For a while now, I have wanted to do the 13 Peak Challenge… I follow it avidly on Instagram, I have gleaned all the details on the website. I have watched and waited for the right time to mention it to my kids. And somehow there never is a good time and there is always a reason why we can’t get going.


But this summer with the beaches closed and Open Water Swimming closed to us, not to mention the only outdoor activity that we can all do is hiking… I mentioned to my husband that there was a thing called the 13 Peak Challenge, and next thing I knew we were off!!!

The 13 Peak Challenge

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Image from the @13_Peaks instagram account.

The founder of the 13 Peaks Challenge, Ryan Sands, wrote this route… as a trail running challenge, over and around the peaks of Table Mountain and the South Peninsula. Athletes head out on the circuit and take a picture at each peak, tag themselves on strava or in someway provide some evidence that they made it to the each of the peaks.

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The idea is that there are some super athletes that complete this route in a 24 hours, running through the night. Then there are some folk who take 48 hours, and then more reasonable folk who do the multi-day challenge. We are on the multi-day challenge… actually multi-week, multi-month challenge. Our challenge really is to complete it this year. Once you start, you can’t help yourself… you feel the need to go out and collect peaks as often as you can.

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Initially we thought that 13 Peaks meant 13 hikes, and how hard could it be, even if we did one hike a month, we could finish in a year… one hike a week and we would finish before Autumn. It turns out some peaks are a lot harder to get to than others, turns out some peaks are clustered together and so if you are going all the way to one, you may as well get the one next door as well. We sat down with a couple of maps, and we checked out the Strava Route and over night we were good to go… we had a plan, or so we thought.

The Original Plan…

  1. Day 1: Signal Hill… Lion’s Head… Kloof Corner. (7km/7km/106km)
  2. Day 2: Kloof Corner… Platteklip to Maclear’s Beacon, Grootkp, Judas Peak and down Llundudno Ravine to Hout Bay. (20km/27km/106km).
  3. Day 3: Suikerbossie… Klein Leeu Kop, Suther Peak and across Hout Bay to the top of Chapman’s Peak Drive. (18km/45km/106km).
  4. Day 4: Chapman’s Peak Drive to Chapman’s Peak, Noordhoek Peak and down to Silvermine Gate 2. (13km/58km/106km).
  5. Day 5: Gate 2… Muizenberg Peak… and back again. (10km/68km/106km).
  6. Day 6: Silvermine Gate to Constantia Berg and down to Constantia Nek. (14km/82km/106km).
  7. Day 7: Constantia Nek via Klaasenkop and down Nursery. (8km/90km/106km).
  8. Day 8: Up Nursery and Devil’s Peak, down to Tafelberg Road. (9km/99km/106km).
  9. Day 9: Head along Tafelberg Road to Signal hill. (7km/106km/106km).

Our plan in retrospect, while perfect for trail runners, was far from ideal for family hikers, in fact it was a complete fail. 21km on the road might take a slow runner like me three and a little bit hours… well pop me on these vertical ascents and descents and even four times my road running speed is only an optimistic estimate. Our very first day of hiking was in sweltering heat… sweltering. And yes, it was madness to even thinking of starting in the middle of a Cape Town summer… then again are beaches are closed, so we may as well spend this summer on the trails.


Turns out our initial idea to break the trail into 9 segments, might work for some folk, but it was never going to work for us. We needed shorter and sweeter segments, not to mention segments in there “just for encouragement.” In fact, we thought that at the end of every hike we would just quickly walk across to the start of the next hike… that was the silliest idea ever… since at the end of any hike… NOBODY wants to walk another km or two to the start of the next hike. Also, there is no point at the end of a hike dragging yourself to the next start. Honestly, we are doing this with half our kids and at the end of it… there is no point owning a badge, if they never want to get back on the mountain again.

So, apart from discovering that Trail Runners, particularly >100km trail runners who adore all things vertical, are actually insane. You really cannot break this challenge into four approximately half marathons, neither can you hike 13 Peaks back to back… ALSO, your route has to connect up… so there is no point in getting to the top of each picture and smiling nicely… you have to go the route, you have to track it… we are going to be taking it as slowly as possible.

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Evidence of What We Actually Did…


I am going to blog each of these segments individually… but in the mean time, here is a summary…

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Segment 1: Signal Hill and Lion’s Head: Signal Hill up Lion’s Head and Down to the Vida Truck. My goodness, we chose the hottest day in January… so hot that we saw literally three people all the way up and all the way down, on one of Cape Town’s busiest trails. We also started way too late in the day… so many mistakes!!! And at the end of it we were just too tired to even think about walking the very short walk over to Kloof Corner. We had to regroup and rethink our plan!!! Here’s a link to our first segment.

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Segment 2: Muizenberg Peak: Silvermine Gate 3 to Muizenberg Peak and Back Again… this segment was out of order, but I desperately needed a confidence hike after our disastrous first hike through heat wave temperatures, just days before. It did the trick… happiness regained!!!

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Segment 3: From the Vida Truck to the start of the Kloof Corner… a tiny little evening stroll to mentally prepare for the next day. Had we known what lay ahead, we may have waited many months before proceeding…

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Segment 4: Maclear’s Beacon and Grootkop: Kloof Corner, Up Platteklip to Maclear’s Beacon, then through Echo Valley to top of KasteelsPoort and on to Grootkop and down Llundudno Ravine. This hike is insanely long, and requires a whole blog post of its own… as we continue to make mistakes, and we should have learned that “shorter is better” and come off the mountain at Kasteelspoort…

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Segment 5: Judas Peak: Kasteelspoort to Judas Peak and down Llundudno Ravine. This was lovely, getting up Kasteelspoort is a lot easer than Platteklip, we stopped on the way across the mountain top to take a look at Tranquility Cracks. Tagged our Peak and down Llundudno Ravine in daylight and what a difference that made.

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Segment 6: Little Lion’s Head: Don’t be fooled by the “Little” this one is tricky… really tricky at the top. Also, research your exit well… we went up and over and followed the path down into Hout Bay, where we were sent back up by security guards… avoid that detour… if you do go up and over, go straight down to Sandy Bay and up from the beach back over the dunes to Hout Bay. And this one is totally worth it… the sense of achievement is enormous!!!

Watch this space: We still have se7en peaks to go…

Family Walks and Hikes in the Cape Peninsula


Meanwhile, if you are a family with very young kids then I wouldn’t suggest you embark on the Thirteen Peaks Challenge, without several shorter hikes with your kids first. I thought I would pop a list of family friendly hikes around the Cape Peninsula, onto this blog post, because it is one of our most frequently asked questions as a hiking family.
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There is an art to hiking with little people and still having a good time… everyone loves an adventure, but nobody loves an adventure with a short person who has to be bribed from snack to snack and dragged all the way whining, because they would rather be at home on a screen. There is something terrifically good and wholesome about the great outdoors and if you start small, while aiming high… you can indeed have a good time. These posts from the past will tell you a little bit about our “Hiking with Kids Journey…” How we began and how we got our kids good at it.

We made hiking part of our life in a daily way, we took them to the patch of mountain behind our house… and there was anguish when their was fire on their mountain. We walked and walked one year the same hike every week, rain or shine, and made a study of it through the seasons.

Hiking in and Around Table Mountain with Kids


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Hiking in Cape Point


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Most folk have the idea that Cape Point is a place to visit, for a walk up to the lighthouse or breakfast at the restaurant… what they don’t know is the perfect place for really easy and interesting family hikes and one of the few places that you can still have that magical South African dream event: The Beach Braai (Barbecue). There are all kinds of hikes in Cape Point, from rocky ambles to sandy beaches, crossing the the fynbos veld and wandering past wildlife… it is a magical place where you can go out into the wild and explore.
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Really Easy Walks for Families:

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Slightly Harder Walks for More Adventurous Kids:

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Silvermine


Silvermine is often overlooked as most tourists head for Cape Point… but Silvermine is one of Cape Town’s hidden gems… fantastic hiking, picnicking next to the dam… playing in the river, and where I do so much of my open water swimming. Silvermine has so much to offer and is a great place for a fabulous hike.

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