Scrambling and exposure to heights when hiking Table Mountain – 7 January 2015

The term ‘scrambling’ has nothing to do with eggs. While most people define it as clambering more or less horizontally over boulders with the occasional use of the hands, in South Africa its meaning borders on climbing. While some would define easy scrambling as steep hiking, and others hard scrambling as easy rock-climbing, it’s worth remembering that describing a route or portion thereof as a scramble is not a precise science; there are shades of grey. To be on the safe side, expect elementary climbing, sometimes low off the ground, other times exposed to heights. Being a loose term, scrambling on Table Mountain ranges from steep rocky steps that your average Jack Russell would romp up to awkward moves over a big drop, necessitating the use of a rope. Consulting an experienced mountain guide when opting for a scramble route is a very good idea. Of the 38-odd Table Mountain hiking routes, all but two involve some measure of scrambling at some point along the way. One of the two non-scramble routes is the quickest and easiest route up the mountain, and also the least scenic and exciting; the other is the longest route (in distance) up the mountain, if you wish to top out on the famous tabletop summit. Scrambling is a great way to break the tedium of an uphill slog. It’s often the redemption of laggards, as it requires less fitness, though more balance, agility and in some cases a head for heights. Scrambling adds spice to a route, so a vital ingredient if you’re an adventurous hiker or if you’re up for a challenge. Some Table Mountain hikes involves scrambling that requires the use of a rope due to the exposure to heights – and heights add a very different dimension to a hike.

Exposure to heights basically means being in close proximity to a sheer drop, where a fall would leave you with more than just skinned knees or sprained ankles. It has nothing to do with elevation and the affect of altitude on the body. Again, exposure to heights is a loose term with grades of severity. Most Table Mountain hikes involve some exposure to heights that most people handle without getting traumatized. People adept with climbing tend to tale less strain with heights, because they’re climbing ability ensure that they remain well within their limits – the point where they feel they are going to fall. Hiking Table Mountain along a route that involves exposure to heights offers challenge and adventure in varying degrees. Best to do this routes only with someone who knows the mountain well and can safeguard exposed sections, or with a competent mountain guide.