“On the top of the mountain about 5 in the afternoon, two different worlds, as it were, presented themselves to my view, of which the western still enjoyed the finest sunshine and a clear horizon, while the eastern was already covered with darkness and a thick impending mist. This mist, which had exhaled from the heated places, and was no condensed in the suddenly cold air, was so thick that no part of the whole country was to be seen but the whole region resembled a smooth unbroken cloud, and did not a little contribute to rendering the view on each side of the mountain remarkably different, though a moment before they were much the same.”
– Carl Peter Thunberg, Swedish Botanist, 1773 –
What Thunberg experienced was one of many unique phenomena still seen on occasion when hiking up Table Mountain. Table Mountain’s tabletop summit (also referred to as the Table, the summit plateau or the upper plateau) is more or less rectangular, tapered on its western side, but having four distinct sides, each offering very different views and often different atmospheric conditions. It’s a fact, for example, that the eastern slopes of the mountain receives 3 times more rain than the western and northern slopes. The eastern side often remains in dense cloud while the west and north enjoys serene skies and basks in bright sunlight. Fog sometimes rolls in from the southwest, engulfing the mountain’s western slopes, sometimes spilling over the summit or creeping around to the other sides. Hiking Table Mountain maximizes your chances of experiencing the different atmospheric conditions on the mountain. Thunberg hiked Table Mountain from all four sides – one of the first Europeans ever to do so, if not the first – often sleeping on the summit, and it’s little surprise that he got to see the phenomenon described above.