The Blink Water Grotto Ravine
And so I found myself back in Cape Town at the height of Summer, both Parkrun weekends SNAFUd, no races on the calendar, or none that I could get to and therefore I did what I did last time, I decided to climb the mountain. Table Mountain. This fcker. But not this route, not again!
After the fun? No, that’s not the right word. Out of the terror of climbing the India Venster route at the tail end of 2018 I asked for something new. Platteklip Gorge was mentioned, but then discounted as it was “too easy”. Skeleton Gorge too, that was also “too easy.” Okay, I said, something not “too easy” but also something with more scrambling than climbing. I didn’t want the steel staples and chains of India Venster, but I also didn’t want to just walk up to the top. I was offered “Blink Water Grotto Ravine.”
Blink Water Grotto Ravine is apparently, from what I was told, and this may not stand up to scrutiny, the route carved out of the side of the mountain by the rain water that comes down from the top. It erodes the soil, the rocks, causing unstable rock formations, tumbling boulders and me to clench uncontrollably in the nethers. Still, apparently there was no climbing at all, so I was happy to go with it. And yes, that is pretty much what I will have on my tombstone. No body though. As they probably won’t find it.
630am and I drove to the foot of Table Mountain, walked up to the start of the trail and was overjoyed to discover that since 1982 the route has been officially closed as the path was severely damaged by a huge downpour of rain and considered unstable. Hence the sign.
What this meant in practice was 2 things: 1. We would not be seeing anyone else on the route. This can be a good thing, as it removes the chance of being embarrassed when stuck on a ledge. But also, 2, and we discovered this early on, that the route was almost completely overgrown in places. And by early on, I mean within the first 10 yards.
The vegetation, as I look back from the point of surviving the climb, was very different depending on where you were on the mountain. At some points, early on at least, it was the sparse long grass and dry trees of the lower extremes, dried by the African sun and out of the shade of the table top. These worked as some sort of hand hold, or anchor as we started up the route, but before long the fog blanketed us. There was no view, just us and the mountain.
The vegetation then changed, to thick, coarse brambles and thorn bushes, all lower than knee height, that scratched the hell out of us, and left us bleeding from numerous lacerations as we scrambled over boulders leading up to the cairn, and the first climb.
Looking into the void over my shoulder it was just one climb, and no staples or chains needed. It was an up, footholds needed to reach a ledge, then a 10 foot free climb, for which I was glad of the gloves I brought with me, that I had bought for an OCR season I didn’t run. I was scared, as always, the drop would have damaged me quite irreparably, but the fog behind us hid the height from my view, I could only fall as far as I could see. Some cold comfort, but it inspired me to flop onto the top of the boulder unceremoniously on my belly, like a fish landed on the riverbank, floundering and flapping to get up to celebrate the trickiest part of the day.
The climb was different to India Venster. It was much easier in terms of having very little climbing, but it was tough forcing our way through the brush. I would recommend it, but even my experienced tracker and guide got lost a few times, and why wouldn’t he? The route has been closed for 38 years.
Being in CT for 2 weekends meant I had options. The guide was leading a party up India Venster, but I was not emotionally, spiritually, or psychologically ready for that, so instead I took a slow climb to the top of Lion’s Head, and down again, just for the view.
NEXT UP: Well, it was supposed to be the Victoria Park Half
My plans are liquid this year, fluid? Damp? Moist? Whatever the description I use I have more of an amendable calendar. I have already cancelled a few races so I can focus on the ones I have, and focus more on the time distance PBs. With a mob (Moosenshoes, JenMo, and Caroline) running QEOP half the following week I decided to change my plans this weekend. Originally pencilled in to run the Victoria Park half, I decided against it and instead wanted to go for a twofer – Mile End parkrun (bringing me closer to 50 parkrun target for the year), and the RunThrough 5K, which starts 35 minutes after the half, and would have given me a chance to go for a distance PB at the venue of my last failed 5K PB attempt (with Lew and Essex Baz). However, with Storm Ciara forcing the UK to batten down the hatches, I instead opted for an 18K bimble during the storm on Monday, or a quarter of GMU45, as prep for, well, anything. 18KM in a storm, supposedly the worst for 7 years, that shut all the royal parks? Bring it on.