Planning a Table Mountain hike
Ready to hike and conquer Table Mountain? Well, it begins with planning. In fact, planning is the most important part of your hike up Table Mountain in Cape Town. This blog guides you through the most significant hiking factors to document and research, with the goal of helping you plan a hike on the iconic mountain.
How to go about planning a Table Mountain hike
Select a hiking route
Choose a hiking route that matches your experience and physical fitness, especially if you are new to hiking. Be realistic with distance and difficulty, determining whether you want to walk down or take the Table Mountain cable car. Importantly, think about what you want to get out of the hike. Each of the Table Mountain hiking routes offers something different. For example, there are landmark hikes, scenic hikes and fast hikes.
Another thing to consider when selecting a Table Mountain hike route is what time of day you will be going. Some hikes can be done later in the afternoon but most hikes occur in the morning for safety and convenience reasons. Moreover, do you want to start/end on the eastern slopes or western slopes of Table Mountain?
Learn your route
Study your chosen route when planning a Table Mountain hike, learning as much as you can about the trail. Check and understand the terrain. Familiarise yourself with major landmarks, so you can recognise whether you have gone off route. Pinpoint where the closest rivers and water sources are. Know the water crossings and water levels of the Table Mountain hiking route that you choose (particularly Skeleton Gorge).
There are other details to know about your Table Mountain route. These include how long the hike will take and at what point it is better to go down rather than up if there’s an emergency. You do not need a permit to hike Table Mountain for most routes but this is worth looking into. You can ask a hiking guide for advice.
Know your group
If you’re going to be hiking with a group (highly advisable), then how many persons will be part of the group? What hiking experience/navigation skills do these individuals have and who is physically the weakest? These are factors that will influence your hike and thus should be part of the process when planning a Table Mountain hike. Discuss the hiking tour with the rest of the crew prior to setting off up the mountain.
Exercise for a week or two leading up to your trip (stair training is good) if you or someone in your hiking group is not at least moderately fit. While many routes up Table Mountain are classified as easy, hiking to the top is always challenging. Some hiking routes are very technical and require above-average fitness/skill.
Check the weather
What are the forecast weather conditions for your hike on Table Mountain? Keep checking (without relying on it completely), paying special attention to wind speed, precipitation and cloud cover. Clouds limit views and can bring the temperature down considerably. Temperature is key. Hiking in the freezing cold, like hiking in scorching heat, is unpleasant. The weather forecast helps you determine the best day and time to go.
Reschedule your hike if dangerous Table Mountain weather is in the forecast. Also, prepare for the worst by carrying extra food, water, clothing and equipment. Note that the cable car does not operate in bad weather. Keep this in mind when planning a Table Mountain hike if you want to hike up and cable car down.
Bring the right clothing/equipment
Dress according to the weather forecast and season. In the summer, a T-shirt and shorts or loose-fitting pants are sufficient. Bring a light jacket or warm top, too, just in case. In the winter, you will want to layer up and wear a fleece top and waterproof jacket and trousers. Hiking shoes or boots are the standard hiking footwear. Make sure that your shoes are broken in, though, as hiking in brand new shoes will cause discomfort.
Other things to take on a hike up Table Mountain include sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat for sun protection. You may also want to take a charged cell phone and camera and money for the café and Wi-Fi lounge at the top. See What to bring on a Table Mountain hike for more information on what to take with you.
Carry water and food
To keep your body hydrated, you will need clean drinking water. Remember this when planning a Table Mountain hike. Carry more water than you think you’ll need and see to it that your group has water, as well. Water is essential and won’t weigh you down much. Besides, you can always pour some out if you need to. Check for water sources on the hike but don’t rely on rivers or streams, which typically dry up in the summer.
A lot of Table Mountain routes lead to the café/eatery at the top of Table Mountain. Here, hikers can purchase beverages and food. However, it’s quite a long way up, so on full-day hikes up Table Mountain, take foods to snack on. Snack foods aren’t usually necessary on half-day hikes but consider taking some anyway.
Estimate your hike time
In the process of planning a Table Mountain hike, estimate the hike time. You should account for the time that you will spend at the top of the mountain (exploring and visiting shops), rest breaks and the time that it will take to hike back down. Give yourself extra Table Mountain hike time. This is a general hiking rule in Cape Town. If you leave too late or spend too much time on breaks and it gets dark, then you could get stuck.
For hikers planning a Table Mountain sunset hike, you will want to get there early or you could miss it. The sun sets at different times according to the season. It actually sets right in front of Table Mountain Café. Finally, knowing the hottest and coldest times on Table Mountain will help you estimate your hike time.
Ensure your safety
Plan for the unplanned when going on a hike on Table Mountain or any other mountain. Pack extra everything (within reason). Inform a friend, telling them your itinerary, making them a point of contact and letting them know when you will return. Leave trip intention forms with someone who can raise the alarm if you do not make it back on time. These are some methods to increase safety when planning a Table Mountain hike.
What else can you do for safety on Table Mountain hikes? Save Table Mountain emergency phone numbers on your cell phone and/or write them down. Encourage members of your hiking group to do the same. Hike with professional hiking guides from a Cape Town hiking company. This alone increases safety significantly.
Plan with your guide
Hiking Table Mountain with a hiking tour company is the way to go, in particular if you’re a first-time hiker or beginner. This option not only increases safety but also makes your Table Mountain hike experience much more enjoyable. The key is to pick a reputable company with qualified and certified hiking guides. They should be hiking specialists who have intimate knowledge of Table Mountain and its various hiking routes.
Be sure to express what you expect from your hike on Table Mountain if you opt to go with a hiking company. This will make it easier for them to help you with planning a Table Mountain hike that will be safe and awesome. Ask questions and voice any concerns. They’ll be able to address these fluently if they are pros.