Table Mountain hiking environments – 11 May 2015

Ferny Dell, a more challenging variation of Hiddingh-Asscension.

Ferny Dell, a more challenging variation along the middle sections of Hiddingh-Ascension

For a mountain that would rise to the rank of a mere foothill in most mountain ranges, Table Mountain includes an uncanny variety of settings, of environments, and moods. Four distinct sides featuring jungle, cityscape and ocean; around 38 hiking routes with countless variations; ever-changing weather, often serving up four seasons in a day; striking and diverse topography. All these elements create endless permutations of hiking conditions and surroundings. Hiking Table Mountain via Skeleton Gorge in the mist is a world apart from hiking Kasteelspoort on a sunny day. Or Left Face with the Tablecloth pouring over the mountain. Table Mountain hikes lead up all corners and sides of the mountain, covering al sorts of terrain and providing unique and different angles onto the mountain and surroundings. From the gloom and mystery of indigenous forest reminiscent of the Amazon to sun-baked, craggy slopes carpeted with diverse shrub and punctuated with wind-sculpted rock, to imposing cliffs stacked atop each other, Table Mountain hiking offers access to it all. Having hiked all Table Mountain hiking routes in all weather conditions, I quite often still find myself in awe over the way the terrain and weather and views and light combine to create a singular scene. The presence of mist alone can render a route unrecognizable. Table Mountain gets a lot of mist and cloud, from the southeast, the northwest and the southwest, and they are all different, also in different stages of their formation. The most famous formation, the Tablecloth, takes on many shapes, but always pouring down the sheer front face of Table Mountain like a titanic waterfall. Northwest cloud is rain-bearing: standing high up on the mountain in the teeth of a freshening and blustery Northwester, the promise of rain in the air, clouds packing together and the wind whistling through clefts and moaning around corners is an exhilarating experience. Return to the same spot in windless, benign conditions, and you would have trouble recognizing your location and the prevailing mood. Weather jungle or shrubland, narrow ledges or ridgelines, sheer cliffs or boulder-strewn ravines, tearing winds, billowing cloud, cobalt-blue skies or swirling fog, hiking Table Mountain will thrill you in more ways than one. It’s far more than the views, or getting a good work-out, or the sense of achievement, or ticking off a must-do: it’s about connecting with nature, discovering and experiencing the real Table Mountain, and in the process, perhaps also finding unknown passions, sensibilities and affinities within yourself. (c)