Hiking Table Mountain needn't be a slog – 13 July 2014

Talk about mountain-climbing typically conjures up one of two images in the minds of people: hanging by your fingertips over an abysmal drop, torso and arms rippling with muscle; or plodding wearily up an interminable slope, hunched over and streaming with sweat. While getting to the top of a mountain often involves at least one of the above, it needn’t be the case. Scrambling – the grey area between hiking (or slope-slogging) and climbing – offers the non-climber a fun and exciting alternative to scaling a mountain. Most Table Mountain hikes involves scrambling at some point along the way, sometimes only a taster and elementary, other times sustained and tricky as well as exposed to heights. If you know all the Table Mountain hiking routes, or you go with a mountain-guide who does, you can determine exactly how much scrambling you want to do on the ascent and how tricky you want it to be. Not a week goes by that I don’t hike with people who clung to the misconception that Table Mountain hiking constitutes a tedious toil, and who were delighted by the thrill and challenge of scrambling. While slope-slogging offers no stimulation to the mind, scrambling engages the hiker and renders the ascent an experience in itself rather than a necessary means to get to the summit. Kids in particular detest slope-slogging, much preferring the excitement and mental stimulation of scrambling. Hiking Table Mountain is as much about the grandeur of mountaincapes as it is about the views, and scramble routes typically allows the hiker passage through areas of dramatic topography. Tricky and exposed scrambling necessitates the use of a rope, though no climbing experience is required, only moderate agility, a sense of adventure and a fairly good head for heights. While scrambling adds spice and excitement to a hike, it should only be done by experienced hikers or in the company of a competent mountain-guide. The judicious choice of a scramble route coupled with the experience to provide safety on steep ground gives one the freedom of the hills and access to the essence of Table Mountain.

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