The diversity of hiking Table Mountain – 16 June 2015

Table Mountain hikes packs a lot of diversity in terms of terrain and vegetation as well as views. Trails run the length and breadth of the mountain, covering an area of roughly 58 square kilometres. Micro-climates contribute to floral diversity, ranging from indigenous forest to marshland to dense stands of fragrant and indigenous shrub. Often, the northern slopes would bake in the summer sun while dense cloud shrouds the eastern and southern slopes. The hardy summit vegetation obtains three times more moisture from cloud than from actual rain, while species on the northern and western slopes can survive for months without any moisture. Different floral zones give the mountain and different look and feel, which adds diversity when hiking Table Mountain.

Wind and rain have been gnawing away at Table Mountain for the past 260 million years, reducing it to a fifth its original height. Several geological factors combined to create its sheer sides and tabletop summit, while aeons of erosion accounts for its dissected slopes. Dramatic rock-formations and sculpted rock occur on many Table Mountain hiking routes. Ravines, gullies, ridges, streams, cliffs, pinnacles, talus slopes, boulder fields, marshy plains and lofty summits all add diversity to the topography. Hiking Table Mountain gives access to the geological diversity of this iconic landmark.

Different sides of Table Mountain offers very different views. And different routes offer different angles onto the mountain – a much overlooked fact and one that adds greatly to the experience of hiking Table Mountain. Often, spurs and buttresses allow views back onto the mountain, rivalling views out to the horizon. Ravine routes offer a very different experience than buttress or ridge routes. Which brings me to the fourth element in diversity that Table Mountain hikes offer: the mood or atmosphere that the landscape imparts, often accentuated by the weather. The mood in the gloom of jungle are a world away from what you experience on a windswept summit, or in the imposing recesses of a deep ravine, or the silent marshlands and boulder fields found on the summit plateau.

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