Table Mountain is not to be trifled with. For all its beauty and grandeur, it is not without danger and claims several lives each year. Some fall victim to its erratic weather, others to the harsh terrain. Many more hurt themselves or go through all manner of ordeals before making their way to safety – or getting baled out by Mountain Rescue. Most people grossly underestimate the mountain, thinking it to be tame – a misconception grounded in the mountain’s proximity to a city.
The reality is that Table Mountain is much bigger and higher than it looks, and the terrain more broken and treacherous than it might suggest at first glance. Many of the trails that crisscross the mountain lead to and across sheer cliffs, places the average hiker does not want to go. These trails are mostly trodden by climbers in their approach to a climbing route, and can easily snare the unwary.
Another factor that impacts on mountain safety is the weather. Table Mountain generates a microclimate that is notoriously unpredictable and capricious. Many hikers have been caught out by cloud that engulfs the mountain in minutes, making navigation a nightmare. Conditions on the summit can turn hostile very quickly.
In light of all this, making use of a competent guide makes a lot of sense. But the advantages go beyond mere route-finding and weather-prediction: a guide worth his salt will optimize your experience of the mountain by ensuring you get to see the best there is to see within your fitness and experience level. A further advantage is that you will learn about the fascinating fauna, flora, history and geology of the mountain.
People do hike up on their own, sure, but apart from the risk they take by going it alone, they also rob themselves of a superior experience of the mountain. Our own research into people who hiked up without a guide revealed that they often wasted valuable time looking for the right path or spent much of the way worrying whether they were in fact on the right path. They top out having learned practically nothing of the environment, while often missing out on stunning viewpoints and striking topographical features.
Since Table Mountain is such an iconic and enthralling landmark, why not make the most of it?