Monday, December 26, 2011

Hike Devil's Peak from Kings Blockhouse, via Knife Edge

Route Summary
Distance: 13km
Estimated time: 5 hours + stops.
Total Elevation gain: 1260m
Type: Circular
View Devil's Peak via Knife Edge map

* A big, strenuous hike which you should not attempt in windy weather.  Not for children or people who suffer from vertigo.

A magnificent hike, possibly the best for views North, East and West.  Physically challenging for all but the fittest, and plenty of excitement with big drops which emphasise the views, you are seldom completely exposed to falls if you stay on the path and an adult who remains calm in these situations should be safe enough.  Weather exposure is high - it can be very hot or cold - be prepared.

Do not attempt this hike in wet weather or poor visibility! The paths are not always clear and the terrain is treacherous if you cannot see; getting lost is likely to expose you to extremely dangerous terrain.  The rock scrambles will be slippery if wet.

Route description
Find your way to the parking area at Rhodes' Memorial, and park your car. (Before 7am, the gate to Rhodes' Memorial will be closed and you will need to park at the old Zoo next to UCT, as shown on my attached map; and walk up the road to Rhodes' Memorial.) From Rhodes Memorial you can see the King's Blockhouse above you - there are several routes to it, of which I will describe the most direct. There are many paths in this area, so if unsure just keep heading towards the Blockhouse.

At the top of the Rhodes' Memorial carpark follow the wide, stepped path upward until you meet a horizontal path after about 80m. Turn left onto the path and walk about 50m looking for a path to your right. At the time of writing, this path is badly eroded. Follow it up through a copse of large Stone Pines and Protea bushes, and upward towards the Blockhouse. You will cross several horizontal paths, but keep heading upward. After about 15min the path will turn horizontally and you will have the choice to go left or right. Go right, and shortly you will come to a poorly maintained turnstile. Pass through it and follow the road upward. You can keep on the road or take one of the steep paths on your left which are a shorter route direct to the Blockhouse cannons.  Pause at the cannons to appreciate the view, and know that it is going to get a lot better!  Above and behind the Blockhouse is Mowbray Ridge with the old fire lookout on the point: your next stop.
Looking out over Kings Blockhouse
from Mowbray  Ridge

Directly behind the Blockhouse is a path which immediately splits; to the left around the water tanks and upward, and to the right horizontally toward Cape Town.  Turn left and follow the path upward.  After about 5 minutes the path splits; left curving around the front of Mowbray Ridge towards Newlands, and to the right towards Cape Town.  Keep right and the path will take you to the base of a series of steep rock face scrambles which angle up the mountain to the left.  Follow the path up to the abandoned fire lookout, there should be no further opportunities to go wrong.

Knife Edge from Minor Peak,
1st Waterfall Ravine to the right
From the fire lookout continue upwards to the peak of the ridge and then cross the notorious Knife Edge to Minor Peak.  To your left as you cross the knife edge are vertical drops into 1st Waterfall Ravine which are difficult for those who do not like heights; however, take the sensible route over the Knife Edge (keeping to the right) and you will not be seriously exposed to the drop, but rather to a kinder (though rocky) slope to the right.  After passing the Knife Edge, follow the path along the ridge to minor peak.  N.B. where the path first meets Minor Peak, the route appears to be an exposed 10m scramble which many people will not enjoy.  Rather follow the path around to the right and enjoy an easier, less exposed scramble to the top of Minor Peak.  Devil's Peak is now above you, your next stop.

Follow the path down the back of Minor Peak onto some rocks in the saddle with Devil's Peak.  Ignore the path to the right and follow the less clear path across to rocks and up the side of Devil's Peak, angling leftwards.  In general this walk is not well marked, but this area has some cairns, so look out for them to help reassure that you are on the right track.

Table Mountain saddle from Devil's Peak
At the top of the slope, below the rock face, the path turns left along a wide ledge for about 100m.  As you reach the corner, look for cairns on the rocks above you indicating an easy 10m scramble.  From the top of this, the path follows a narrower ledge left towards Newlands (caution required! it will come naturally to most...) until it reaches a series of wide cracks which lead you to the top of Devil's peak.  You must ascend the first of these, but there is a path looping out to the left before the 2nd and 3rd cracks which will also take you to the Peak.  You're there!  Enjoy the magnificent views in all directions.  You are only about 50m lower than the highest point on Table Mountain.

From here the walking is easier, downhill and more protected.  Find the well-worn path down Devil's peak on the Cape Town side and follow it down into the saddle: at one point you have the choice to go right over a ridge and down towards Cape Town or left toward the saddle - go left.  You will meet the major path across the saddle with a sign indicating the direction to Newlands Ravine to the left.  As you turn left, the start of Newlands ravine is up to your right; if you get to Pulpit rock, you need to turn right and climb upwards to Newlands ravine, which is sign-posted.  The ravines on each side of Pulpit Rock are dangerous.

Follow the stepped path in a zig-zag down Newlands ravine into the indigenous forest and you will reach the 300m contour path at a picnic table.  Turn left onto the contour path and it will lead you back to the turnstile below the King's Blockhouse.  From there, return to your car at Rhodes' Memorial.


  1. Really good description! Helped me and my girlfriend to find our way today:)