- I have some good news for you. I DID NOT BUY baked bean rusks. It was getting near the end of our trip, so I decided not to buy any more rusks of any flavour.Salamanda
- I have some good news for you too. There are NO SUCH THINGS as baked bean rusks. That was a total leg-pull. Sorry about that!Pumbaa
- yes I agree with you about penguins swimming. It's more like "swooshing" through the water than swimming.
We woke on Monday 31 August to fabulous weather, and the forecast was good, so we headed off to climb Table Mountain.
We didn't want to take the cable car (because you don't really feel like you've conquered the mountain), nor did we want to walk up the Platteklip Gorge path (because it's basically steps all the way, which are more tiring to walk up than a rough track, and don't give such a good "feel" for the mountain).
The obvious route choice for us was the India Venster scrambling route, which is one of the two routes that go up approximately under the cable car (the other is the Kloof Corner route, which is more difficult).
But was it a reasonable way to go with children aged 12 and 14? They have always enjoyed rock scrambling, but aren't by any means regulars.
I had researched this route on the internet before the holiday. I spent about ten hours reading contradictory accounts. Some people just mention in passing that they went up or down the India Venster route, as if it's of no consequence, whereas others talk at length about how lethal it is. Indeed, there have been many accidents over the years, including a fatal fall earlier this year. Even some experienced rock climbers were commenting that climbing the crux of this route unprotected made them uneasy. So how could I make sense of this?
I should also mention that I descended this route with my brother when visting Cape Town in 1981. I couldn't remember enough detail of the route to relate it to the ability of a 12-year-old. All I could remember from way back then was that we sprinted down, making very fast time, with the straightforward parts interspersed by three or four moments when we said to each other "Crikey! Where does the route go now? Surely not down there..." and sure enough it did go "down there" via some heart-stopping though manageable climbs.
But I was 22 then and I'm 51 now, and I wouldn't climb down it unaided now. Those 29 extra years have added a little more weight, slowed my reflexes a little, reduced my balance a little, reduced my muscle strength a little, and reduced my flexibility and agility a little. Each effect is minor, but taken together they make a big difference to what you can and can't do. Going up is easier than going down, but even then I had my doubts about the crux.
I almost told the family that we'd be going up Platteklip Gorge after all, when I discovered two things.
The first was an account by a regular rock-climber who had taken his children up the India Venster route. He reported that his 9-year-old made it up without assistance. I reckon that a climber's 9-year-old probably has about the same skill as our 12-year old.
The second was that the TMNP management had, just the previous month, put some metal "staples" (rungs) on the crux (the most awkward part). Personally I would prefer to see the mountain left natural, but what's done is done and this made it easy to decide to go ahead.
We were equipped for just about every eventuality, including carrying a few litres of water even though it was August. Luckily so, because it was particularly hot as we started to climb. The sun reflecting off the stone had us sweating and drinking lots, and we wondered whether the water would last the distance. As we got higher, it cooled down and the sun was no longer a problem.
The India Venster route is an odd one, because 90% of it is extremely straightforward, with the other 10% being tricky. This is probably why so many people get into strife here, because the first half of the climb has no tricky bits, and people who can't scramble may be tempted to press on rather than turn back when they reach the tricky bits after having already climbed so far.The easy parts of the India Venster route are straightforward
As part of the recent changes, TMNP has removed all signage and track markers from the first part of the route. Those who manage to locate the route despite this are then confronted with this sign:
The wording of this sign is "over the top" in my opinion. If people climb this "extremely dangerous" route and find it manageable, they may assume that other routes signed with such strong warnings will be equally easy. It would be better to provide information than to try to instil fear. Something like this should do the job: "this route requires hand-and-foot climbing over a 10 metre drop"!
Anyway, the kids did great! The steel staples make the former crux quite straightforward. There are other steep scrambles on the route, but all except one have excellent hand-holds and only have exposure of a few metres.Me, just above the section with the steel staples
The exception is the new crux, which is just before the top. It's a climb of maybe six metres, in several stages with ledges in between. It's straightforward except for the very last part which (unlike elsewhere) does not have particularly good handholds. Even so, it should be manageable by anyone who does any kind of scrambling on a regular basis.
Just after the crux we were welcomed by a family of dassies, who watched ever-so-cutely from their safe vantage point on a ledge just above us:
Once at the top, we had a look around then made our way to the restaurant. I love to eat in places that have great views, and this is one of the best. The outdoor tables were filled by smokers, so we ate indoors. The food was fabulous: buffet style with half-a-dozen hot dishes, half-a-dozen salads, and half-a-dozen desserts (plus all kinds of bits and pieces). We "mixed-and-matched", and everyone was satisfied. Great capuccino too!
Rowena felt like a run, so she went down the Platteklip Gorge path while we took the cable car down. Just before we left, we looked down and saw a red helicopter way below us (circled in the photo):
At the time we assumed the helicopter was carrying sightseers, but the following day's Cape Times told the full story. Two local hikers had attempted to climb up Kasteels Poort, but got the route wrong and ended up climbing the Diagonal path and Porcupine Buttress. They scrambled up some cliffs, only to find that they couldn't get back down again (never do that!), and also couldn't proceed. At that point they telephoned for helicopter rescue.
As we descended on the cable car, we enjoyed looking out on the route which we had climbed. We felt a sense of satisfaction, although I must admit it looks more spectacular from afar than it does from the ground!We climbed that? One of the steep parts of the India Venster route.
By the time we had met up with Rowena and "done" the curio shops, it was late afternoon but there were still a few hours of daylight. We thought about doing something more, but the kids had had a few very busy days and we opted for a quiet time playing cards back at our accommodation.
There's a thread in this forum about Security on Table Mountain
, which made me rather apprehensive. In 1981 my brother and I had spent a few days scampering all over this mountain without ever feeling uncomfortable, but obviously times change. The forum topic is full of advice like "be aware of your surroundings", but that doesn't help non-Capetonians who won't have the "street smarts" to distinguish whether someone is hanging around innocently or with ill-intent.
It also didn't help that a couple of route guides for the India Venster route commented negatively on security, with warnings such as "dangerous - keep pepper spray within arms reach at all times".
However, what we found was quite different from what we had been led to expect. We didn't see anyone on the mountain who didn't appear to be there to enjoy the mountain. The whole area, and the India Venster route in particular, "felt" safe to us. This was a pleasant and unexpected bonus.
There's now only one more day to report from our flying visit to South Africa. In the next part of my trip report I'll wrap up. I also have a couple of "virtual awards" for others who've contributed here.