If you’re looking to hike Table Mountain in summer, take into account the Southeaster, Cape Town’s prevailing summer wind. Locally known as the Cape Doctor (for ridding the city of smog), it often reaches gale force, generating a micro-climate on the mountain through the formation of the Tablecloth: cloud that engulfs the mountain and pouring down the front face. While Cape Town summers are typically hot and dry, the summit of Table Mountain is often shrouded in moisture-laden cloud driven by ferocious wind, sometimes for days on end.
Hiking Table Mountain is South-easterly conditions is possible and safe enough (with a mountain-guide), but not very pleasant. Cloud on the mountain means no views; and strong wind closes the cableway, necessitating a hike-down – tough and tedious. I know hikers who prefer to hike in the rain rather than the Southeaster. The point being, Table Mountain hiking in summer often involves more fresh air than you bargain for. Best to book Table Mountain hikes early in your stay to allow for spare days in the event of rain or strong wind / cloud on the mountain.
If you do find yourself on the mountain in the teeth of a Southeaster, with dark cloud scudding past you and the wind whistling through nooks and crannies, take solace in the fact that it’s pretty average Table Mountain summer weather. You’re not unlucky – just not lucky enough to get balmy, clear conditions. Enjoy the wild and atmospheric conditions. Absorb the raw energy and allow yourself to be in reverence of the mountain’s wilder side.
Table Mountain’s weather is capricious. Serene conditions at the outset of a hike does not mean serene conditions by the time you top out. Known as four-season-in-a-day weather, it changes very quickly and results in many unwary hikers losing their way or suffering from the exposure. Finding your way in the cloud is difficult. To optimize your Table Mountain hiking experience, best go with a competent guide who can ensure your safety. Some Table Mountain hikes and route variations offer shelter from the wind, others lead up or through engaging terrain or dramatic topography, making up for the lack of views – all ways in which a guide can enhance your experience of the mountain.