Hiking Table Mountain in all its moods – 29 October 2015

Visiting Cape Town in summer doesn’t guarantee fair weather when hiking Table Mountain. Table Mountain’s weather can be described as ill-tempered: if it’s not too hot, it’s too windy, or it’s covered in cloud (no wind), or the rock is wet (slippery), or any combination of these. Wind and cloud might not sound like a big deal, but the implications are worth considering: wind closes the cableway, necessitating a walk-down, which is tough for most people, and not very pleasant; cloud means no views, which could lead to a sudden loss in sense of humor. Secondary considerations: the wind typically blows down the mountain, effectively doubling the effort required to make headway uphill; and cloud condensation leaves rock slippery, thereby making the hiking and / or scrambling trickier.

Never take perfect weather for granted when hiking Table Mountain. If you were lucky enough to set out in benign conditions, it might not remain so. The weather can change in the time it takes you to sort out the leak in your hydration gadget’s mouthpiece, so consider yourself lucky if you’re on the mountain in wind-still, cloud-free conditions. Due to the existence of micro-climates on the mountain, it is to a degree possible to dodge adverse conditions through route choice. Starting out at sunrise also maximizes your chances of getting good weather: early morning means more shade and less intense sun, and pre-empts you from the typical afternoon wind and accompanying cloud.

Bottom line is, don’t expect perfect weather. If you’re lucky enough to get it, bonus; if you find yourself hiking in the wind and / or cloud, welcome to Table Mountain. Some Table Mountain hikes offer more varied and stimulating terrain that can be used to at least partly compensate for lack of views on a cloudy day. Some routes are more sheltered on windy days, at least along certain stretches, so consider these when the wind is raging. Once you’ve taken adequate precautions – pack warm layers, sunscreen / hat, rain-jacket, etc.; and enlisted the company of someone who knows the route) take the adverse weather in your stride, accepting it as part of the mountain’s character. Moaning about wind and cloud on the mountain can be likened to throwing a tantrum about the hustle and bustle when visiting a market or shopping mall. And besides, nature’s bluster is a whole lot healthier than man’s.

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