A few things you should know about Table Mountain hiking – 30 September 2014

Most first-time visitors to Cape Town find Table Mountain bigger and steeper than they had imagined. And steeper and bigger still once they start hiking up. And they’re surprised to find how rugged the terrain is. And how quickly the weather can change. And that the mountain is actually a pretty wild place not to be trifled with, despite its proximity to a city and the presence of a cableway. Below follows a few more facts about the mountain that may encourage you to make use of a guide to get the most out of hiking Table Mountain:

– The mountain is bigger than you think. It covers any area of 58 square kilometres, much of it difficult and treacherous terrain. The famous and iconic tabletop summit only constitutes about 10% of the Table Mountain massif.

– The terrain is more difficult than you think. Lose your way and you’re bound to get bogged down in dense shrub and broken terrain, not to mention cliffs.

– Each side of the mountain offers a very different experience.

– There are many routes of varying difficulty and adventure levels, taking in many different angles on the surroundings offering different views.

– The weather can change very quickly. You’ve heard this one before. For good reason.

– The mountain is often covered in cloud. Just because its Africa doesn’t mean the skies are always blue. Mountains generate their own climate and weather. Orographic cloud (cloud generated by mountains) is a common occurrence on Table Mountain, so don’t be surprised if you get overcome by cloud midway along a hike, or if cloud sits on the mountain for days on end.

– The cable car is not always open. This means that getting to the summit brings you to the halfway mark. Many find hiking down harder than hiking up, and therefore also slower. It’s harder in a different way than hiking uphill: more technical, easier to hurt yourself, tough on the joints.

– Table Mountain has a fascinating history, flora and geology. Hiking up on your own means you learn nothing about the environment. Many people make use of a guide just because they want to know more about the mountain – not only for safety, or to pick the best route.

– Hiking Table Mountain is a great way to experience nature and solitude.

– Table Mountain hikes exist for all types of hikers, from beginner to veteran mountaineer; from nature lover to adrenalin junkie.

– The quickest and easiest route up the mountain (Platteklip Gorge) is also the least scenic and exciting. The next easiest route is a lot longer, or more technical, but a lot more interesting and exciting.

– Lack of fitness or old age shouldn’t deter you from hiking Table Mountain, though it should be taken into account when deciding on which route to tackle. Perseverance and determination makes up for a lot, like in all areas of life.

– Table Mountain is much wilder than you think. There are routes that haven’t been done in decades, and there are parts of the mountain no one ever sets foot. If you want wilderness and solitude and pristine nature, then hiking Table Mountain off the beaten track will delight you.

(c) www.hiketablemountain.co.za