Everyone wants to hike the best route, but what makes a route the “best”? For one person it’s the best views, for another the most adventure, or the most peace and quiet and pristine nature; or, if you’re terrified of heights, it’s the route with the least amount of exposure to heights. Nominating a “best” Table Mountain hiking route is as impossible as nominating the best pizza, the best book, or movie – though, fortunately, there are fewer route options than books and movies! This is the first way you will benefit from using a guide: route selection. And it can be crucial component to your enjoyment and experience of Table Mountain. It’s useful to be reminded of the old adage: it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.
With around 65 Table Mountain hiking routes to choose from, and a glut of information readily available on the internet on Table Mountain hikes, it’s easy to get bewildered and confused about what route to take. Each Table Mountain hiking route has its own character, just like humans, offering a diverse views, topography, vegetation and mood / atmosphere. No two routes are alike; and just about every route has pros and cons.
In light of the above, it should be clear that there’s no such things as the best Table Mountain hiking route. What’s best for John might not be the best for Jane. To help us as guides determine the best route for you, we request a few bits of information: fitness level (of the weakest member in the group), sense of adventure, ability to deal with narrow ledges and personal preferences. This allows us to match you with the route most suited to your abilities and preferences. Abilities before preferences. Safety first.
We base route choice on the abilities and fitness of the weakest member in the group. Since members’ abilities and fitness usually vary, we try select a route that will keep the majority happy without compromising on safety. Invariably, some members might have to extend themselves physically or mentally for the sake of the majority, while others have to slow down and content themselves more with smelling the flowers than clambering up near-vertical terrain over big drops.
Mountain-guiding begins off the mountain, with route selection. You tell us a bit about yourself and we match you with the best route. The fitter you are, and the better your head for heights, the more options you have. If pressed for the top three Table Mountain hiking routes for the average person, then I would say Skeleton Gorge, Kasteelspoort (on the 12 Apostles) and India Venster, in no particular order. Each of these routes bring to the experience different facets of Table Mountain. As Table Mountain hikes, they offer diversity and nature, and does a great job doing justice to the defining characteristics of the mountain.
Optimizing your experience of hiking Table Mountain starts with choosing the right route for you and your partner or group. Careful of subjective recommendations from people who don’t know the mountain well and lack hiker assessment experience. Refrain from readily buying in to a random person’s assertions that you will enjoy a certain route and that you will be “fine” in terms of handling its challenges. And remember, Table Mountain’s temperamental weather can be a game changer – but that’s a topic for another time.