledges are reached by walking down the back of the mountain from the upper cable station. The path down starts in a southerly direction from where the Platteklip gorge path tops out. Alternatively, for those who know where to find them, there are several points to absail down from, but walking down takes roughly the same amount of time in any case.

Note that the cable car also costs money, but the vagaries of the South African currency make it difficult to give a precise figure.

There are literally hundreds of other routes on the mountain (e.g. on the Apostles, Nursery Buttress) but for various reasons these are less popular than those in the area's mentioned above. Access to these other routes is specific to the area.

Routes Overview

This is a list of some of the routes on Table Mountain. All are multipitch trad climbs on rock.

Classics: (Route name, SA grade / French grade.)
1. Arrow Final, 11 / 4-.
2. Africa Crag, 14 / 4+
3. Jacob's Ladder, 16 / 5b.
4. Bombay Duck, 17 / 5c.
5. Escalator, 17 / 5c.
6. Atlantic Crag, 18 / 6a.
7. Last Laugh, 19 / 6a.
8. Magnetic Wall, 19 / 6a.
9. Touch and Go, 20 / 6a+.
10. Manouvers by Moonlight, 20 / 6a+.
11. Triple Indirect, 21 / 6b.
11. Roulette, 21 / 6b.
12. Oddshouter's Outing, 22 / 6b+.

For the hard men (and women!):
1. One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, 29 / 7c+.
2. Jeopardy, 29 / 7c+.
3. Double Jeopardy, 30 / 8a.
4. Mary Poppins and Her Great Umbrella, 32 / 8b.

New routes:
1. Africa Lunch, 23 / 6c.
2. REM, 23 / 6c.
3. Quake, 23 / 6c.
4. Africa Arete, 25 / 7a.
5. No Longer at Ease, 25 / 7a.
6. Synapase, 27 / 7b.

For the "adventure" tourist:
1. Abseil Africa.

For a description of South African grades see SACIN.

Guide Books

1. "The Ledge - Table Mountain",by Leonhard Rust, Blue Mountain Publishers, 2001, ISBN: 0-620-28352-1.
- the definitive guide to rock climbing on Table Mountain, including newest routes.

2. "Cape Rock", by Julian Fisher, Nomad Mountain Publications, 3rd edition, 1999.
- general guide covering sport and trad climbing in the whole of the Western Cape, but including a good section on the best lines on Table Mountain.

3. "Table Mountain Classics", by Tony Lourens, Blue Mountain Publishers.
- guide to the classic walks, scrambles and easy rock climbs.

Maps

The following maps covering the Table Mountain area are available:

1. "Approved Paths on Table Mountain", 1 : 12500, published by The Mountain Club of South Africa, Cape Town Section, 1st edition, December 1993.
- Available from: MSCA, most hiking stores and some book stores. There may be later editions available too.

2. "Table Mountain - The Map" by Peter Slingsby. 1 : 20000. Published by Baardskeerder cc., PO Box 292, Muizenberg, 7950. 5th edition, September 2002.
- Available from most book stores. This map is number one in a series of six maps covering the whole Cape Peninsula.

3. The following maps are available from the Chief Directorate of Surveys and Mapping, Rhodes Avenue, Mowbray, 7700, South Africa; (phone) +27 21 685 4070.
  • Topographic map: "Cape Town", 1: 50000, Map number: 3318CD.
  • Topographic map: "Cape Peninsula", 1: 50000, Map number: 3418AB and 3418AD.
  • Orthophoto map: "Table Mountain", 1:10000, Map number 3318CD 24.


    Red Tape

    Although Table Mountain is within the Cape Peninsula National Park there are no permit requirements right now. These would be difficult ever to implement in any case, since the mountain forms such an integral part of the city. A couple of easy to follow rules do however apply, and these mostly boil down to respecting the environment and not trashing it for the rest of us (e.g. no picking of flowers, no littering, etc).

    Table Mountain is a trad climbing venue and bolting is expressly prohibited.

    Several routes cross through perennial bird nesting sites (a notable example being the popular "Bombay Duck" on the lower buttresses) and climbers are requested to stay off these routes while birds are in residence. Redwing starlings are renowned for their bad-tempered attitude towards any climbers coming near their nest, and you probably don?t want to mess with them anyway.

    When To Climb

    Spring and autumn are generally better than mid-summer and mid-winter, but it is possible to climb all year round depending on the weather of the day.

    Summer is characterised by mainly by hot weather, which necessitates finding the shady side of the mountain to climb on (Fountain Ledge in the mornings; Africa Ledge and lower buttresses in the afternoon).

    Summer in Cape Town is also renowned for frequent days of howling south-east trade winds, which cause the well known "table cloth" of clouds to roar over the mountain. Unless you like climbing in zero-visibility and 30knots of breeze, it?s better to stay off Table Mountain on these days. For the determined trad climber the sandstone cliffs on Lion?s Head are a good alternative on windy days, since they are almost completely in the wind-shadow of Table Mountain. Otherwise, it?s probably better to go sport climbing elsewhere on the peninsula.

    Mountain Conditions

    Webcams:
    Webcam #1 - view of table mountain from across the bay.
    Webcam #2 - view of table mountain from the city.

    Weather forecasts:
    iafrica.com Cape Town Metrocast
    South African Weather service homepage
    Cape Town Weather Service - Telephonic bulletin: +27 82 231 1640

    Real-time weather:
    Real Time Weather Watch - Weather right now.


    Camping

    Camping is not allowed on the mountain. There is no real reason to camp in any case, since access to the climbing is easy and none of the routes are that long. Accomodation in the city is plentiful in a selection of backpacker lodges, guest houses and B&B's. There are many other distractions in Cape Town to tempt even the most hard-core moutaineer off the mountain.

    See SafariNow.com to find accomodation in Cape Town, or elsewhere in South Africa.

    Tourists seem get lost on the mountain with regular monotony and then spend unplanned night out, only to realize that the temperature can drop close to freezing up there at any time of the year. Several people have died of exposure over the years.

    SA Climbing News and Information

    News and information about South African Climbing:

  • SA Mountain Magazine
  • Climb ZA
  • SA Climbing Information Network

    External Links

    Additions and Corrections

    [ Post an Addition or Correction ]
    Viewing: 1-9 of 9    
    ben jamminUntitled Comment

    ben jammin

    Hasn't voted

    The "Overview" section has been duly updated.
    Posted Mar 6, 2005 8:16 am
    ben jamminUntitled Comment

    ben jammin

    Hasn't voted

    The "Routes Overview" section has been duly updated.
    Posted Mar 6, 2005 8:16 am
    thinkincUntitled Comment

    thinkinc

    Hasn't voted

    Thanks Ben


    And thanks for the correct info - I see mine was not 100%
    Posted Mar 23, 2005 4:38 pm
    SmalltimeclimberUntitled Comment

    Hasn't voted

    Table Mountain is also home to the Wynberg Caves - the largest sandstone caves in the Southern hemisphere. It also has five dams that feed water through the filtration plant at Camps Bay to industries in the city bowl, a railworks museum featuring the history of the construction of the Cableway, and Orangekloof - a highly restricted and protected area with indigenous forest and a deep and very beautfiul river gorge. There are also occasional patches of indigenous yellowwood forest if you know where to look.
    Posted Oct 24, 2003 3:36 am
    thinkincUntitled Comment

    thinkinc

    Hasn't voted

    The hardest Trad route on Table Mountain is now a grade 32 done by Clinton Martinengo - "Mary Popins and her Umbrella"
    Posted Mar 5, 2005 4:47 pm
    thinkincUntitled Comment

    thinkinc

    Hasn't voted

    Mary Popins and her umbrella


    grade 32


    Clinton Martinengo
    Posted Mar 5, 2005 4:50 pm
    ben jamminUntitled Comment

    ben jammin

    Hasn't voted

    The "Overview" section has been duly updated.
    Posted Mar 6, 2005 8:16 am
    ben jamminUntitled Comment

    ben jammin

    Hasn't voted

    The "Routes Overview" section has been duly updated.
    Posted Mar 6, 2005 8:16 am
    thinkincUntitled Comment

    thinkinc

    Hasn't voted

    Thanks Ben


    And thanks for the correct info - I see mine was not 100%
    Posted Mar 23, 2005 4:38 pm

    Viewing: 1-9 of 9    

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