The Southeaster, also known as the Cape Doctor, is Cape Town’s prevailing summer wind, howling across the Peninsula from around late October to early February, often for days on end. If you’re looking to hike Table Mountain over this period, bear in mind the following:
- Cape Town gets very windy in summer. Don’t bemoan your luck if the wind’s blowing a gale on the day of your hike. It’s integral to Cape Town’s summer climate, so just roll with it.
- Hiking Table Mountain in Southeasterly conditions is not unsafe, but unpleasant. Strong wind, like excessive cold or heat or rain, affects people differently, but most people don’t like it. I know quite a few Table Mountain hiking enthusiasts who detest it.
- Table Mountain hikes can be structured to include sheltered parts of the mountain, enuring you spend less time in the wind, but you might have to compromise on other preferences.
- Strong wind closes the cableway, necessitating a hike-down – tough and not fun.
- Thick cloud known as the Tablecloth usually forms on the mountain when the Southeaster blows, allowing for little or no views. While Table Mountain hiking offers much more than views, it’s still rather disappointing to reach the summit in zero visibilty. It’s also cold and damp in the cloud – a far cry from what you might have envisioned Africa would be like in summer.
- The Southeaster often freshens in the afternoon – one reason why hikes start at sunrise (the other being to beat the heat).
- Hiking Table Mountain in a raging Southeaster is not all bad. Being up there in the swirling cloud, with the wind moaning around the rocks, is an experience in itself. Very few people venture out in those conditions, so you have the whole mountain to yourself. The cloud creates mysitcal and atmospheric condtions, and the tearing wind charges the air with energy. If you’re fit enough to hike back down, and don’t mind the absence of views, or getting your hair ruffled, then you’re vound to have a special experience.
- Plan your Table Mountain hike for early in your stay to allow for spare days in the event of bad weather / strong wind.
Cape Town hiking might not always be in perfect weather, but the exhiliration of being on Table Mountain, especially in wild conditions, and the sense of achievement gained from braving adverse conditions, makes for an unforgettable experience.