Photo of the week – April week #4: Table Mountain’s rock art

Camel Rock above Constantia Corner.

Camel Rock above Constantia Corner.

Much has been written about Table Mountain’s views, shape, flora and location, but few seem to know or appreciate its geological and topographical delights. Hiking Table Mountain allows you to experience a different type of rock art: not created by the hand of man, but by Mother Nature. The first stage in creation was a gigantic upheaval of a rock around 5000 meters (17000 feet) high. Then wind and rain got to work on it, wearing it down over millions of years. Assisted by gravity, gigantic blocks and boulders cleaved off and crashed down the side of the mountain.  More wind and rain sculpted them into grotesque shapes over thousands of years, to where they stand today in mute testimony to the mountain’s primordial origin. Table Mountain might be eight times lower than Mount Everest, but it’s seven times older.

Several Table Mountain hikes lead through boulder fields featuring uniquely-shaped rocks, many resembling abstract sculptures fit for an art gallery. Some parts of the mountain showcase the erosive process that has given Table Mountain its iconic shape: massive block perched precariously on narrow ledges and sometimes suspended over space, seemingly quarried from the mountain, slowly succumbing to gravity. Fissures and clefts hewn into the mountainside provide further evidence to the mountain’s crumbling state. All these features add much to the experience of hiking Table Mountain, especially on days when cloud obliterates all views, leaving only one’s immediate surroundings visible. Looming in the shifting and swirling mist, wind-sculpted boulders seem to take on a life of their own, providing amusement, attraction and intrigue to a viewless hike.

Table Mountain areas and hiking routes that offer particularly interesting rock-formations include Klaassens Buttress, Platteklip Gorge, the area immediately east of Blinkwater Peak, around Maclear’s Beacon, Cleft Peak, summit of Slangolie Buttress and Valken Buttress, Fountain Ledge and the outcrop of rock east of Corridor Buttress’ summit. Don’t let cloud deter you from hiking Table Mountain: in the absence of views, Table Mountain’s rock art is at its best.