It’s tempting to think of Table Mountain as less of a mountain due to its proximity to a city and the presence of a cableway. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even locals sometimes fall prey to the delusion that the mountain is tame. Unforgiving terrain, tricky route-finding, changeable and harsh weather, the height and size of the mountain: any one of these, and often a combination, drives home the understanding that hiking Table Mountain requires caution and knowledge. The mountain sees a lot of rescues – even on the easiest route, Platteklip Gorge – mostly by people who grossly underestimate the mountain.
Answering our question requires a short digression. Much can be found online about Platteklip Gorge. On one end of the scale, it sees more rescues than any other route (there are about 20 well-worn routes, about 30 more off-the-beaten track); on the other end, it’s often described as an easy route that can be done in under an hour and does not require a guide. The latter claims are true only to some. Platteklip Gorge might be the quickest and easiest route to the summit, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy to all fitness levels. Also, the route is not spared the extreme heat, cold and wind often experienced on the mountain. Even though Platteklip Gorge gets you to the summit with the least amount of effort and challenge, it’s the least scenic and exciting route. All the other routes are more challenging, and while you could get away with hiking Platteklip Gorge unguided, it is highly recommended that you make use of a guide on the other routes.
It should be clear by now that the first and foremost reason you should make use of a guide is safety. I often encounter unguided groups in a state of anxiety, at the very least uneasiness, about whether they’re on the right trail, or about the weather, or about the challenging terrain staring them down from further up, precluding the enjoyment of views, nature and the dramatic surroundings. In the company of a guide, you can relax and focus your attention on the multitude of sights, sounds and smells encountered when hiking Table Mountain. This goes a long way towards optimizing your Table Mountain hiking experience.
Learning facts, stories and insights about Table Mountain optimizes your Table Mountain hike even more. A competent and experienced mountain-guide worth his salt possesses a wealth of knowledge on the fascinating, fauna, flora, history, geology and lore of the mountain. Learning about the weather, rocks, plants and animals brings the environment to life, deepening your experience of Table Mountain.
Another major reason for making use of a guide is that it enables you to do better routes: routes that offer more views, wilderness, peace and quiet, adventure and grandeur. Also, many hidden gems on the mountain – caves, striking rock-formations, sensational viewpoints, rare flora – are easy to miss without an intimate knowledge of the mountain.
Given Table Mountain’s iconic status whose varied topography begs exploration and discovery, why not make the most of hiking the mountain by making use of a mountain-guide?