With winter fast approaching, here is what you need to know about hiking Table Mountain in winter. We will look at the pros and cons as well as the practicalities involved to ensure you get an optimal Table Mountain hiking experience.
Cape Town’s winter runs from June to August. The city gets 70 to 80% of its annual rainfall during these three months. With an average winter daytime temperature of 17 degrees Celsius, Cape Town winters are mild compared to northern Europe and the northern part of the US. The unpleasantness lies more in that it is wet rather than bitterly cold.
However, in between rainy spells you get clear, balmy days that make for the best Table Mountain hiking weather. No need to start 5.30am to beat the heat; no excessive heat; crystalline air; waterfalls and streams; and hardly any wind. The latter is a big one: Cape Town gets very windy in summer, usually resulting in cableway closure, necessitating a hike back down – tough and unpleasant. Also, most people detest hiking in the wind: it is tough to maintain both balance and conversation.
Another advantage of winter hiking worthy of elaboration is water-features: streams, cascades and waterfalls. After heavy rain, the mountain is alive with the sound of water. During these times, cascades and streams occur along most Table Mountain hikes. Some waterfalls are easily accessible; others require a detour. Table Mountain’s summit becomes the birthplace of streams, and it is fascinating to see rainwater percolate from marshes to form trickles. These trickles grow in size and gather momentum as more converge to form rivulets and eventually fully-fledged streams. Some ravines – like Window Gorge, Blinkwater Gully, Silverstream Ravine and Fir Tree Ravine – enjoy a generous runoff thanks to their sizeable catchment areas. Thin, white ribbons of falling water extend own the mountain after heavy rain – a singular sight. Fir Tree Ravine in particular features an impressive series of waterfalls extending down the entire height of the mountain.
The downside to visiting Cape Town in winter is that you might get rain for 2 or 3 consecutive days. Thick cloud engulfs Table Mountain, leaving only the lower slopes visible. Trails are slippery and views non-existent. For this reason, it is essential that you book your hike for the first day in your stay to allow for spare days in event of bad weather.
It rarely rains for more than 3 days in a row, so if possible, plan for at least 5 days in Cape Town to get a good weather window. The city offers ample attractions and activities to keep you occupied for that period. As for Table Mountain hiking, a 5-day stay optimizes your chances of getting a gem of a day. Still, pack a warm layer and a rain-jacket. Table Mountain’s weather is notoriously unpredictable.
Nothing quite beats hiking Table Mountain on a crisp, clear day, with streams gushing and the marshes alive with the clicking and chirping of frogs. The air is fresh and still, the sun gentle and the mountain alive with the sound of water. And a brew of lunchtime tea on a rocky outcrop tastes extra good.