Standing over 3500-feet tall as the protagonist of our story, Table Mountain has revealed itself to me as a layered and multi-faceted character whose depth cannot be plumbed in the course of a single lifetime, no matter how diligent the pursuit of its secrets.
Two decades of consistently hiking and climbing Table Mountain, totalling thousands of ascents up more than 200 different routes, in all weather conditions, it still feels like I have barely scratched the surface of this iconic landmark.
Hike Table Mountain began as an offshoot of my abiding passion for Table Mountain and has grown into a way of life. A business by common definition, I see it as the pursuit of a passion – a passion that continues to deepen and evolve. There were no business models; no feasibility studies or market research. I have simply given free rein to my passion, unfettered by expectation or deliberation. The result: the best years of my life. And while I consider Table Mountain a singular office space, those sharing the trail with me have contributed most to my joy and growth as a mountain-guide.
Every story features a supporting cast, and here it is no different. I have been fortunate to attract and guide alongside some of the best in the business – mountain folk who share my passion for Table Mountain. Team HTM – comprising Liesl Ravenscroft, Hendre de Villiers, Mike Wakeford, Stephanie Bradshaw and Johan Jansen van Vuuren – has taught me much about mountains and people alike. Their distinctive guiding styles and divergent personalities have in many ways shaped me as a guide. Whether in the line of guiding or social climbing, it has been a privilege to share the mountain with these kindred spirits.
This year, 2020, marks the 10th anniversary of Hike Table Mountain – a decade replete with memorable days spent on the Old Hill (as local mountaineers sometimes affectionately refer to Table Mountain). Of setting out as strangers and summiting as friends; of giving many their first mountain experience; of sharing unique moments and impressions along the byways of the mountain. More than the views and grandeur, it is the human element – the laughter and camaraderie, courage and quirks, perseverance and trust – that brings meaning to what we do. I learned a valuable lesson early on that remains central to my guiding philosophy: mountain-guiding is at least as much about people as it is about mountains.
Beyond all those with whom I have shared the trail, Table Mountain forms a striking backdrop: wild and rugged here, a still solitude there, at times brooding or imperious, but in the end always invigorating. Countless Table Mountain hikes and climbs have done nothing to blunt my delight and exuberance when watching cloud swirl around buttresses, or listening to the staccato clicking of frogs in a backwater marsh, or coming upon a yawning ravine from whose forested depths rise the clack and screech of birds. Heat and rain, wind and cloud – I still love and cherish each moment spent on the mountain. The feeling does not wear off. Nothing is taken for granted.
The best stories never end. Nor do the best trails. The summit turns out to be a mere vantage point that reveals new landscape and peaks. And so you shoulder your pack and set out once more, tingling with presentiments of new discoveries.