Table Mountain attracts hikers from all over the world and there are locals who walk to the top on a regular basis. If you’re fit the best way to visit this iconic landmark is to hike up and take the cable-car down. Unfortunately, many people underestimate this mountain – possibly because it’s flat-topped and not a peak, and also because it squats in the middle of a city which gives one a false sense of comfort. It doesn’t look isolated and extreme.
You don’t need to plan an expedition with sherpas and oxygen to reach the top but please be aware that more people die on Table Mountain than on Mount Everest. You need to take precautions because it’s unpredictable and a lot more dangerous than people realise, especially if you’ve under-estimated it. Highly experienced hikers, and even members of the rescue club, have had accidents up there. However, if you take the right precautions you can tick off one of Cape Town’s most amazing experiences. This advice for hiking Table Mountain safely also applies to Lion’s Head and the rest of the mountains in the Cape.
SOME ADVICE FOR HIKING TABLE MOUNTAIN SAFELY
Timing. It’s best to do this walk in dry weather and it’s imperative to start as early as possible in the morning. Bear in mind that if for any reason the cable-car closes operations, you will have to walk back down so give yourself plenty of time.
Clothing. We have seen people do this in high heels. How they manage is a mystery. Wear hiking boots or trainers and take a warm garment as well as waterproof clothing, regardless of how hot it is when you start out. The weather can change very rapidly and if the wind comes up it can be very cold. Take a hat and sun protection lotion.
Selfies. Yes, by all means take lots of photos – this is a very photogenic activity and place, but don’t take selfies on jutting rocks and ledges. These rocks have been there for millions of years but some of them are ready to move and they do! Just last year a young man died because he stood too far out on a rock which dislodged and tumbled down the mountainside, with him.
Don’t walk alone. It’s best to be in a group. If you are alone try to join another group or stay close to other hikers.
Stick to well-used paths, which will be indicated on the Park’s hiking map that you can buy at a shop near the ticket office at the lower cable station. Read and adhere to the warnings on this map. Don’t take shortcuts and especially don’t wander into ravines. Do not be tempted to use paths and trails that have warning signs. An experienced hiker did that recently and there were injuries when rocks fell. There’s always a reason for a path being closed or sign-posted as dangerous.
Tell someone. Advise your hotel concierge or guesthouse owner that you are doing this hike. Click on this link to make use of a what’s-app tracking system created by Tim Lundy, an expert mountain hiking guide and member of the Cape Town mountain rescue team. Don’t split up if you get lost.
Do take note of your surroundings at all times to ensure you are staying on the path.
Don’t pick flowers, litter, remove stones or feed any animals you may encounter.
Do take a lot of water and a fully charged cell phone. Take snacks, too.
Hiking Table Mountain safely isn’t difficult, it’s mostly common-sense – enjoy your hike safely and tick that bucket-list!