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Table Mountain (Afrikaans Tafelberg) is a flat-topped mountain in the Western Cape, South Africa that overlooks Cape Town. The main face is approximately three kilometres from side to side. The shape of the rear of the mountain is much more complex than one might imagine when looking at it from the front.

Table Mountain, South Africa The main face of Table Mountain is flanked on the left (east) by the triangular Devil's Peak (1,000 m) and on the right (north) by the rounded Lion's Head (669 m) and Signal Hill. (None of these can be see in the photo). Table Mountain is the northern end of a range of mountains that stretches south down the entire length of the Cape Peninsula and ends in a sheer drop into the ocean at Cape Point. The mountain top is often covered by cloud, which forms the famous "table cloth."

The mountain's highest point at Maclear's Beacon is 1,086 m (3,563 ft) above sea level. This point is named for a stone cairn (beacon) built there in 1865 by Sir Thomas Maclear for trigonometrical survey.

Maclear's Beacon is not a peak, being merely the highest point of the plateau at the summit and is only 19 metres above the cable car station at 1067 m. Most of the major features of the mountain are named.

For example, the cliff immediately below the cable car station at the right is called Arrow Buttress and the area at the extreme left of the main cliff is called "Ledges". About a third of the way along from Arrow Buttress is a deep and partially hidden ravine called Platteklip (lit. "Flat stone") Gorge. This provides an easy ascent to the summit plateau and was the route taken by Antonio de Saldanha on the first recorded ascent of the mountain.

A famous and dangerous feature is Carrell's ledge, which winds it narrow way across the face of a vast and sheer drop on a large cliff to the south of Devil's Peak. At one point the ledge is less than 200 mm wide but the drop below is hundreds of metres.

Table Mountain is in the unique position of being the only terrestrial feature to give its name to a constellation - Mensa, meaning The Table. The constellation is seen right-side up in the Southern Hemisphere, below Orion, around midnight in mid-July. It was named by the French astronomer Nicolas de Lacaille during his stay at the Cape in the mid eighteenth century.


The Table Mountain Cableway at the western end of the plateau takes visitors to the top of the mountain. It is a popular tourist attraction. Apart from spectacular views, there is a restaurant, curio shops and clearly marked walking trails for visitors at the top of Table Mountain. The upper cable car station is visible at the top right of the image. The cable car system operates only in good weather as gale-force winds can make it dangerous.

The cable car was opened on 4 October 1929. An improved cable car reopened on 4 October 1997, with the capacity increased from 25 to 65 persons. The new cable car is circular, and rotates as it travels, to give good views to all.


There are many routes that may be followed, ranging from easy to difficult. The descriptions below should not be seen as a substitute for a good guide book or an experienced hike leader with local knowledge. Commercial guides are available. A number of excellent hiking maps and guide books for Table Mountain are available from most bookshops in Cape Town.

Safety - Table Mountain's popularity and proximity to the city means that dozens of incautious hikers and climbers have come to grief on the mountain over the years, although the mountain is not particularly dangerous by mountaineering standards. The changeable weather is the most significant risk and hikers should always carry warm, waterproof clothing as well as additional food and water.

Unfortunately in recent years muggers have operated in some of the lower reaches of the mountain, although the city is working hard to prevent this. Other basic safety rules include not hiking alone, sticking to known paths, allowing enough time to descend well before darkness, and always letting someone know where you are going and when you will return.

Easy walks - There are a number of level paths on the lower reaches of the mountain, including the Pipe Track overlooking Camps Bay, Tafelberg Road, the slopes of Devil's Peak above Rhodes Memorial, Newlands Forest, Kirstenbosch, Cecilia Forest and Constantia Nek. A contour path runs all the way from Constantia Nek to the lower cable station, and can be reached at various points, sometimes via a steep climb. Routes on the Southern Suburbs side tend to be forested while the city and Atlantic sides are more open. Leaving from the upper cable station are a number of well-marked trails ranging up to about two hours in length.

Platteklip Gorge - The most popular route for hikers wanting to reach the top of Table Mountain is via Platteklip Gorge, which leaves from Tafelberg Road a few hundred metres past the cable station. This is a straightforward hike up a well-marked route, but is strenuous as it consists of an unrelenting ascent of over 600m.

Other routes to the summit - Because of the steep cliffs around the summit, other direct ascents from the city side are not recommended except by those familiar with the route. Longer routes to the summit go via the Back Table, a lower area of Table Mountain South of the main plateau. There are paths to the Back Table from both the Atlantic and Southern Suburbs sides. Once on the Back Table, a number of paths make a gradual ascent to the summit.

Kasteelspoort - Kasteelspoort is a popular ascent to the Back Table on the Atlantic side, overlooking Camps Bay. At a number of points you can see evidence of the first cableway used in the construction of the dams on Table Mountain.

The Jeep Track - The Jeep Track (also known as the Bridle Path) leaves from Constantia Nek and is the easiest ascent to the Back Table, following a gravel road up to the dams. However, it reaches the Back Table a long way from the main plateau, so is only recommended as a route to the summit if you have a lot of time available. The Jeep Track used to go through gum and pine plantations, but most of these have now been felled to allow the fynbos and indigenous forest to return.

Nursery Ravine - Nursery Ravine is a fairly steep ascent to the Back Table starting from Kirstenbosch. The first two thirds of the ascent are through indigenous forest. The path can be slippery in winter. Nursery Ravine is named after a historic nursery planted at the top of the ravine, where some unusual alien trees including a redwood can be seen.

Skeleton Gorge - Skeleton Gorge is a forested ascent starting from Kirstenbosch a few hundred metres to the North of Nursery Ravine. It is a very pleasant and popular route, but includes a number of ladders and scrambles over boulders which make it a little difficult, and is not recommended for hikers with dogs. It is particularly slippery in winter and one upper section is dangerous after heavy rain. The ascent via Skeleton Gorge to the summit at Maclears Beacon is known as Smuts Track, after Jan Smuts, former Prime Minister of South Africa, who was a keen hiker and loved this route.

Rock climbing - Rock climbing on Table Mountain is a very popular pastime. There are hundreds of well-documented climbing routes up the many faces of the mountain. These vary from fairly easy to exceedingly difficult. Only traditional climbing is allowed on Table Mountain; no bolting can be done. There are a few bolted Abseil anchors. Commercial groups offer abseiling from the upper Cable Station.

Caving - Most of the world's important caves occur in limestone but Table Mountain is famous amongst spelaeologists for having several large cave systems that have formed in pure sandstone. However, most of these caves are not well known outside of caving circles. The biggest systems are located on the Back Table, not far from the Jeep Track in ridges that overlook Orange Ravine and Hout Bay. These are often referred to as the Wynberg caves.

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