The Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance Hike
The Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance Hike
The inspiration for The Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance Hike was Belinda’s 32nd birthday. One evening, while at home, we were thinking of ideas of how we were going to celebrate Belinda’s birthday. Now the number 32 is not particularly significant, so the ideas were not coming too quickly. It needed to be something outdoorzy, involve some hiking or camping or both. And the kicker was that it needed to be close to Cape Town because we only had the one day, with a free day afterwards to relax, clean the equipment and put a load of washing on before going back to work. I had already taken that Monday off from work, so Sunday was also an option.
Belinda then made the suggestion, perhaps not seriously at first, that we should do a 32 km hike to coincide with her 32nd year on this planet. I’m not sure of the reaction she was expecting, but I loved the idea and we ran with it. By the end of the evening, we already had a tentative route mapped out on the Slingsby Table Mountain map with plans on doing a few ‘test’ hikes on the sections we weren’t 100% sure about.
I don’t think either of us knew what we were letting ourselves in for. Looking back on that day now, we both realised that we had absolutely no idea…
CAUTION: THIS IS NO ORDINARY HIKE. IT REQUIRES A HIGH LEVEL OF FITNESS AND STAMINA AND WILL DEMAND A HUGE PRICE FROM YOUR BODY, YOUR MIND AND YOUR SOUL. IF YOU ARE NOT A VERY FIT AND EXPERIENCED HIKER WITH A KEEN SENSE OF ADVENTURE AND A WILLINGNESS TO GO TO THE EXTREME THEN DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER DOING THIS HIKE. IF YOU ARE CARRYING ANY INJURIES OR NOT 100% HEALTHY, WE IMPLORE YOU, DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS HIKE FOR ANY REASON WHATSOEVER. THE KRAKEN WILL BREAK YOU. AND IT WILL TAKE A LONG TIME TO PUT THE TINY PIECES OF YOU BACK TOGETHER.
Where It All Starts
The start of the Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance Hike is situated where the Pipe Track starts at the bottom of Tafelberg Road, to the right of the Kloof Nek parking area. You can park your car there if there is space, otherwise you will find additional parking slightly further along Tafelberg Road. You can also get there by taking the MyCiti bus and getting off at the Lower Tafelberg (110) or Kloof Nek (107) bus stops.
The Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance Hike Route
What we tried to do was put together a route that would take you more or less to the four ‘corners’ of the Table Mountain National Park that are relatively easy to get to, all in ONE day. That being said, this is not something that just anyone should be thinking about doing. It is a mainly level route, but it does contain some seriously steep climbs and descents that will ask some serious questions of your legs and your stamina levels. The route is also not something that is done regularly so there was not much in the way of information that could prepare us for the challenge. There are some trail runners that have done something similar, but it is very different to walk 32 km than to run it. Time certainly plays a significant role, as you only really have the 12 daylight hours to complete the hike safely, with maybe an hour or two on either side. Head torches are certainly a requirement for the darker hours, but you don’t want to be walking this type of route for too long in the dark.
In brief, this endurance hike can be divided into 4 main legs. Leg 1 – The Rocky Start, Leg 2 – The Downhill Dart, Leg 3 – The Achy-Breaky Heart and Leg 4 – The Painful Part. The total hiking distance, on the day, actually measured 35.8 km.
Leg 1 – The Rocky Start
As mentioned above, The Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance Hike route starts at the beginning of the Pipe Track at the corner of Kloof Nek Road and Tafelberg Road. It continues all along the Pipe Track past Woody Ravine and ascends along Corridor Ravine. At the top of Corridor Ravine the route swings left and onto the Twelve Apostles Path where we have our first stop, at the intersection with the Tranquility Cracks turnoff. That signifies the end of Leg 1. Total route distance: 7.80 km. Estimated stats: Total moving time: 01h15m. Total time taken: 02h35m.
Leg 2 – The Downhill Dart
After a brief stop at Tranquillity Cracks, the route continues along the Twelve Apostles Path to the Old Cable Car Station for a quick look see and then back on the path towards Woodhead Dam. After reaching Woodhead Dam on the right, the route crosses over the dam wall and then swings right on to the cement jeep track and continues to descend past the Overseers Cottage. Thereafter the route swings to the right until it reaches De Villiers Dam where there is a quick opportunity for a snack break. The route continues to descend along Clayton’s Road and the Bridle Path, down ‘the steps’ to Constantia Nek and the halfway mark. There we enjoy a 30 minute respite and the opportunity to refuel and rehydrate with proper food and electrolyte replacements. Total route distance: 8.4 km. Estimated stats: Total moving time: 01h40m. Total time taken: 02h30m.
Leg 3 – The Achy-Breaky Heart
The third and longest leg of this endurance hiking route continues on from Constantia Nek along the Contour Path. The route takes you past Rooikat Ravine, Vaalkat Ravine, Nursery Ravine, Skeleton Gorge, Window Gorge, Fernwood Gully, Protea Gully, Hiddingh Ravine to Newlands Ravine where we take the opportunity for another quick snack break at the hexagonal wooden picnic table and a group photo where we are all still smiling. The route continues on past the Dark Gorge, the Dark Gully, Papenboom Ravine, Second Waterfall Ravine, First Waterfall Ravine to the King’s Blockhouse. Total route distance: 10.4 km. Estimated stats: Total moving time: 01h10m. Total time taken: 04h10m.
Leg 4 – The Painful Part
The final push in this epic hike is called The Painful Part for a very good reason. At this point in the hike, every muscle and joint in your body is screaming at you to end the torture immediately. However there are still just over 9 km that remain before the agony can end. To add to the misery of it all, three of the four ascents in this extreme hike are located in this last stretch of the route. Several of your hiking buddies will be cursing (out loud) the day they ever heard of The Kraken. Don’t be surprised if you are ‘unfriended’ by the person who you invited along to this madness. From the King’s Blockhouse, the route ascends to Woodstock Cave for a quick visit then ascends again to Oppelskop, and along the Upper Contour Path for the last remaining climb past Saddle Rock, Flat Rock and on to Breakfast Rock. The route continues on the Upper Contour Path and under the Aerial Cable Way where it then swings right and on to the path below Venster Buttress. The horror finally comes to an end at the lower Aerial Cable Way Station. Total route distance: 9.2 km. Estimated stats: Total moving time: 02h10m. Total time taken: 03h40m.
The Speedy Review [tl;dr]
The Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance Hike – it will push you to the limits of what you thought your body was capable of. It will squeeze every ounce of energy, endurance, stamina and willpower out of your muscles and mind. But once you are done, the sense of accomplishment is overwhelming.
There are very few other ways that you will be able to experience seeing all the way around Table Mountain in one day, on foot. Once the bug has bitten, you will want to do it again.
Nina rated this trail 0/5 paw prints, as she did not accompany us on this mammoth hike. Although dogs are allowed in the Table Mountain National Park, we didn’t think it would be a good idea to take Nina on such a long hike and at the pace we did it in. We did however have a Jack Russel with us by the name of Bella. She is actually more of a machine than a dog. She started to tire toward the latter stages, but made it all the way to the end. Kyle and Elzaan, you can be very proud of your furry, bionic child!
The Nitty Gritty
Here is our account of how the first The Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance Hike went in agonising detail!
The Rocky Start – Leg 1
We started just before dawn at 05h15 from the beginning of the Pipe Track. There were 8 of us that had signed up for the full hike and a 9th that would join us from the half way mark at Constantia Nek. We were hoping that we would all still be together at the end of it all, but it was anyone’s guess.
Each of us had head torches for the first stretch before the sun came up at around 07h30. It was a little tricky to walk on the rocky path at the beginning of the Pipe Track in the dark, but we managed okay. It does require a lot of concentration though.
This leg also includes 1 of the 4 significant ascents in The Kraken. Corridor Ravine was chosen as the ascent because although it is slightly longer than Kasteelspoort it doesn’t involve any scrambling which is good when you are planning to hike 35 km. Any energy saving to be made along the way is critical to completing the full course. We started to ascend Corridor Ravine at 07h00 and reached the top at 07h35.
As we got to the top of Corridor Ravine, the mist rolled in and the temperature dropped several degrees forcing all of us to put layers of clothing back on again, along with beanies and gloves. We reached the turn off to Tranquility Cracks at 07h50. We considered turning left and visiting the Cracks, but all of us had already seen them and were all keen to crack on and try to stay warm.
The Stats – The Rocky Start [Leg 1]
The GPS stats for this leg of the hike from the beginning of the Pipe Track to Tranquility Cracks were:
|Start Elevation||240 m|
|Trip Odometer||7.80 km|
|Moving Average||6.2 km/h|
|Overall Average||3.0 km/h|
|Max Speed||8.6 km/h|
|End Elevation||727 m|
The Downhill Dart- Leg 2
At about 08h00, after I had zeroed the GPS and made some notes, we continued on with the second leg. We all knew that if we were going to make the full distance without having to walk for too long after the sun had buried its head in the horizon, we needed to move quickly through this section. There would be very little time for rest breaks and even less time to admire the view.
The biggest advantage that this stretch provided us was that it was pretty much a downhill route. This would mean that we could eat up the kilos without expending too much energy. What we didn’t take for granted though was the price our legs and feet would pay for marching down the hill toward Constantia Nek and the halfway mark.
At about 08h20, we crossed over the top of Woody Ravine, with a quick stop to take a photo of the group shrouded in thick mist.
At about 08h30, we reached the turn off to the old cable way station, but again did not turn left to visit the site. We instead decided to put the 10 minute saving it would give us into the bank. Bear in mind that this was only supposed to be a 32 km hike, but we were already accumulating more distance than we needed.
At about 08h50, we crossed Woodhead Dam, turned right and followed the cement jeep track up and around toward the three remaining dams. We reached the last of them, De Villiers Dam, at about 09h30 and chose to have a short break huddled low in the bushes to escape the icy grip of the wind.
At about 10h20, we reached Constantia Nek via ‘the steps’ and met up with our waiting support team. We made the most of the 30 minutes allotted to us to enjoy boiled eggs, bananas, salt sachets, Rehidrat and a 500ml bottle of Energade each. We also each had a piece of chocolate brownie to celebrate Belinda’s birthday. I chose to change my shirt and socks. Afterwards, I felt ready to tackle the 17 km that remained. Our break actually ran an extra 15 minutes due to time lost in toilet runs. We will need to put more thought into how we are going to deal with ablutions next time round. Those extra 15 minutes took there toll on our tired muscles and it was actually quite painful to start walking again after such a long break. The back of my ankles above around my Achilles tendon were not happy. Next time, I will be more strict on the 30 minute time limit.
The Stats – The Downhill Dart [Leg 2]
The GPS stats for this leg of the hike from Tranquility Cracks to Constantia Nek were:
|Start Elevation||727 m|
|Trip Odometer||8.4 km|
|Moving Average||5.1 km/h|
|Overall Average||3.3 km/h|
|Max Speed||10.1 km/h|
|End Elevation||245 m|
The Achy-Breaky Heart – Leg 3
We started off again at 11h05. For the second half, we had 1 more crazy hiker join us. This took the number of our intrepid group to 9 and little Bella. Despite early indications that one or two of the group might call it a day at the halfway mark, all who had started the hike wanted to stay in it. We still had a second support team that was on standby in case we needed someone taken off the hike at the King’s Blockhouse.
The first stretch of this leg involved walking along a gravel jeep track as it took us higher and closer to Newlands forest. At 11h50, we reached the wooden steps that took us left toward the Contour path. The further we went the more layers started to peel off. We were much lower down now and the air around us was getting warmer. This is exactly why we believe it would not be a good idea to do this hike in Summer. Our bodies would be losing water and electrolytes faster than we could replace them.
It was refreshing to be able to hike under the forest cover and cross stream after stream of cold mountain water. Stops to refill water bottles were cut from minutes to seconds so that we could maintain our forward momentum.
We reached Newlands Ravine at about 14h00 and took advantage of the picnic table to sit down and chill for a few minutes and refuel. I took a chance during the short respite to have a group photo taken while we were still smiling.
After swinging the backpacks on to our tired backs again, we trudged on through the forest, slicing through ravine after ravine, until we passed through the swivel gate and on to the gravel jeep track. We arrived in dribs and drabs at the King’s Blockhouse at about 15h15 and settled down on the grass to graze on some snacks and enjoy the view over the harbour. We had covered about 26 km by that stage and our legs were screaming blue bloody murder. Remember that this hike takes a tremendous toll and you need to put back the calories you have burned or your body is going to wilt under a growing kilometre count.
The Stats – The Achy Breaky Heart [Leg 3]
The GPS stats for this leg of the hike from Constantia Nek to the King’s Blockhouse were:
|Start Elevation||245 m|
|Trip Odometer||10.40 km|
|Moving Average||8.7 km/h|
|Overall Average||2.5 km/h|
|Max Speed||9.7 km/h|
|End Elevation||445 m|
The Painful Part – Leg 4
We managed to pull ourselves on to our feet again and start walking at about 15h30. This last stretch was just over 9 km and would take us up three steep inclines to Woodstock cave [16h00], Oppelskop [17h05]and Breakfast Rock at the foot of Devil’s Peak. At that stage, 1 of the group was struggling and our overall average hiking speed had dropped considerably.
At 18h00, we were faced with a dilemma. It had started to rain and we still had around 3 km to the end and at least another hour on the trail to reach it. By that stage, 3 of the hikers were struggling with a range of issues including significant fatigue and painful chaffing, and the temperature was dropping quickly. We made the decision, in the interests of safety, to divert from the planned route and to exit on to the tar route at the Devil’s Peak trail head. We descended and reached Tafelberg Road at about 18h30 and walked along the tar road towards the lower cable station.
We forged through the wind, cold and rain and completed the hike at 19h05. After coming together at the vehicles, there were a few congratulatory handshakes and back slaps. Belinda handed out chocolate and strawberry flavoured Steri Stumpies and we all got in our vehicles and drove away. The rain had put paid to any sort of celebration on finishing the toughest one day hike any of us had ever attempted and completed in our lives. The legend of The Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance Hike was born. Long may it be remembered and endured!
The Stats – The Painful Part [Leg 4]
The GPS stats for this leg of the hike from the King’s Blockhouse to the Lower Cable Station were:
|Start Elevation||445 m|
|Trip Odometer||9.2 km|
|Moving Average||4.1 km/h|
|Overall Average||2.5 km/h|
|Max Speed||9.7 km/h|
|End Elevation||338 m|
The Kraken – Future Plans
The original group that completed The Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance hike enjoyed it so much that we have agreed to make it a permanent fixture in our annual hiking calendar. This feedback was only given after a few days when the bodies had recovered and the pain we had all felt had dulled in our memories. In fact, we have decided to do it twice a year so that the chances are good that we will all be available on at least one of the dates. As I have already mentioned, it would be madness to try and do this hike in Summer, so we have decided to pencil in two time slots in the year when we would like to do it. The first will be around April / May and the second around October / November. It will very much depend on the weather at those times of the year. We have also agreed to do it on a Saturday instead of a Sunday, to give everyone at least one day to recover before going back to work. Unfortunately, if you would like to do this hike with us, it will only happen by invitation only. We would need to know that you are capable of completing the distance before we say yes, However if you are really keen, you can join us on The Kraken training hikes leading up to it so that we can see how you manage with those. If you do well on the training hikes, you are more than welcome to join us on The Kraken. There are no fees or costs payable to us. You would just need to have or purchase all the recommended items on the packing list to be able to take part. Of course, you have the option to do the hike with your own hiking group. We would obviously suggest that you follow our advice before doing so. We would not like anyone to get hurt or over exert themselves on a hiking route that we put together.
Watch the Relive video below to get a good idea of the route and the elevation profile of this hike.
The Kraken – Lessons Learned
If you find yourself seriously considering joining us on the next The Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance Hike, there are some valuable lessons learned from doing the first one that you would need to know to make the experience a little more manageable. Don’t get me wrong this is an arduous hike and you will need to be a good shape if you want to complete it. These tips will best prepare for this extraordinary hiking adventure.
Lesson 1 – Well worn hiking footwear
This is something that is not unique to The Kraken, but it is something that is sure to raise it’s ugly head in this hike. If you find your footwear uncomfortable at all, do not attempt The Kraken, or get footwear that fits both of your feet 100%. The Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance Hike can be done in good (well worn in) trail running shoes. Only one person in our group of 8 (then 9) wore trail running shoes. The important factor to realise is that if your footwear gives your any trouble, it is guaranteed to only get worse and by the time you have hiked 25 km you will be in agony, with still over 9 km to go.
Lesson 2 – Stay Hydrated
With a total hiking distance over just over 35 km, it is essential that you drink water regularly. Having a hydration bladder of at least 2 litres carrying capacity is an advantage on this hike where stops for water breaks are few and far between. This is because breaks, of any kind, will ‘eat’ into the maximum overall time available to complete the hike. This is another reason why The Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance Hike should only be attempted in the cool winter months. In summer, you are far more likely to run the risk of losing fluids faster than you can replace them on the hike.
Lesson 3 – Replace Lost Electrolytes
Along with staying well hydrated, you will need to replace lost electrolytes and salts. It is recommended that you start the hike with Rehidrat, or the equivalent, in your water bottle and take another one at the halfway mark break. Another tip that I picked up from serious trail runners, is to have a sachet of salt with you, the kind that you usually get with any take away meal (fast food) that you buy. Ingest the contents of the salt sachet at the halfway mark with your meal, by either sprinkling it over your boiled eggs or potatoes. It is very effective in preventing leg cramps over the long distance.
Lesson 4 – Stay Fuelled
The Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance Hike will take you about 14 hours to complete. You will burn between 6000 – 8000 calories over the course of 35 kilometres. You will not be able to replace all that fuel with the standard hiking snacks alone. We relied on tried and tested advice supplied to us by one of our hiking party, Roderick. Roderick competed for years in endurance walks of around 75 km over the course of 2 days. The foods that he recommended are boiled eggs and both normal potatoes and sweet potatoes. You can also include tuna, pasta and a couple of bananas to give your body the necessary fuel to complete the full distance.
Lesson 5 – Keep an Eagle Eye on the Weather
We had to postpone the first attempt at The Kraken – Table Mountain Endurance Hike due to inclement weather. If you decide to do the Kraken with your own hiking group and there is even the slightest chance that there will be strong winds or rain, you should postpone the hike. There are several weather Apps that you can turn to for the latest weather. Long term weather forecasts often change quite significantly over a 14 day period. Rain can quickly disappear from the weather radar or appear out of nowhere on the day, so check the weather updates right up until the last minute. The weather Apps we used were Accu Weather, Yr.no and Weather & Radar SA.
Lesson 6 – Prepare for the Worst
When it comes to the weather, anything goes. While I have a certain degree of faith in the abilities of the weathermen and women everywhere, the weather often just seems to do its own thing on the day. The best way to prepare yourself for The Kraken is to be prepared for the worst weather possible. A raincoat, lots of layers, a windbreaker, a beanie and gloves are an absolute must! I am not saying that you should hike in bad weather if you know that there is definitely going to be bad weather. Not at all. What I am saying is that the weather can be unpredictable on the day or can be very different on the top of the mountain to the bottom. You need to be prepared for the worst kind of weather so that you are not caught be surprise, especially on The Kraken where you will be exposed to the elements for 14 long and gruelling hours.