Photo of the week – August week #4: Table Mountain rock-formations

Eroding sandstone on upper Jubilee Buttress and Barrier Buttress.

Eroding sandstone on upper Jubilee Buttress and Barrier Buttress.

Table Mountain is a crumbling relic – a shadow of the mountain it used to be about 260 million years ago when it was formed. Back then, the mountain soared about 5 times higher. Millions of storms have hewn it down to its present height and shape. Wind and rain continue to gnaw away at it: if the current rate of erosion continues, Table Mountain will have been reduced to an insignificant hill in about 10 million years from now. Many parts of the mountain resembles a crumbling ruin, with massive blocks and boulders perched precariously on ledges and edges. Hiking Table Mountain is the best way to get a real appreciation for the mountain’s striking topography and geology. Table Mountain hikes often lead past imposing cliffs and across boulder fields, clearly showing the mountain’s disintegration. Table Mountain sandstone erodes in blocks, sometimes rounded and sculpted by wind, and angular when not exposed to the elements or when freshly broken off from the mountain. Horizontal lines of weakness – thin bands of shale / mudstone – typically undercuts a cliff, and gravity eventually pulls down the overhanging rock. Vertical fissure similarly form along lines of weakness, carved into cracks by millennia of wind and rain. The mountain’s singular rock-formations does a good job in entertaining the eye on days when the mountain is covered in cloud and hiking Table Mountain offers little or nothing in the way of views. Many Table Mountain hikes can be structured to lead past areas of fantastic sculpted rock. In fact, mist and cloud only accentuates the bizarre and eye-catching shapes of the boulders and ledges – reason enough to brave cloud on the mountain.

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