Table Mountain hikes: what's easy and what's not – 21 December 2015

I sometimes get asked about the “easy way” up Table Mountain. It’s called the cableway. Hiking Table Mountain requires effort. All routes are strenuous, some technical and awkward in addition. The easiest way is Platteklip Gorge – but it’s not easy: it’s still strenuous. The other routes are either more strenuous or more technical with exposure to heights, or both.

So how strenuous is the easiest route? If you’re of average fitness and you start out at dawn in summer (to beat the heat), then it’s not overly strenuous, certainly not gruelling. If you start late in the day in summer, it’s gruelling. If you’re unfit, it’s gruelling. And if you are adventurous, then it’s mentally gruelling.

Because every person is different, it’s tricky to give a sweeping assessment of a route’s difficulty. Also, difficulty constitutes more than just how strenuous / physical a route is. Factors such as terrain, technicality and heights also make a route more difficult. Table Mountain hikes vary greatly in character, each possessing a set of challenges that define their difficulty level.

Mental factors such us how determined, motivated and enthusiastic you are also affects how you perceive a route. Also, you expectations also pre-set your tolerance level of what you find agreeably strenuous and overly strenuous. Furthermore, people with a high sense of adventure will find a technical route that involves heights easier than a non-technical route that only involves slope-slogging. The converse applies to people with a low sense of adventure.

All these variables should be factored in when giving a definitive assessment of a route’s difficulty. Certainly, weather on the days also plays a role. Table Mountain hiking involves a variety of challenges, each offering a different degree of challenge based on the abovementioned factors. Some of the most challenging Table Mountain hikes involve much distance and elevation gain combined with rugged terrain, technicality and exposure to heights. The better and more scenic routes inevitably involves either more distance and elevation gain and  / or scrambling and heights.

Hiking Table Mountain up any of its 40-odd routes involve an investment of mental and physical energy. But the rewards far outweigh the sweat on the brow and sometimes tremble of the leg. Making use of a competent mountain-guide will ensure that you pick a route compatible to your fitness level, sense of adventure and personal preferences.