This is one of my favourite short hikes in the Silvermine area of the Table Mountain National Park, taking no more than 2 to 2.5 hours, and being suitable for those with below average to average fitness. It’s a great starter hike, too, and gives one unparalleled sweeping vistas of the Cape Flats, Constantiaberg, Table Mountain, False Bay and beyond to the mountains to the north.
As is the norm with all hikes in the Silvermine area, a camera is a must, as there’s just so much to see – the fynbos, with its vast variety of flowering plants, the wind and rain-sculptured sandstone rock formations, the many species of birds, as well as the views. A camera allows one to capture these images, and savour them many times over at a later stage, as I often do. As the song goes, “Memories are made of this”!
The start is just over the summit of the Ou Kaapse Weg heading south, through Silvermine gate no. 2 on the left. Entry is controlled, and a small fee is required to park, which was R5 at the time of writing. After parking the car, start the hike by walking up the gravel track for about 5 minutes until you arrive at an information sign. Turn left up the track to the left of the sign. Initially you’re walking through head height protea bushes, but eventually these give way to waist high or knee high fynbos. A very interesting rock formation now appears on the left – this is Wolfkop (Wolf’s Head) Pillar, although, and this depends on which angle you view it from, it could represent several other things – ’nuff said!
From here the track gradually swerves to the right, around Wolfkop on your right, and starts ascending up the gully between Wolfkop and Higher Steenberg Peak. It’s steep enough to get the blood pumping, but not enough to cause much more than light puffing. After about 20 – 30 minutes from the sign, the track levels off and forks – take the left fork, which now meanders further upwards at a gentle incline.
The next landmark of note is a huge square rock with an overhang, called Fat Lady Shelter. Why it’s called that is anyone’s guess, but it is large enough to shelter a number of people comfortably in inclement weather, if needed. Take some time here to admire close-up the intricate patterns in the rocks around you – I never cease to marvel at the infinite number of shapes and forms sculptured by nature. Many of these appear to represent various different animals or reptiles – the variety is only limited by your imagination. These rocks consist of Table Mountain sandstone, and as rain is slightly acidic, the rocks are eventually weathered into the shapes you see around you by the eroding effects of rain and almost incessant wind.
A few minutes walk from the rock shelter brings you to the end of your upward journey, at a cairn. Plenty of places to sit down and drink in the majestic views, and enjoy a drink and a snack. Take time to savour these, and enjoy the beauty all around you. From here there are a number of options if you want to continue hiking – there are tracks to Muizenberg, Kalk Bay and several spots in between, but they are the subject of another article.
Once you’ve had your fill, return to the car park the same way you came. On the way, enjoy the views of Noordhoek beach and Kommetjie in the distance – vast white sand beaches well known to beach bunnies and surfers. Don’t forget to look down every now and then – many of the flowering plants are quite small, but beautifully colourful and intricate, and would be easy to miss.
- The best times to do this walk is between October and February. It’s also the hottest time of the year, so remember the sunscreen.
- There is no water on this track to speak of, so take sufficient for the conditions.
- The weather is notoriously unpredictable. It can be beautifully calm and clear early in the morning, and a howling gale and enveloped in clouds by lunch. Take a jersey and jacket.
- Take a map – tracks are generally well defined and not hard to follow, but are often not marked. There are frequent unmarked side tracks, so stay on the main track. I recommend Slingsby’s Silvermine map, available from most outdoor stores or bookshops.
- Preferably walk with a friend, or in a group. Tell someone where you’re going, and when to expect you back. The security situation in SA has improved considerably over the last years, but use common sense – that way everyone enjoys the hike!