Table Mountain is often thought of as timeless, impervious to the passage of time and the ravages of the elements. But the reality is they age as much as we do, just on a much slower scale. Table Mountain erosion is no exception. Time is fast running out for this crumbling relic of a mountain.
Table Mountain over time
- Composed largely of sandstone deposited 540 million years ago by large rivers and inland seas, the mountain first came into being when South America scrunched Africa about 260 million years ago to form the supercontinent of Pangaea.
- This event uplifted the sedimentary rock around the Cape in a concertina-like formation that reached heights of about 5000 meters.
- Back then, Table Mountain formed part of a much larger mountain range, and it would take around 260 million years of erosion to reduce it to its current shape and size.
- The mountain as we see it today, with its distinctive tabletop, is only about 60 million years old – still a venerable age compared to that of the Alps (32 million years) and the Himalayas (40 million years) and bearing in mind the age of the rock itself (540 million years).
Is the Mountain still growing?
Table Mountain is actively eroding. Proof of this can be found on any hike, where boulders the size of houses can be seen perched precariously on edges and ledges.
- Another 10 million years or so will see Table Mountain reduced to an inconspicuous hillock.
- Wind and rain combine to wear away the sandstone layers.
- Expansion cracks form as the mountain sheds weight, aiding the erosive action of the elements.
- On a human scale, Table Mountain has attained the ripe age of 80.
- Still 142 857 human lifetimes to go.
Is Hiking Table Mountain worth It?
There is no better way to acquaint yourself with the geology than hiking Table Mountain. Immersing yourself in the jumble of boulders and threading your way past cliffs, traversing ledges and hopscotching up rocky watercourses puts you in touch with the mountain. Different Table Mountain hikes offer different scenery and terrain, but the rock formations always line the horizon and dot the landscape, like petrified onlookers to your ascent.