With summer fast approaching and temperatures on the rise, hitting the trail at the crack of dawn goes a long way in ensuring an enjoyable hike. Excessive heat makes a hike tougher as well as unpleasant, so better to endure the fleeting discomfort of having to get up in the dark than the 4-odd hours of discomfort you’ll experience if you don’t. Just like you maximize your game-viewing experience with an dawn game-drive, so it is with hiking Table Mountain. Starting out late on a hot day effectively ruins the experience – unless you’re a masochist. Dripping with sweat and weak from overheating, you don’t really appreciate the views and surroundings.
Another important reason for hiking Table Mountain at the crack of dawn is to ensure a cable car ride down. Why? Because the Southeaster – Cape Town’s prevailing summer wind – typically freshens later in the day, closing the cable car and necessitating a walk-down, which is not pleasant. Accompanying the Southeaster on most occasions is the Tablecloth, a veil of cloud that engulf Table Mountain within minutes, dashing your chances of having views from as low as midway up the mountain. And hiking in a gale-force wind is difficult and unpleasant.
An added advantage of starting out early is that you get the soft, early-morning light, ideal for taking high-quality photos. The air typically gets hazy later in the day, and the colours washed-out – not great for getting high-contrast and clear photos. And if that’s not enough reason to hike Table Mountain early morning, it also gets you back down by around 11hoo, leaving much time for sightseeing and other tours.
Starting up Table Mountain with its uppermost cliffs painted orange by the rising sun is an experience that will remain with you for a very long time. You witness the change of light as you climb higher, and along with your changing perspective, makes for an engaging hike every step of the way.