Overlooking the bustling city center of Cape Town, Table Mountain must be one of the most underestimated mountains in the world. A fancy cableway to the summit contributes to many visitor’s illusion of it being tame. It’s only when you set foot on the mountain that you experience the rugged terrain and its enormity. The famous and iconic tabletop facade only takes up about 10% of the mountain, so Table Mountain is far more than just the “Table”. Add capricious weather to the mix and it becomes apparent why Table Mountain is not to be trifled with.
To get the most out of hiking Table Mountain, a guide is invaluable. And not just any guide, but a competent, knowledgeable, engaging, enthusiastic and experienced mountain guide. It’s more about mere route-finding: learning about the mountain – its fascinating flora, fauna, history and geology – greatly enhances the experience. There are about 65 Table Mountain hiking routes, so deciding which is best can be bewildering, and here a guide plays a vital role by assessing your fitness and preferences, sense of adventure and time frame.
Peace of mind is another advantage of making use of a guide. Hiking Table Mountain is not fun when you spend half the time fretting over whether you’re on the right route or not. And then arriving on the summit, having learned nothing about the mountain. Some of the best viewpoints are tucked away, off the trails and unrecognizable, therefore easy to miss if hiking without a guide. Same goes for hidden gems such as unique rock-formations, caves, rare flowers like orchids and historical sights.
A guide also allows you to get-off-the beaten track to experience more nature, even wilderness, as well as more peace and quiet. And if you’re looking for adventure, then the safest and most enjoyable way to go about it is with a guide. Table Mountain hikes offer much in the way of adventure – routes that involve scrambling and exposure to heights, all of them requiring the competence and expertise of an experienced guide.
The main reason for making use of a guide is safety – against the mountain and the elements. It’s very easy to lose your way on the mountain. Trails are not always well-defined, and some involve unexpected scrambles and narrow ledges. Table Mountain’s changeable weather is a major factor when it comes to safety. Cloud often boils up out of nowhere, engulfing the mountain in minutes, making route finding very challenging. Temperatures plummet and visibility drops to a few feet.
Despite its proximity to a city, Table Mountain is still very much a mountain. According to statistics, more people die on Table Mountain than on Everest, and many of those causalties can be ascribed to bravado or blantant disregard for the mountain. To get the most out of hiking Table Mountain, and to play it safe while on vacation, it makes sense to use a guide.