lions head in the fog

It’s easy to run out of superlatives when talking about Table Mountain. Its triple status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a National Park and a World 7 Wonder of Nature is amply justified. Add to that the distinction of being the only natural feature on Earth with a constellation named after it – Mons Mensa, Latin for Table Mountain – and it becomes clear what a treasure Table Mountain really is. Older than all the major mountain ranges of the world (seven times older than the Himalayas), and steeped in history and legends, it rises almost sheer from the Atlantic, casting its shadow over a city of millions. It represents different things to different people: a temple, a gym, a refuge, a challenge, a culmination to a pilgrimage. People have died on its slopes, others found life. It has witnessed the rise and fall of an ocean, the birth and extinction of the dinosaurs. Millions of storms have eroded it down to a third of its original height, but still this crumbling relic pulsates with life and energy. One of the most amazing things about Table Mountain must be the fact that it managed to retain so much wildness despite its proximity to a city.

Table Mountain offers some of the best hiking on the planet, period. No matter what your experience level, Table Mountain will delight you in so many ways and meet you on so many levels.

There are places where you could hole up for years at a time without seeing another human; where you’d have only the birds and bees for company. Pockets of primeval wilderness still exist on the mountain, where the city is out of sight and earshot, and where nature reigns supreme. All this less than 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from the city center… traffic jams, shopping malls, boardrooms.

The more challenging India Venster route.

Table Mountain offers some of the best hiking on the planet, period. No matter what your experience level, Table Mountain will delight you in so many ways and meet you on so many levels. People climb the mountain for reasons as varied and numerous as her trails. Some do it for exercise; others see it as a challenge and regard the rugged terrain as a proving ground.

There are those who crave only the peace and solitude of the high summits; to find beauty in lonely places; to explore and experience nature; to escape the daily grind. Whatever your reason, this is one mountain you want to climb. If you enjoy nature and the outdoors, or if you have a sense of adventure and an inquisitive mind, then a hike up Table Mountain is highly recommended. Conquering the mountain on foot is an exciting and rewarding experience in that you get a true sense of its size, height, grandeur and wildness. Topping this are the intangibles: the exhilaration of scaling a mountain, the thrill of discovery, a sense of achievement and the invigoration of immersing yourself in nature. A cursory visit to the summit with the cable car can never do the mountain justice.

Table Mountain is not to be trifled with. For all its beauty and grandeur, it is not without danger and claims several lives each year. Most people grossly underestimate the mountain, thinking it to be tame – a misconception grounded in the mountain’s proximity to a city and the existence of a cable car to the summit. The reality is that Table Mountain is much bigger and higher than it looks, and the terrain more broken and treacherous than it might suggest at first glance. Many of the trails that crisscross the mountain lead to and across sheer cliffs, places the average hiker does not want to go.

These trails are mostly trodden by climbers in their approach to a climbing route, and can easily snare the unwary. Another factor that impacts on mountain safety is the weather. Table Mountain generates a microclimate that is notoriously unpredictable and capricious. Many hikers have been caught out by cloud that engulfs the mountain in minutes, making navigation a nightmare. Conditions on the summit can turn hostile very quickly.

In light of all this, making use of a knowledgeable and experienced guide makes a lot of sense. But the advantages go beyond mere route-finding and weather-forecasting: a guide worth his salt will maximize your experience of the mountain. What this means is, he will ensure you get to see the best there is to see – and experience the best there is to experience – within your comfort, fitness and experience level as well as your time frame. A further advantage of using a guide is that you will learn about the fascinating fauna, flora, history and geology of the mountain. Since Table Mountain is such an iconic and enthralling landmark, why not make the most of it?

Keen to hike or climb Table Mountain? Hike Table Mountain is an owner-operated mountain-guiding outfit specializing in hikes and climbs on Table Mountain and the Cape Peninsula. Run by qualified, accredited, professional and highly experienced mountain guides with an intimate knowledge of Table Mountain, they offer guided hikes up all the routes on the mountain – the only mountain-guiding company to do so.

About the author

  • Tintswalo Atlantic in Cape Town, South Africa.
    Tintswalo Atlantic in Cape Town, South Africa.