Hiking Table Mountain on bad weather days – 9 December 2016

Table Mountain generates its own micro-climate, and it’s worth taking note of this when planning your hike. Cape Town summers are hot and dry, exactly what you expect of Africa, but with one difference: the Southeaster, sometimes referred to as the Cape Doctor, a gale-force wind that blasts the Peninsula often for days on end. As Cape Town’s prevailing summer wind, it takes the edge of the heat and clears the city bowl of smog accumulation; but when it comes to hiking Table Mountain, those advantages are quickly forgotten. And that’s because the Southeaster typically brings cloud over the mountain (the Tablecloth), obliterating all views, and results in cable car closure, necessitating a hike-down. Parts of the city are sheltered from the wind, so you might find yourself gazing up at the mountain from under cobalt-blue skies and with not a leaf stirring while dark cloud driven by cold, damp and ferocious wind engulfs the summit of Table Mountain.

Bad weather means different things to different people. Also, your avaialble time also affects your willingness to brave adverse conditions: if it’s your first day of a 2-week stay, you can afford to deem a zephyr-driven wisp of cloud as bad weather, while if it was your last day in Cape Town, you might be prepared to head out despite rain, cloud and wind. Rain is less of an issue: it’s more wind and cloud that can take away from the enjoyment of hiking Table Mountain. While the Southeaster is generally strong to very strong, it rarely blows with such force that it would be dangerous to hike Table Mountain. If you’re prepared to battle uphill against a tearing wind, and you’re okay with no views, then by all means you can hike the mountain. It won’t be very pleasant, but at least you get to climb the mountain and set foot on the summit, and bask in a well-deserved sense of achievment. At the same time, it provides some solid exercise and an esscape from the hustle and bustle – and perhaps also a detox from binging on Cape wines…

Some Table Mountain hikes are partially sheltered from the Southeaster, others get the brunt of the wind. Whichever route you decide on, it’s likely that you will have the mountain all to yourself, as most people detest hiking Table Mountain in Southeasterly condiitons. Being on the mountain with the wind moaning around the ridges and whistling through the rocks, with cloud swirling around you, scudding down the slopes and pouring over precipices, is nothing short of an experience. It’s one of the many faces, or moods, of the mountain: raw, wild and charged with energy. So don’t despair if cloud and wind beset the mountain on your only or last avaialble day to hike Table Mountain: there reamins much to experience and appreciate.

(c) www.hiketablemountain.co.za