Fitness required for hiking Table Mountain – 18 January 2016

While fitness is an important component to hiking Table Mountain, it shouldn’t be the last word in your assessment of whether to hike up or cable car up, or what route to take. Equally important, and sometimes even more, is your level of enthusiasm for hiking Table Mountain. Ask yourself, how determined are you; how enthused are you; how motivated are you? Motivation and determination compensates to a degree for lack of fitness. It’s also important to differentiate from being able to hike up Table Mountain, and being able to do so and still enjoy it. Given enough time and external motivation, most people could get up several of the less strenuous Table Mountain hiking routes, but they won’t necessarily enjoy the experience.

I’ve seen many an unfit person enjoy hiking Table Mountain, in a masochistic kind of way, more than a person of moderate fitness. The difference lies in their enthusiasm and motivation as well as their expectations. Example: a few months ago, I hiked up a very overweight and unfit person who got the summit, collapsed in a sweaty heap and proceeded to whoop with joy, vowing that it was one of the highlights of all his travels. Not long after, I watched a person of moderate to good fitness level go into a meltdown midway up the mountain; his partner had inveigled him into joining the hike, and he cared nothing for nature and mountains and adventure. He hardly broke a sweat on the ascent and got to the summit with little merriment showing on his face.

Table Mountain hikes vary greatly in difficult and physicality. The question, am I fit enough to hike Table Mountain, begs the question, what route? Closely followed by, how enthused are you? A willingness to extend yourself physically and often also mentally makes all the difference. This brings us back to motivation and determination. It’s often the case that unfit people enjoy scrambling more than mere slope-slogging, so while some scramble routes might be technically harder, and even involve more distance, the perception of how strenuous they are becomes favourably altered by the engagement and stimulation that scrambling brings.