Hiking Table Mountain along its tabletop summit – 23 October 2014

Table Mountain is arguably most famous for its uncanny shape, resembling a tabletop when views from the front / north. But most people who visit Table Mountain only experience the western tip of the “Table”, content only on getting a bird’s eye view of the city and surroundings, and on ticking off one of Cape Town’s top attractions. Extending about 1.4 miles (2.4 kilometres) end to end, the summit plateau, or upper plateau, as the “Table” is sometimes referred to offers much more than the views from the built-up precinct around the upper cable station and the shop and restaurant contained therein.

The summit plateau constitutes only about 5% of the Table Mountain massif (a mountain mass consisting of several summits or peaks). Most Table Mountain hikes are structured to top out on the ‘Table” allowing for an easy walk across to the upper cable station, from where an effortless descent concludes the hike. Table Mountain hiking routes gain the summit plateau from all side, the majority of them making a beeline for the upper cable station, omitting the eastern Table, where the highest point on the mountain is located. Hikers ascending the mountain via Skeleton Gorge and the Smuts Track top out at the highest point (Maclear’s Beacon) before traversing the length of the iconic tabletop to the upper station. But there is an unfrequented sector of the summit plateau that rarely sees hikers: the area around the eastern edge. Wind-sculpted rock-formations, superb views, pristine nature and perfect solitude define the area – the latter in stark contrast to the bustling and civilized western tip.

Only two vague trails lead into the area, both tricky to find. Marshes, restio beds and striking outcrops characterize the landscape. Approaching the edge of the plateau, sensational views come into view, all of it unseen from anywhere else on Table Mountain. Edging along the summit’s vertiginous perimeter towards the north provides new views, to where an unique angle onto the whole of the “Table” is gained from above Silverstream Ravine.

Table Mountain walks doesn’t get better than this: cable car to the summit, traverse across to the eastern edge before looping back to the upper station for a cable car descent. Practically no uphill slogging. For those hiking Table Mountain, including the eastern edge as part of your route to the summit greatly enhances the experience.

(c) www.hiketablemountain.co.za