Devil's Peak (Cape Town)
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Devil's Peak (
Afrikaans Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 60 million people, it is the world's 23rd-most po ...
: ''Duiwelspiek'') is part of the mountainous backdrop to
Cape Town Cape Town (Afrikaans: Kaapstad ; Xhosa language, Xhosa: ''iKapa;'') is the second-most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg, and also the legislative Capital city, capital of South Africa. Colloquially named the Mother City, it is ...

Cape Town
,
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 60 million people, it is the world's 23rd-most populous nation and covers an area of . South Africa has three capital citie ...

South Africa
. When looking at
Table Mountain Table Mountain ( naq, Huriǂoaxa, lit= sea-emerging; af, Tafelberg) is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa. It is a significant tourist attraction, with many visitors using the ...

Table Mountain
from the city centre, or when looking at the standard picture postcard view of the mountain, the skyline is from left to right: the spire of Devil's Peak, the flat mesa of
Table Mountain Table Mountain ( naq, Huriǂoaxa, lit= sea-emerging; af, Tafelberg) is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa. It is a significant tourist attraction, with many visitors using the ...

Table Mountain
, the dome of Lion's Head and Signal Hill. The central districts of Cape Town are nestled within this natural
amphitheatre An amphitheatre (British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety that has undergone substantial codification of grammar an ...

amphitheatre
. The city grew out of a settlement founded on the shore below the mountains in 1652 by
Jan van Riebeeck Johan Anthoniszoon "Jan" van Riebeeck (21 April 1619 – 18 January 1677) was a Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (als ...

Jan van Riebeeck
, for the
Dutch East India Company The Dutch East India Company, officially the United East India Company ( nl, Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie; VOC), was a multinational corporation A multinational company (MNC) is a corporate A corporation is an organization—u ...

Dutch East India Company
. Some of the first farms in the Cape were established on the slopes of Devil's Peak, along the
Liesbeek River The Liesbeek River (also spelt Liesbeeck) is a river in Cape Town Cape Town (Afrikaans: Kaapstad ; Xhosa language, Xhosa: ''iKapa;'') is the second-most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg, and also the legislative Capital city, ...
. Devil's Peak stands high, less than Table Mountain's . One can walk to the top (western slopes provide the easiest approach) but the ascent is more pleasant and safer outside of the cold, wet, winter months of May to August.


Landmarks

The
Rhodes Memorial Rhodes Memorial on Devil's Peak in Cape Town, South Africa, is a memorial to English-born, South African politician Cecil John Rhodes Cecil John Rhodes (5 July 1853 – 26 March 1902) was a British mining business magnate, magnate and po ...

Rhodes Memorial
to
Cecil Rhodes Cecil John Rhodes (5 July 1853 – 26 March 1902) was a British mining magnate A magnate, from the late Latin ''magnas'', a great man, itself from Latin ''magnus'', "great", is a noble or a man in a high social position, by birth, wealth or ...
, and the
University of Cape Town The University of Cape Town (UCT) is a public university, public research university located in Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. UCT was founded in 1829 as the South African College making it the oldest higher education ...
are situated on the eastern slopes of Devil's Peak. From these vantages one can gaze down upon the southern suburbs of Cape Town and over the sandy
Cape Flats The Cape Flats ( af, Die Kaapse Vlakte) is an expansive, low-lying, flat area situated to the southeast of the central business district of Cape Town Cape Town (Afrikaans: Kaapstad ; Xhosa language, Xhosa: ''iKapa;'') is the second-most popu ...
towards
Stellenbosch Stellenbosch (; )A Universal Pronounci ...

Stellenbosch
,
Somerset West Somerset West ( af, Somerset-Wes) is a town in the Western Cape The Western Cape ( af, Wes-Kaap; xh, iNtshona-Koloni) is a province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitA ...
, and the distant Boland mountains. Other landmarks on the eastern slopes are
Mostert's Mill Mostert's Mill (Afrikaans Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 60 million people, it ...
,
Groote Schuur Hospital Groote Schuur Hospital is a large, government-funded, teaching hospital A teaching hospital is a hospital A hospital is a health care institution providing patient treatment with specialized Medical Science, health science and Allied ...

Groote Schuur Hospital
, and the
Groote Schuur Groote Schuur (, Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle ...
estate, including a number of presidential and ministerial residences. A number of historic military blockhouses are situated on Devil's Peak, along with a number of cannons intended to defend the city from attack from the south. There is an abandoned fire lookout high up on Mowbray Ridge. On 26 May 1971 a formation of three military aircraft, flying by sight along the N2 highway, banked to the right three seconds too late, narrowly missing the University and Rhodes Memorial but subsequently crashing into the side of the mountain. For many years a radar reflector beacon stood on Plumpudding Hill above Rhodes Memorial to prevent similar incidents.


Hiking

There are a lot of easy walks on the lower slopes of the mountain. A popular short hike is from Rhodes Memorial to the King's blockhouse. The only safe ascent of the peak is from the Saddle, between the peak and Table Mountain. There are three routes to reach the Saddle: from Tafelberg Road on the city side, up Newlands Ravine from Newlands Forest, or the upper contour path from Mowbray Ridge and Minor Peak. Once on the Saddle, a straightforward path climbs directly to the summit. The 360° view from the summit is well worth the slog. The peak is very exposed to wind and mist, so hikers must always take care. A number of the descents on the Southern Suburbs side are very steep and wet, and are highly dangerous (particularly Second Waterfall Ravine, Dark Gorge and Els Ravine). These routes should not be attempted, as many lives have been lost by hikers taking the wrong route. The general rule that applies is to stick to known and well-marked paths, and not to push on into the unknown.


Vegetation

The northern slopes overlooking the city centre are covered in typical Cape Peninsula Shale Fynbos. These slopes are hotter and prone to frequent fires, and as a result the vegetation is low. Here can also be found a small stretch of critically endangered
Peninsula Shale Renosterveld Peninsula Shale Renosterveld (PSR) is a unique vegetation type that is found only on the slopes of Signal Hill (Cape Town), Signal Hill and Devil's Peak (Cape Town), Devil's Peak in Cape Town, South Africa. It is critically endangered and exists n ...
vegetation, an endemic vegetation type that used to dominate the Cape Town
City Bowl The City Bowl is a part of Cape Town in South Africa. It is a natural amphitheatre-shaped area bordered by Table Bay and defined by the mountains of Signal Hill (Cape Town), Signal Hill, Lion's Head (Cape Town), Lion's Head, Table Mountain and De ...
but is now mostly lost due to urban development. The slopes on the Southern Suburbs side however, are naturally wetter and more protected from fires, so these slopes were originally partially covered with deep indigenous forests. Some of these dense afro-montane forests still remain in the gorges, but most of them were cut down to make way for commercial pine plantations. Near
Rhodes Memorial Rhodes Memorial on Devil's Peak in Cape Town, South Africa, is a memorial to English-born, South African politician Cecil John Rhodes Cecil John Rhodes (5 July 1853 – 26 March 1902) was a British mining business magnate, magnate and po ...

Rhodes Memorial
there are a few surviving natural stands of a famous native tree called the
Silvertree
Silvertree
. This is possibly the last place on earth where the tree still grows wild. During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, Devil's Peak (and other adjacent heights) were commercially planted with plantations of cluster pines, a problematic invasive non-indigenous tree. Local authorities organized paid workers and volunteers to chop down the pines from the peak and most of them are now gone (although in
Newlands Forest Newlands Forest is a conservation area, conservancy area on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, beside the suburb of Newlands, Cape Town. It is owned and maintained by the Table Mountain National Parks Board, along with the City Parks Departmen ...
on the lower reaches, pine and gum forests are still maintained for recreational purposes). The original indigenous Afro-montane forest is also slowly re-growing on the southern slopes and above Newlands forest where the pines have been cleared. Stone pines (a non-invasive alien tree) still remain in the area around Rhodes Memorial.


Fauna

Near Rhodes Memorial, some of the lower slopes of Devil's Peak are artificially maintained as savanna, and some herds of eland, wildebeest and zebra are kept there. In the 1930s, a few
Himalayan Tahr The Himalayan tahr (''Hemitragus jemlahicus'') is a large even-toed ungulate The even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla , ) are ungulates—hoofed animals—which bear weight equally on two (an even number) of their five toes: the third and fourt ...
s escaped from a zoo on the slopes of Devil's Peak and bred until their population on the Table Mountain range was over 700. A culling programme has eliminated most of them, although a few still remain. Some of the original local species of small antelope are being re-introduced to replace the tahrs. Around Rhodes Memorial there were also some feral deer of European origin, which can still be found on the lower slopes. Indigenous animals include porcupines, caracals, small grey mongoose, rock hyraxes (also known as dassies), and many species of bird.


Geology

The upper, rocky parts of Devil's Peak, Table Mountain and Lion's Head consist of a hard, uniform and resistant
sandstone Sandstone is a clastic sedimentary rock of a clast (sand grain), derived from a basalt Basalt (, ) is a fine-grained extrusive igneous rock formed from the rapid cooling of low-viscosity lava rich in magnesium and iron ('' mafic ' ...

sandstone
commonly known as the
Table Mountain sandstone The Table Mountain Sandstone (TMS) is a group of rock Formation (stratigraphy), formations within the Cape Fold Belt#Cape Supergroup, Cape Supergroup sequence of rocks. Although the term "Table Mountain Sandstone" is still widely used in co ...
or TMS. (This is, however, no longer used as a formal geological name). The tough sandstone rests conformably upon a basal
shale Shale is a fine-grained, clastic Clastic rocks are composed of fragments, or clasts, of pre-existing minerals In geology and mineralogy, a mineral or mineral species is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound with a fairly well-defi ...

shale
that in turn lies unconformably upon a basement of older (Late
Precambrian The Precambrian (or Pre-Cambrian, sometimes abbreviated pꞒ, or Cryptozoic) is the earliest part of Earth's history, set before the current Phanerozoic The Phanerozoic Eon is the current geologic eon in the geologic time scale The geologi ...

Precambrian
) rocks (Malmesbury shale/slate and the Cape Granite). The basal shale and the older rocks below it weather much faster than the TMS and for this reason the lower slopes are smoother in all parts, with few outcrops and deeper soil. Millions of years of erosion have stripped all of the TMS from Signal Hill and that is why it looks very rounded compared to its sister peaks. There is a road that runs almost on the contour from the lower cable station on Table Mountain along the mountain to Devil's Peak. As it turns east around the bulk of Devil's Peak the road cuttings expose a few famous geological unconformities, which illustrate very clearly that the Malmesbury rocks were folded, baked, intruded by
granite Granite () is a coarse-grained (phanerite, phaneritic) intrusive rock, intrusive igneous rock composed mostly of quartz, alkali feldspar, and plagioclase. It forms from magma with a high content of silica and alkali metal oxides that slowly cool ...

granite
and planed down by millions of years of erosion before the area sank below the ocean and a new sequence of sediments, including the TMS, began to accumulate.


Origins of the name

Devil's Peak was originally known as Windberg or Charles Mountain. The English term Devil's Peak is a 19th-century translation from the Dutch ''Duivels Kop'', and supposedly comes from the folk-tale about a Dutch man called Jan van Hunks, a prodigious pipe smoker who lived at the foot of the mountain circa 1700. He was forced by his wife to leave the house whenever he smoked his pipe. One day, while smoking on the slopes of the peak, he met a mysterious stranger who also smoked. They each bragged of how much they smoked and so they fell into a pipe-smoking contest. The stranger turned out to be the devil and Van Hunks eventually won the contest, but not before the smoke that they had made had covered the mountain, forming the table cloth cloud. The story was captured by the 19th century poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti in his poem ''Jan van Hunks'' (alternatively called ''The Dutchman's Wager''). However, since Rosetti's poem was only published in 1909, it's unlikely that this was the true source of the name, rather an urban legend. It has also been claimed that the name is a corruption of ''Duifespiek'' ("Dove's Peak") to ''Duivelspiek'' ("Devil's Peak"), since the Dutch language, Dutch the words for devil and dove are relatively close in sound. The Dutch word "Duivelspiek" has been the common Afrikaans language name for the mountain and the suburb on the east side of the city bowl. The name is also thought to have been derived from the mountain's 'three pronged' spear shape, which is reminiscent of the spear held by the Devil in many images. A more likely explanation is provided by Devils Peak Brewing Company, Devil's Peak Brewery. Forty years before Vasco de Gama rounded the Cape in 1497, the Venetian cartographer Fra Mauro created a map of the world for King Alfonso V of Portugal, based on knowledge drawn from the Arabians. On this map, which became the definitive view of the world for the early Portuguese explorers, he named the southernmost tip of Africa, Cabo di Diab – the Devil's Cape. It is very likely the association with the devil simply migrated from the Cape to the mountain that flanks it. After all, sailors are a superstitious lot and Devil's Peak remains the path through which the Cape Southeaster howls, churning up the waves in the Cape of Storms.


1971 Plane Crash

On 26 May 1971, three South African Air Force British Aerospace BAe 125, Hawker-Siddelley HS125 (Code named Mercurius) aircraft crashed into Devil's Peak, killing all 11 on board. The aircraft were flying in close formation, practicing for a fly past during the upcoming 10th anniversary Republic Day celebrations on 31 May. A low cloud base was cited as a contributory factor. The impact was heard throughout the surrounding suburbs and scars in the ground can still be seen today.


See also

* *


References

{{Table Mountain National Park Table Mountain Aviation accidents and incidents in South Africa Table Mountain National Park