Table Mountain hiking: A few practical tips – 28 April 2016

Apr 28, 2016

When it comes to hiking Table Mountain, people’s expectations vary greatly. Most anticipate a manicured trail and gentle gradient; others think of it as mildly strenuous with a few uphill bits to negotiate. Routes differ radically in technicality, physicality and terrain, so expectations need to be adjusted according to the route you’ve decided on. Table Mountain hikes come in all levels of challenge. But in general, the following tips will help pave the way to a more enjoyable and safer experience:

  • Don’t expect it to be a walk in the park. Even the easiest route, Platteklip Gorge, pack a lot of challenge if you’re unfit, if the weather turns bad or if you start late on a hot day. All the other routes are a lot trickier and harder. Despite the mountain’s proximity to the city, it’s still a wild place.
  • Plan to hike Table Mountain early in your stay to allow for spare days in the event of bad weather. The mountain gets a lot of cloud and wind, even in summer, so don’t expect cloud- and wind-free conditions to prevail for the duration of your visit, even if you’re visiting in the middle of summer.
  • Pack like you’re climbing a mountain, not like you’re going for a stroll through a botanical garden. And dress likewise. This means enough water (at least 1.5 liters), warm layer, rain-jacket, sunscreen / hat and snacks. These are the basics. Wear comfortable sport / running shoes; leave the sandals for the beach.
  • Back to the weather: don’t expect conditions to remain stable for the duration of the hike. The weather on the mountain changes quickly. It’s known as four-seasons-in-a-day weather. It’s not to be trifled with.
  • Don’t drag your partner / friend up the mountain if he or she is not really keen. You’re both likely to have a bad time of it.
  • Don’t base your assessment of a route on a single online review. People’s experience of a route is highly subjective. Be wary of thinking a route to be easy just because a group of semi-athletes / hardboiled hikers thought it was easy, because they likely won’t mention their experience / fitness in the review. Similarly, don’t base your decision to hike Table Mountain and your choice of route on what the taxi driver from the airport or the hotel concierge or the guesthouse manager tells you. Consult an expert mountain guide to give you an honest assessment and guide you though the decision-making process of what route to take.
  • Consider using a guide. It greatly enhances the experiences and makes it safe. Hiking Table Mountain is an activity best done with a competent mountain guide.
  • If you decide to go with a guide, share route information and details with your friends or partner. To help them set their expectations.
  • If you’re out of shape, try get in shape in the weeks leading up to the hike. It makes it easier to enjoy the experience and to do more challenging routes that offer more adventure, nature and views.
For many, hiking Table Mountain ended up being their best experience in Cape Town, even South Africa, a in some case, best experience ever. Making use of a guide goes along way in helping achieve this.
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