My own philosophy never to hike a mountain for the views alone was put to the test a few years ago when I spent 6 excruciating days hacking my way through dense jungle up the side of a remote 1500-meter peak. Tall jungle on the ascent meant no views, and I was looking forward to the peak’s rocky summit cone for distant views. Dense fog greeted me on the summit and I had to content myself with sounds rather than sights – sounds like the humming of beetles and the clicking of frogs. Anti-climactic? In a way, perhaps. But the lack of visibility accentuated my wild surroundings. And the sense of achievement at having gained the summit was more than I had expected – more comforting, too.
Mountains generate more cloud than flat terrain, and Table Mountain is no different. It creates micro-climates that typically involve harsher weather: more rain, more wind, more cloud. While views are great, refrain from setting your Table Mountain hiking expectations to the quality of the views. Being out in nature, getting a solid workout, experiencing the essence of the mountain, seeing dramatic rock-formations and diverse endemic plants, enjoying a sense of achievement – all add to the experience of hiking Table Mountain.
Different Table Mountain hikes offer different views. What constitutes a great view often is very subjective. Most people who hike Table Mountain agree that the views along the way are better than from the summit. Why? Because you see the mountain from different angles; and your views are not only outward and distant, but also around you, back onto the mountain and its dramatic topography. And maybe the same effect applies as when seeing a lion in a zoo as opposed to in its natural environment: the lion looks the same, but the context in which it is viewed – its proper context – adds to the beauty and impact.
Views you can expect to see on Table Mountain hikes (in clear conditions) vary greatly. Hiking Table Mountain allows you to see a wider range of views than people taking the cable car to the summit. Seeing your surroundings and the mountain from different angles gives you a better appreciation of Table Mountain. But in the end it’s about the mountain itself, not what’s around it, so try not to base the quality of the experience on the quality of the distant views.