Summit of Lion’s Head
On a beautiful Sunday, after an inspiring service at Hillsong, we headed downtown to climb Lion’s Head. My cousins and a couple friends had already started climbing, so we had some catching up to do. Fortunately, we had packed clothes and shoes in the car, so we pulled over at a petrol station and got changed there. While in the car, we tried to get hold of the others but had no luck. We assumed that we would find them somewhere along the hiking trail.
View of Lion’s Head from Signal Hill
(See that blog posts with the Esser Family here: Signal Hill)
Lion’s Head is a mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, between Table Mountain and Signal Hill. Lion’s Head peaks at 669 meters (2,195 ft) above sea level. The peak forms part of the dramatic backdrop to the city of Cape Town, and is part of the Table Mountain National Park.
In the 17th century, the peak was known as Leeuwen Kop (Lion’s Head) by the Dutch, and Signal Hill was known as Leeuwen Staart (Lion’s Tail), as the shape resembles a crouching lion or sphinx. The English in the 17th Century called the peak Sugar Loaf.
Lion’s Head as seen from the top of Table Mountain
The best day to hike Lion’s Head (or Table Mountain) is on a clear day, as it provides a great location to long at the famous Robben Island prison, where South Africa’s former president, Nelson Mandela, was held captive for 19 years.
Lion’s Head is best known for its stunning views of the Mother city (above) and Table Bay on one side, and the Atlantic shoreline on the other, which makes the walk to the top really worth the effort. It is common to add a little mystery to the walk by tackling it during full moon. Nothing more beautiful than seeing the sunset and then watching the city start to glitter with night lights.
Ready for action.
We read that at a slow pace, this hike could take as much as 2-3 hours. We were planning on doing it in an hour, so we had to move fast.
Lion’s Head is covered in Fynbos (indigenous Cape vegetation with an unusually rich biodiversity) and supports a variety of small animals. Three main vegetation types can be found in this, relatively small, area. All three of them native to the city of Cape Town and can be found nowhere else. Most of Lion’s Head is covered in endangered Granite Fynbos, which fades into Peninsula Shale Renosterveld (critically endangered) on the lower slopes towards Signal Hill in the north. Right on the summit of Lion’s Head however, is a tiny patch of endangered Sandstone Fynbos, a different ecosystem that is also found nearby on the top of Table Mountain.
The “table top” of Table Mountain is of sandstone origin, which its slopes are composed of granite. This underlying composition supports the growth of natural fynbos vegetation which, in turn, provides a home for a host of small animals. Many millions of years ago, Table Mountain, Signal
Hill, Lion’s Head would have all been joined together, but due to erosion are now separate.
Justin with Signal Hill down below him.
The suburbs of the city surround the peak and Signal Hill on almost all sides, but strict management by city authorities has kept development of housing off the higher ground. The area is significant to the Cape Malay community, who historically lived in the Bo-Kaap quarter, close to Lion’s Head. There are a number of historic graves and shrines (kramats) of Malay leaders on the lower slopes.
Although the trail starts as a gravel road, it turns to bigger boulders the further up you climb.
Hot and sweaty.
The view is spectacular from every side of Lion’s Head, and since the trail winds round and round the mountain there is a 360 degree view of the city.
There is not much shade along the way.
Nearer to the top, there are a number of ladders leading up the larger areas of granite rock.
Due to its height above the city and the ideal wind conditions that prevail around it, Lion’s Head is a great spot to go paragliding, hang-gliding or micro-lighting. I have tried to talk Justin into this but he just looks at me, and then laughs!
“Lion’s Head – Recommended Route”
OR via “the chains – use at your own risk
The three-hour walk to the top of Lion’s Head is quite a challenge, and not suited to the unfit, elderly or very young. The route starts at Signal Hill Road, at the base of Forestry Road and spirals around the head to a section with chains, These have been put in place to assist climbers over a steep, rocky section. Although there is an alternate route that bypasses the chains, the ascent is still steep and not to be taken lightly.
This was the most exciting part of the hike. I loved it!
Look how step it is! We had to hold onto the hand grips and chains!!!
Justin was behind me, and for someone afraid of heights, he was amazing!!!
Twelve Apostles (behind me)
Worth the climb!!
The last stretch is very rocky. At this point we had still not seen my cousins so I started to think that they had taken the alternate route down (i.e. the recommended non-chain route).
You go boy!
WE MADE IT!!
At the summit we ran into our cousins and friends. They had been relaxing and taking pictures at the top. Fortunately, they had some water so we could hydrate. It took about an hour to reach the summit, and there was not a single part of the climb that was not breath-takingly beautiful!
“The Americans” (Drew and Justin) pose in front of Table Mountain.
Maxine and I shout to them and ask, “A few years ago, did you ever imagine you would be on vacation in South Africa, standing by Table Mountain, and married to a South African girl??”
“We didn’t even know that there we white people down here!!”
Me, Maxine, and Jacky sporting black and pink!
We sat down to rest for a while. I could never get bored of this view.
Right on the edge.
Down we go.
The girls were nervous on the chains, but they did really well, especially considering that Jacky was wearing Converse High-Tops!!
“MWAH” Blowing a kiss to Cape Town.
What a beautiful city!!!!
This is an incredible hike, and much easier than Table Mountain. It takes less than three hours to climb, admire the view from the top (while having a snack and rest at the top), and then get down to the bottom. If you live in Cape Town, and have not done this hike yet, you are missing out!