Strange sightings on Table Mountain

With literally thousands of hikes and climbs on Table Mountain behind me, and having spent many more hours in the company of her crags, vegetation and whimsical weather, you’d think I’ve seen just about everything there is to see on the mountain. Not so, in light of two uncanny sightings the past week.

The first occurred on a traverse across the Eastern Table (east side of Table Mountain’s summit plateau) after a climb with friends. We had topped out on Silverstream Buttress and were following the front / northern edge of the Table when we came upon a stream that flowed off the edge of the mountain, a portion of its free-falling waters blown back up by a headwind to where it rained down on us from about 10 meters. No doubt conditions aligned for it to happen: a moderate northwesterly wind meets a non-perennial stream in flow near the summit and voila, you have a gravity-defying waterfall.  Add to that its presence on a part of the summit few people ever go and one can understand why it’s such a rare sight.

The second strange sighting occurred the very next day, hiking in foggy conditions with a British couple along Fountain Ledge on the west side of Table Mountain, below the upper cable station. Coming round from Africa Ledge, we watched as a colorless, tubular rainbow materialized before us, suspended in the vaporous air, the view behind blotted out by fog. For some reason it didn’t have the color of a normal rainbow; and it seems to be denser and more three-dimensional, giving it the appearance of a bent tube. Not sure about the physics behind this aberrant rainbow, but I’d never seen one before. Brocken Specters (that other weird light phenomenon), yes, several times, but nothing like this. But it didn’t end there: the rainbow stayed with us as we proceeded southward along the ledge, eventually fading when we rounded to the south side of the mountain, where we were soon bedazzled by the sight of yet another white rainbow. From there to the top of the mountain – about 3o minutes – washed-out rainbows appeared and disappeared several times, creating one of the most surreal and otherworldly atmospheres I’ve yet experienced on the mountain.

Hiking Table Mountain never fails to amaze me. There is always something, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, that I see for the first time, that I smell or learn or experience. People sometimes ask me if I ever get bored hiking up Table Mountain, to which I answer ‘no, never’. I feel more convinced of that now than ever before.

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