Table Mountain hiking: weathering the mountain's micro-climates – 19 February 2016

Feb 19, 2016

The first thing you should know about Table Mountain’s weather is that it can turn on a dime. The second thing is that the mountain gets a lot of cloud. And cloud means little or no views. Located at sea level Cape Town weather is often described as four-seasons-in-a-day. Add in a 1000 meters of sudden elevation and you can add a fifth season to the mix. Table Mountain’s summit gets about four times more precipitation than the city itself, meaning at least four times more cloud cover. It’s called orographic weather – weather generated by natural features such as mountains – and combined with the mountain’s proximity to the ocean, makes its weather hard to predict.

If you’re thinking about hiking Table Mountain, the above should be foremost in your mind and dictate your planning. Plan for views, but don’t put your heart on it. Maximize your chances of hiking Table Mountain in the clear by planning your hike early in your stay to allow for spare days in the event of bad weather. Understand that it’s a mountain, and that mountains tend to generate cloud. Table Mountain hiking quite often involves ascending mist-shrouded slopes with sculpted rock-formations looming eerily around you.

If you end up experiencing the mountain engulfed in cloud, do not despair or succumb to self-pity and deem your luck as rotten. What you’re experiencing is Table Mountain in a different mood. Views are important, but don’t allow your enjoyment to hinge on the amount of views you get. Table Mountain hikes in the cloud are atmospheric and mystical, otherworldly and surreal. Cloud forces you to focus on the mountain and your immediate surroundings, whereas views draw your attention away from the mountain. Fact: some visitors leave the city without having even seen the mountain! Cloud sometimes engulfs the mountain for days on end with only its lower slopes and crags visible, offering a tantalizing glimpse of the unseen monolith towering above.

If you’re privileged enough to hike Table Mountain in the clear, please do not take it for granted. And know that it can change in the time it takes to apply sunscreen. Whatever weather you get while hiking Table Mountain, it’s bound to be a memorable experience that leaves you with many fond memories.


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