Table Mountain has seen better days – about 260 million years ago, freshly upheaved from Earth’s crust and soaring about 5 times higher than its present height. That’s before the Southeaster got to work on it – the Cape Peninsula’s prevailing summer wind that blows the gel out of your hair. Wind and rain are the two main erosive forces that has gnawed away at the mountain, reducing it to what we have today – still pretty impressive, but a far cry from its former grandeur.
Even a short Table Mountain walk will bring you to rock-formations where the erosion is evident: boulder-strewn slopes, boulders perched precariously on narrow ledges, scree, pinnacles of rock peeling away from the mountainside, rock debris piled up in ravine beds – all evidence that the mountain is shedding weight.
So how long before Table Mountain will be eroded away completely? According to a new round of studies by experts, the rate of erosion has slowed since the mountain’s formation. Initially given another 10 million years, research now shows that we will still have Table Mountain around for another 100 million years. Table Mountain is slowly washed into the sea, becoming 1 millimeter slimmer every 100 years. Rivers draining Table Mountain remove each year around 30 tons of sediment per square kilometer – and the mountain covers an area of 57 square kilometers.
One of the highlights about hiking Table Mountain is the unique rock-formations seen along the way, like wind-sculpted boulders, rock stacks and beetling cliffs. And knowing the age of these rocks makes them even more special.