The Pipe Track, Table Mountain

The Pipe Track- A Trail with Two Halves

 

 

This is one of the many popular walks on Table Mountain, along with trails along Platteklip Gorge, Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head. It is used by trail runners, hikers and dog walkers alike.

I have only ever used the Pipe Track to get to the start of other hiking trails and have never really considered it as a trail on its own. I had not previously gone beyond the point where the Kasteelspoort trail starts above Theresa Avenue in Camps Bay.

The idea behind this blog post was to explore the Pipe Track itself as a ‘stand alone’ walking trail, to see how far it stretched and to experience all that it had to offer.

The Pipe Track is advertised as a 6 km route (one way) that starts at Kloof Nek and ends at Corridor ravine.

After some discussion, we decided to walk as much of the 6 km as we could and to return to Kloof Nek along the same route.

According to the SAN Parks website the Pipe Track is:

“a path constructed to service a pipeline running below the series of peaks known as the Twelve Apostles. This pipeline was built to carry water from Disa Gorge in Table Mountain’s Back Table, via the Woodhead Tunnel through the mountain in Slangolie Ravine, to the Molteno Reservoir in Oranjezicht to help slake the thirst of the booming, late 19th century Cape Town.”

 

How to get there

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 the road.

You can also get there by taking the MyCity bus and getting off at the Lower Tafelberg (110) or Kloof Nek (107) stops.

 

The Speedy Review [tl;dr]

If you want a trail that is suitable for all ages, has beautiful views and isn’t too strenuous, then I would highly recommend the Pipe Track. The mostly flat route is very easy underfoot.  There aren’t really any hills, the path is nice and open.  The only thing you will need to contend with are the many trail runners and other hikers who are also enjoying this beautiful trail.

As it is an out-and-back route, you can pick your distance, if time or level of fitness are limiting factors. However, if you want to walk the entire length of the trail, from the start to the half-way, turn-around point at Corridor Ravine, the trail is just over 13km.

Start early, as there is very little shade and cover on the trail. Make sure you have enough water and food with you, and bring your camera along for some shots of the Atlantic Seaboard coastline.

 

Trail Ninometer

 

 

 

Nina rated this trail 4/5 paw prints.  She got to meet quite a few other dogs along the way and it is largely a flat straight trail. The terrain was a little uneven and there are a small sharp rocks which can cause discomfort to a dog’s paws. Invest in a pair of doggie boots to protect your pooch’s paws. It did get rather hot, but an earlier start next time should solve that problem.

 

 

 

Safety Precautions while on Table Mountain

The SAN Parks website also offers the following safety information to anyone thinking about walking on Table Mountain:

Ten Basic Rules of Mountain Safety

  • Don’t hike alone; four is the ideal number.
  • Choose your route carefully and stick to it. Allow yourself enough time – start early. Inform someone of your route and what time you’re expected back.
  • Choose a hike leader and walk at the pace of the slowest member.
  • If lost – don’t split up. Rather try to retrace your steps. Remember that climbing down is more difficult than climbing up.
  • Always take waterproof clothing, even in mid-summer, and wear walking shoes or hiking boots. Wear a hat or cap and sun block in summer. Weather changes rapidly.
  • If lost or forced to stop because of bad weather, stay together and remain in one place. Find the closest shelter from wind and rain.
  • In case of injury, take time to assess the situation. Then send two people for help and let the third remain with the injured person. If possible, mark the position on a map and send it with those going for help.
  • Stick to well-used paths, which will be indicated on the Park’s hiking map and read the warnings on this map. Don’t take shortcuts and especially don’t wander into ravines.
  • Always take enough water, especially in summer, and food in case of a delay. Watch the weather and time, and turn back before you start running late or if bad weather threatens.
  • Take a fully-charged cellphone. Some parts of the Park do not have cell phone reception, but you will always be able to reach a place where you can use a cell phone more quickly than you’ll get to a landline.

For more personal safety tips and background information on this hike and other hikes within the Table Mountain National Park you can visit the SAN Parks website.

It is possible to bring your dog along on this trail, but it is not suitable for all types of dogs. We decided to take Nina, along to see if she would be able to cope with the uneven terrain. It is part of the Table Mountain National Park so you need to have your My Activity permit with you if you decide to take your best friend along. (Yes, we do have one!)

 

 

The Nitty Gritty

On Saturday 19 August 2017 at 07h51, Belinda, Nina and I started on the Pipe Track from the Kloof Nek side, in Tafelberg Road opposite the MyCiti bus stop. We were joined by my aunt and uncle, Heather and Robin and Aundre, a fellow member of the SAPSTAP Hiking Club.

Almost immediately after ascending the stairs at the beginning of the walk, Camps Bay came into view on our right hand side. We continued walking along the trail and then got our first glimpse of the black coloured water pipes for which this trail was named. Soon after this, we crossed a wooden bridge.

 

 

At 08h04, we reached a detour in the path. The original trail that dipped down into the valley was blocked off by a steel fence, while the alternate route went left and up along the side of the mountain. Renovations were underway to repair a section of the trail that was washed away. The distance covered to that point was 835 m.

At 08h08, we reached the 1.0 km mark as we ascended a flight of man made wooden stairs and followed the path as it hugged the mountain around to the left.

At 08h10, we crossed another bridge after covering a distance of 1.1 km at an elevation of 300 m. At that point along the route, the path could be described as a dirt track that could cause your shoes to loose traction at times.

After a short while, the trail became rocky and a lot trickier to walk on. The change in the path surface forced us to slow down to make sure that we didn’t put a foot wrong and twist an ankle, while looking at the beautiful flowers all around us.

 

 

We continued walking along the route in the direction of Kasteelspoort. If you look up to your left you get a clear view of the side of the aerial cable way station.

The trail continued to hug the mountain along a fairly flat trajectory with a few twists and turns. The twists and turns in the route actually made it easier for us to see the suburb of Camps Bay below us, without taking our eye off the actual path.

 

 

At 08h33, we had reached a point in the trail where we were able to see the different ravines on our left hand side. From left to right, in the photo below, you can see the Grotto and Blinkwater ravines. Cairn and Fountain ravines are just out of picture to the left of Grotto ravine.

At 08h40, we reached the directional sign board that indicated the start of the Diagonal trail. We had covered a distance of 2.7 km with an elevation of 282 m.

The Diagonal trail starts at the following coordinates:

S 33⁰ 57.664′       E 018⁰ 23.612′

We continued along the Pipe Track at a moderate pace. There are sections of the trail where you actually walk on top of the pipe that is embedded in the ground itself.

 

 

At 08h52, we reached the directional sign board indicating the start of the Kasteelspoort Trail. We had covered a distance of 3.3 km with an elevation of 301 m. The moving time to that point on the Pipe Track was 51 minutes with a total walking time of 01h01.

The Kasteelspoort trail starts at the following coordinates:

S 33⁰ 57.896′       E 018⁰ 23.363′

Something to keep in mind when you are walking along the Pipe Track is that there are no rubbish bins. Nina decided just before the Kasteelspoort Trail intersection that she needed to poop. After picking it up, I had to make a decision to whether to carry the poop bag for the duration of the hike or hide it somewhere and collect it on the return trip. After one whiff of the bag and its contents, I found a medium sized rock and placed the blue poop bag underneath it.

We continued to walk along the trail and passed through a tunnel made of trees and rocks on either side of the track.

 

 

At 08h57, the trail joined with a gravel jeep track from the right. This is the same jeep track that comes up from Theresa Avenue, Camps Bay. The distance covered to that point was 3.6 km with a moving time of 55 minutes. The elevation was 308 m.

We turned left there and continued to walk along the jeep track. This part of the track opens up and you are exposed to the sun and wind. The maximum temperature for the day we walked was 25⁰C. Fortunately, it was still quite cool at that point. It is probably better to start this trail at sunrise to avoid the heat of the day for as long as possible.

That was where the Pipe Track changed into a different type of trail. The first half or so consists of a narrow path that winds its way around the mountain with very little change in terms of elevation. There is also not much water on the first part of the trail.

The route from the jeep track was a lot wider and seemed to have a lot more water in terms of mountain streams. The further you walked on the second half of the trail, or slightly more than halfway, the more it felt like you were walking into a forest bordering on to a mountain side.

At 09h04, we reached a mountain stream that ran over a cement section of the jeep track [4.0 km]. Elevation 312 m.

 

 

At 09h14, we reached a type of pump station constructed from masonry stone. We could not see any markings or plaques on the structure to indicate exactly what it was or when it was built.  The distance covered to the pump station was 4.4 km with an elevation of 330 m.

At 09h19, we arrived at the directional sign board for Woody ravine. The distance covered to that point was 4.7 km with a moving time of 01h13. The elevation 340 m.

 

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That part of the trail had a real forest feel about it. Cool and leafy! Immediately after Woody ravine, the trail ascended quite steeply in the direction of Corridor ravine.

After ascending a short distance, Aundre (SAPSTAP) pointed out an orange breasted sunbird that was sitting on a bush less than 2 meters away from me. It patiently sat there until I took a photo of it. The path then took us close to mountain cliff face and turned towards the left.

At 09h29, we reached a stone staircase with metal uprights and chains erected on the right hand side of the pathway. For the first time on this hike, I could sense that we were above a deep ravine. The distance covered to that point was 5.0 km with an elevation of 379 m.

The path continued around the corner and further into the ravine to a small overhang where the group stopped for a break.

 

 

Belinda, Nina and I continued on the trail to see if we could find the directional sign board for Corridor ravine. At 09h35, after walking a short distance, we had to ascend a steep stone staircase [5.2 km].

The trail then became a cement pathway that dropped steeply before and after a small waterfall. There are upright poles and chains to assist you to get down and then up the other side, after passing through the waterfall. You do get slightly wet here, but it might not be a bad thing on a hot summers day. It could also be bone dry there if no rain has fallen in a while.

 

 

It was at that point in the walk, just before passing through the waterfall, that Nina showed the first signs of being uncomfortable. Belinda made the decision to turn around there and to walk back to where the rest of our group were having a snack and coffee break. I took the photo below while looking back at the waterfall after passing alongside it. I decided to continue on a bit to see if I could get to the Corridor ravine sign board.

At 09h40, I reached a sign board that stated that it was a dangerous ascent and displayed a no entry sign. The distance to that point was 5.4 km with an elevation of 417 m. I didn’t see anything there that indicated that it was Corridor ravine so I continued on with the path.

After I continued passed this sign board, I crossed a mountain stream. There were quite a few boulders there and it would have been very difficult for Nina the dog to get through there unassisted. It was a good decision by Belinda to turn back when she did.

At 09h44, I walked into a covered forest area and came to a split in the trail. Two viable paths split left and right. With no one with me to tell me which was the correct path to follow, I decided to turn around there and to head back to where the others were relaxing. The distance covered to the point where I turned around was 5.5 km. The moving time was 01h28 and the total walking time to that point was 01h53.

 

*** On a later hike, I discovered that the correct path was to the left and headed up the mountain to an overhang, 170 m further along the trail. The trail continued on from there for another 1. km until you reach Corridor Ravine. There was no sign board for the start of Corridor Ravine. That made the total hiking distance for the Pipe Track in a single direction, 6.67 km ***

 

 

At 09h48, on my way back, I found a cave that would be nice to use if it was pouring with rain and you needed emergency shelter from the elements.

 

 

I re-joined the group and had a cup of coffee and an energy bar before putting my backpack on again. Nina had a few sips from her water bowl and enjoyed a few meaty snacks.

At 10h07, we started on our return journey. I took over walking Nina and the two of us walked out in front of the group. At 10h24, we returned to the mountain stream that crosses the cement jeep track [7.0 km].

At 10h30, we re-joined the single path that runs out to the right from the wide jeep track that winds up the mountain from Theresa Avenue [7.4 km]. The moving time was 01h56.

At 10h36, we walked passed Kasteelspoort trail sign board and I collected Nina’s poop bag that I had hidden earlier under a rock. On a choice on whether to walk Nina back on her lead or to carry the poop bag, Belinda chose to carry the poop. I didn’t fight her on that one! Nina and I continued to lead from the front, with Nina choosing to walk on the parts of the trail where there were little or no stones.

At 10h45, we passed the Diagonal trail signboard [8.3 km]. The moving time was 02h09.

At 11h07, we reached the part of the trail where they had blocked off the trail for renovations. There was a rather large puddle of water there and Nina chose to drink some of the muddy water. I was thrilled to see that as I was worried that she would start to dehydrate as the day got warmer. She doesn’t easily drink from a bowl of water on a trail.

At 11h21, we crossed the same wooden bridge again from the opposite direction. At 11h28, we reached the staircase signalling the last few meters of the Pipe Track. At 11h30, we completed the hike with a total walking distance of 11.0 km.

 

The true total distance to the end of the Pipe track (turning around at Corridor Ravine) is 13.34 km.

 

 

The Stats

The hiking stats for this hiking trail were:

Trip Odometer 11.0 km
Total Time 03h40
Moving Time 02h48
Moving Average 3.9 km/h
Overall Average 3.0 km/h
Max Speed 8.8 km/h
Elevation 246 m – 481 m

 

I have attached GPS trip logs for the hike, including a side elevation profile.

 

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