Planning your Table Mountain hike: Dodging the bad weather – 17 July 2014

You can hike up Table Mountain in just about any kind of weather, but for the best experience you need little or no cloud or wind. In fact, a little cloud and wind is ideal. Table Mountain’s weather is temperamental. One often gets four seasons in a day, so it makes sense to be prepared. Mountains are marked by orographic weather – rain and cloud that form through the sudden uplift of air. Table Mountain might rank as a foothill in the midst of the Rockies, Andes and Himalayas, but its steep gradient and proximity to an ocean gives it orographic weather and micro-climates that are notoriously hard to predict.

Needless to say, weather impacts greatly on the enjoyment of hiking Table Mountain. Wind, rain, heat and cloud are the culprits. Rain for obvious reasons, cloud because it blots out the view, heat because it’s enervating and makes the hike a lot tougher and wind because it blows you off your feet and drowns out conversation. Table Mountain gets a lots of wind and cloud, even in summer, so the maximize your chances of getting the mountain clear and wind-free, you want to plan your hike early in your stay to allow for spare days in the event of bad weather. But there are Table Mountain hikes for bad-weather days: ravines and forests sheltered from the wind and rain, and areas of sculpted rock-formations that makes up (to some extent) for the lack of views on days when the mountain is covered in cloud. Scrambling also serves as a worthy offset to views, if you’re adventurous. Lion’s Head – a prominent peak adjacent to Table Mountain and about two-thirds its height – is often cloud- and wind-free on days when Table Mountain is not, serving as a good alternative.

Starting early often increases your chances of getting fine weather. In summer, it beats the wind, cloud and heat as well as the midday haze that doesn’t make for great photo conditions. While hiking Table Mountain in misty conditions can be a very spiritual, surreal and otherworldly experience, the absence of views are bound to detract if it’s your first (and last) time on the mountain. If you’re inured to rain (like in the case of a Scottish peak-bagger), then rain wouldn’t necessarily constitute bad weather, but heat would. Conversely, if you’re an Australian used to hiking in scorching bush-country, then heat won’t pose much of a problem, while a light drizzle might be construed as atrocious weather. Regardless the conditions, no weather can take away from the sense of achievement gained from hiking Table Mountain: from setting foot on the summit and experiencing the ruggedness and wildness of the mountain.

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