Tafelberg is one of the most recognizable mountains in South Africa. Although the name "Tafelberg" (meaning Table Mountain) is given to just about any flat topped mountain in this country, this particular one stands out. This peak is the second highest in the Cedarberg range, after Sneeuberg, 2027m, which lies opposite it across the farm valley. The Cedarberg range lies about 200km north of Cape Town, near the town of Citrusdal. The range is famous for its Cedar trees, which give it its name, and also the striking red sandstone rock formations scattered all around the area, notably the Wolfberg Cracks and Wolfberg Arch, The Maltese Cross, and Tafelberg itself.
Tafelberg is comprised of a great block of sandstone about 140m high, which falls away to steep scree slopes below. Next to it is a smaller peak called The Spout (see pictures and see why), which requires a rock climb to reach the top. The great summit block looks impregnable from most angles, however it has a line of weakness which a competent hiker can exploit, a steep, rocky gully cutting into it from the "back", which terminates in a scramble aided by a fixed chain. There are also numerous rock routes on the south west face (the front face) of variable difficulties, and guidebooks are available for RD's.
Drive north from Cape Town to the town of Citrusdal. Just north of the town a gravel road will take you to the Algeria forest station, and then on into the Cedarberg proper. This gravel road is prone to wicked corrugations, and it winds up a mountain pass below which many a car wreck can be seen, so take care. The road didn't seem to bad last year, but we were in a Land Rover. The area can also be approached from the southwest by the Grootrivier road, which is also gravel and is longer, but is usually in better condition than the Algeria road.
Once in the main Cedarberg valley, the most direct approach to Tafelberg is by Welbedacht Kloof. This involves a steady climb of about 500m on a good path, up to the plateau below the big peaks, the Shale band. Here you will find an old 4x4 track which you would then follow southeast for about 1.5km, and then look for a cairn and a path leading up the ridge to your left. By now Tafelberg will be hidden by Consolation Peak and its long ridge. The final climb is described under "Routes". (Note: there is a fairly decent river to wade through at the bottom of Welbedacht Kloof, which tends to swell somewhat after the winter rains.) Another way to reach the foot of the peak is to come from the southeast along the track which ends near the holiday cottages at Sanddrif, however this is quite a long way, but it is possible to climb the peak by this route in one long day (be fit).
In my opinion, the best way to get to the base of the final climb is to do a multi-day traverse, starting at Algeria forest station and climbing to the Middelberg hut (the first bit is a bit boring)and then on to the Crystal Pool area, finally gaining the Shale band by the very beautiful Engelsmans Kloof. This part of the Cedarberg is my favourite and includes golden grass plains, stunning rock features and isolated boulders of all sizes (great bouldering here), rivers and pools, and a wonderful remote sort of feeling. Engelsmans Kloof tops out at the base of Sneeukop, the region's third highest peak at 1930m. You can bag it or move on to Tafelberg, roughly 12km down the track. There are plenty of huts on this route, and flat camping is plentiful.
A permit is required to hike in the Cedarberg, it costs about R45 ($6) per day. Parking is free as far as I remember. As with any wilderness area in SA, no fires allowed etc. but camping is permitted. Tafelberg itself is on Cedarberg State land and is covered by the permit, however some parts of the Cedarberg are privately owned, so be aware of this and seek permision before entering any of these areas.
When To Climb
The mountain can be climbed all year round, but in winter snow and ice are common, and this can make the final part of the climb quite tricky and potentially dangerous, but not impossible. Beware also the icy winds that can pick up, they tend to funnel through between Tafelberg and The Spout, so always come prepared.
Summers are hot and dry, water should be carried after leaving the track. You may have to run some distance northwest along the track to a major water course to fill up.
There are a variety of caves and huts to chose from. Your nearest spot is Welbedacht Cave, which is reached by a path branching of the the right (south) near the top of the Kloof. This provides shelter for about 10 people, but in a bad storm the wind and rain might get in. Resident mouse, seal your food packages.
If you chose to do the traverse described above, you will find usable (but not all that pleasant) huts in the Middelberg area (Middelberg Hut), Crystal Pool hut, as well as Sleeppad hut on the Shale band just south of Sneeukop. These are all marked (along with the paths) on the standard 1:50 000 survey maps. One could pitch a tent or sleep out just about anywhere on the Shale band, as it's all fairly flat, but you will struggle to find shelter in a storm. Camping at the foot of Welbedacht Kloof could result in collecting a lot of ticks from the old sheep farming settlements.
The holliday cottages at Sanddrif are very nicely placed and provide the best starting point for the Wolfberg Cracks, as well as access to the 4x4 track, so this is a great place to be.
As already mentioned, hot and dry in summer - carry water. Winters can be well sub-zero (Celsius) so bring good warm, waterproof and windproof gear. Whatever time of year you climb, come prepared for hot and cold.
Check out www.weathersa.co.za for up to date forecasts for the Cedarberg.
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