If you have researched India Venster as a potential route to the Table Mountain summit, you’ve probably seen the warning signs screaming about its dangers. In fact, the sign marking the start of the India Venster route even warns you: “safe route via Platteklip this way”.
And yet, despite these warnings, despite all the written guides (including this one) warning that this is not just a little walk up a mountain, this route is attempted by many people. Perhaps because it is quite visible and so directly accessible. Perhaps because some people might think that the signs are there for fun.
Those signs are right. This by no means an easy climb and if you have even the slightest fear of heights, hesitation or you’re not at a higher-than-average fitness level or you don’t have the upper body strength to hoist yourself up some scrambling sections – don’t do this route.
It is absolutely not a wise choice down the mountain either. There is another sign warning you of that being a very bad idea.
Descending via tricky routes is often much more dangerous than going up. And yet, on the day most of these images were taken for this particular trip up India Venster, a group of young people had just made their way up Platteklip and were attempting to descend this way. None of them had adequate footwear and they didn’t even seem to know what the purpose of the yellow footprints were. We tried our best to dissuade them from using India Venster as a route to descend. After much grumbling, they eventually did.
Like many of the other Not Platteklip routes to the Table Mountain summit, India Venster is best tackled with somebody who has done the route before. While it is fairly well marked with wooden footprints, these become increasingly less obvious the more tried you get.
It is one f the most epic ways to the top of Table Mountain, though and the views are extraordinary, constantly changing and offering a panoramic perspective from many different angles.
There’s a lot of what feels like pretending to be a mountain goat or a dassie on the India Venster Route – and it is not the best option for the middle of summer, unless you are one of those people who get up before the sparrows even think about farting.
Much of this part of the route is exposed – both in terms of the rock sections that require scrambling and the sun. Do not be fooled into thinking that a cloudy day in a Cape Town summer will make this any better. You might not feel the sun beating down on you quite so much, but sunburn through clouds is the kind of thing Derren Brown would do if he controlled the weather.
While there’s plenty of scrambling, you should be fine without climbing gear. If you are vertically deficient, you might need a boost in a few spots… remember what I was saying about doing this with somebody who knows the way?
During one mission on this route, there was some mountain rescue training going on at the front face of the exposed cliffs. Fortunately, that particular adventure is not part of the route.
You will need a solid pair of trail shoes for this route, something with grip. I am always amazed at how many people are completely ill-prepared in terms of footwear. Oh, and don’t forget the water – take at least 2l.
Starting point of Table Mountain’s India Venster route
There are two ways to access the route – via Kloof Corner (before the scramble section) or directly underneath the cable car. For the starting point through Kloof Corner, once you have made it to the “corner” follow the Contour Path around the front face of the mountain to the starting point sign.
That sign warning you about the risks is a real. If you or anyone in your hiking party has any hesitation at all, you should not attempt this route. It is also best avoided on rainy days and on days where the South Easter is blowing.
India Venster: The actual route
There is plenty of info out there on how to follow the route (and we have added more detail from Mountain Meanders below), but the rule of thumb is this: follow the yellow footsteps and look for well-worn rocks in the scrambling sections to help guide you through.
One particularly awkward rock section has been secured with stainless steel staples and chains recently, but there are still many other tricky rock steps that makes this route ‘B’ scrambling and not a walk.
Many of the yellow footprints are faded and you have to do a bit of searching for them along the route, but the well-worn rocks should be an indication that you are on the right track.
Through the first part of the climb, the Cable Car will whizz above your head ever so often. If you’re lucky, you might get some waves and cheers from the crazy people dangling from a wire in a glass box.
Once the route snakes (not actual snakes, although, those are definitely there, too) across to the back of the mountain, you have a fair bit of very welcome shade. There is still a fair way to go to the summit, though, so don’t get too excited.
Find a good map, save the Mountain Rescue emergency number and attempt this route with somebody who has climbed it before.
Once you’ve huffed and puffed all the way to the top, consider taking an easier route – like Platteklip – to the bottom. Or, get your annual Cable Card for quick and easy access to that glass box.
Advice: India Venster is not recommended if you do not have some hiking experience and a moderate level of fitness. Don’t do this route alone unless you are experienced with scrambling. If you don’t know what scrambling is, definitely do not attempt this. You can do this route alone if you’ve not done it before, provided you go with a group that is confident and fit. The route is easy enough to find and follow – look for the yellow footprints.
Time: Between two to four hours, depending on level of fitness and rest breaks. You still have to go down after that…an annual pass for the cable car will be your best friend.
Scrambling: There are a number of moderate scrambles on the route. One section offers chains and ladders, but for the most part, it’s just you, the exposed cliffs and their natural grips.
Short-leg-o-meter: Acceptable and bearable. Limited feeling of vertical inadequacy if upper body strength is sufficient.
India Venster route: A few more details
Grade: 3/4 **** rock scrambling
Height gain: +/-700m: from approx 350m to 1040m
Start at the path behind the Lower Cable Station (on the right hand side) and follow it up to the Contour Path. Here you will find a sign pointing the way to Platteklip Gorge and the Lower Cable Station, the India Venster Route starts behind this sign. The path ascends to the right to reach a open gully. Ascend the gully. The “Venster” can be seen on your left as an rectangular gap in the buttress a little way up the gully. Close to the top of the gully the path forks, take the left-hand path that leads to a platform on top of the middle section of Venster Buttress.
Looking up you will see a large amphitheatre extending out to the left, in the middle of India Ravine. Startup the path on the right side of the amphitheatre and traverse across it, aiming for the extreme left hand corner of the amphitheatre. The latter part of the amphitheatre traverse include three rock steps.
This brings you at the base of a 60m rock pitches in a broken up section just to the right of the Arrow Buttress ridge. This scrambling section is fitted with staples and chains, which makes the section significantly easier. At the top of scramble you emerge from a narrow gully / chimney.
here the path is clear, it ascends diagonally right to a grassy terrace which leads leftwards to join up with the ledge below Arrow Final (the high face below the cableway). From here skirt right, around Arrow Final to join Fountain Ledges on the Atlantic side, which will take you to the top (via one rock pitch).
Additional information about this route obtained from Mountain Meanders.
Emergency contact numbers, cell phone access and safety guidance for Table Mountain hikes
- All Table Mountain hiking routes come with the usual disclaimer: Do not underestimate the mountain. Go equipped with the right gear – that includes the correct footwear and enough water – and make sure you tell somebody where you are going.
- Many of the walks, hikes and scrambles on Table Mountain are difficult and dangerous. Do not attempt any Grade 3 or higher route unless you are experienced with exposed rock scrambling and on lesser travelled routes which might be overgrown, do not go on your own without sufficient preparation.
- If at any stage during your hike you feel like you cannot go on – whether that is because you are tired or you are daunted by any of the climbs, turn back.
- There are many places on Table Mountain without cellphone reception. In the case of an emergency, you’ll have to traverse to the closest ‘edge’ – meaning anywhere that you can see the City from.
- Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) is the main organisation that coordinates rescue operations in the Western Cape, but do not contact them directly – contact Metro Rescue first at 10177 or 021 937 0300 who will then contact Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR). (Note that the Metro Rescue number changed in August 2008. The old number which is listed in many places still works, but use this new number in preference.)
- Mountain Club of South Africa safety guidelines
- University of 3rd Age Safety notes and statistics including information on rescue costs.
- Hikers Network has a comprehensive set of notes on mountain safety, first aid and more.
- Cape Nature also has an extensive set of notes, with particular relevance to country areas.