Table Mountain waterfalls – 3 July 2014

Winter in Cape Town adds something unique to Table Mountain hiking: waterfalls. About 80% of the Cape’s annual rainfall occurs in the months June to August, so Table Mountain’s many ravines come alive with the sound of gushing water. During heavy rains, streams spring up out of nowhere, and trickles turn to torrents in a matter of minutes. Due to the mountain’s steepness and the proximity to the streams’ sources, the run0ff is usually fast and furious. Vertical streaks of water can be seen running down the mountain after heavy rains – a great time to head out and enjoy one of many Table Mountain hikes. Even a leisurely walk along the Pipe Track or Contour Path leads past some impressive cascades. The eastern and southern slopes of the mountain receive three times more rain than the northern and western, so ravines in those parts typically carry more water. Many ravine routes become nigh on impassable in winter due to rainwater draining from the expansive plateau – a sizeable catchment area – and getting funnelled into the confines of a ravine. A relatively straightforward route like Skeleton Gorge presenting little challenge in summer should be avoided by all but experienced hikers during winter.

Hiking Table Mountain in winter, especially after heavy rains, allows you to trace its streams to their source. A walk across the Eastern Table will reveal innumerable trickles flowing either to the north or the south, merging with other trickles along the way to swell into a stream. The entire summit plateau is a birthplace of streams. Before urbanization, no less than five streams could be traced, all of them rising on Table Mountain and either debouching in False Bay or Table Bay. Several Apostle streams pour into the Atlantic – Blinkwater, Kasteelspoort and Slangolie – but covering such a short distance from their source to mouth, they are not considered streams.

Several Table Mountain walks lead to fair-sized waterfalls, notably the Contour Path across Silverstream Ravine and Platteklip Gorge on the north side and Ascension Ravine, Hiddingh Ravine, Window Gorge and Skeleton Gorge on the east side. Table Mountain hikes will bring you to a few more: Hell’s Gates in Orange Kloof, Blinkwater Waterfall, upper Firtree and Myburgh’s Waterfall Ravine. On a cloudy winter’s day, with the mountain engulfed in cloud and views out of the question, picking a waterfall as an objective for the day’s hiking (as opposed to having the summit as an objective) allows you to enjoy hiking Table Mountain even on bad-weather days. Layer up, pack a flask of tea and venture out to experience a different feature of Table Mountain.

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