Most visitors to Cape Town regard Table Mountain as the centrepiece to Peninsula attractions. It therefore makes sense to optimize your experience of this singular and iconic landmark. Hiking up gives you a real appreciation of the mountain while allowing you to connect with nature. Here are a few guidelines on how to optimize your Table Mountain hiking experience:
- Plan to hike the mountain early in your stay to allow for spare days in the event of bad weather. Table Mountain gets a lot of cloud, and wind, even in summer. Hiking in the cloud means no views, and strong wind means a compulsary hike down (tough and unpleasant), so weather conditions greatly impacts on your enjoyment of the mountain. Some Table Mountain hikes are better in certain conditions than others, so a measure of leeway exists to make the best of bad weather, but ideally you want clear and windless conditons.
- During the hotter part of the year (October to March), we start hikes at sunrise to beat the heat. Heat makes the hike tough and unpleasant, in some cases ruining the experience. The dawn light is also much better for taking great photos. The prevailing summer wind, responsible for cableway closure, typically freshens in the afternoons, so yet another reason to head out early. Table Mountain hiking in bad weather is still a memorable experience, but not so for everyone.
- Don’t slight the importance of route-choice if you wish to get the most out of hiking Table Mountain. There are around 60 Table Mountain hiking routes, and they all offer a unique experience, offering different views, adventure levels, physicality, nature and topography. Making use of a competent mountain guide can take the guesswork and often anxiety out of which route to take. Tackling the wrong route could be dangerous, as many Table Mountain hikes involve scrambling and exposure to heights (cliff edges) – not to be trifled with in the abscence of a competent and experienced guide.
- Prepare yourself mentally for a strenuous hike. A lot of people underestimate Table Mountain due to its proximity to a city. Also, Table Mountain hiking trails generally lead across rugged terrain, and most of them are not as well-defined as you might expect. Not expecting the proverbial ‘walk in the park’ goes a long way towards getting more enjoyment out of the hike.
- Consider using a competent and experienced mountain guide. Not only does this ensure safety, but also enhances the experience in that you learn about the mountain and environment. Hiking Table Mountain on your own could get you lost. The mountain is much bigger with a more unforgiving and complex topography than it leads one to believe by gazing at it from below, ensconced at a vibey cafe with a cold beer in hand. The weather is capricioius, and cloud on the mountain greatly complicates route-finding. Even if you find your way to the top, the hike is often fraught with anxiety as you often wonder if you’re on the right trail. And then you reach the summit not knowing anything about the mountain and the fascinating nature found on its slopes.