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January 07, 2009

Be practical and enjoy the mountain


Table Mountain has many roles to play in Cape Town. It is one of our beloved icons of the city. It is used by many people to navigate their way across town (you can sometimes hear locals saying “if the ocean is behind you and the mountain in front, take a left turn”). It draws thousands of tourists to our shores, and it is a respected challenge to keen climbers and hikers throughout the world.

Table Mountain is a great spot for picnicking, dog walking, bird spotting and nature trails, as well as more vigorous pursuits such as rock climbing, hang gliding and hiking.

But every year we read of accidents on the mountain – hikers injured and rescued by helicopter, sometimes even fatalities – so how serious is the challenge, and the danger?

Table Mountain is not to be underestimated just because it sits within city limits. Its summit is about 1 000m (3 280ft) above sea level.

South African National Parks advises that hikers should always be equipped with a recent trail map, walk in groups, and carry water and warm clothes. You should also punch the emergency numbers into your mobile phone before you leave. You should schedule up to four hours to reach the top.


The wind can get quite brisk, and hiking is not recommended when the mountain is covered by its “tablecloth” of cloud. Hiking alone or in bad weather conditions are often the common factors in incidents. If you’re travelling alone you can join a guided hike.

There are trails of varying difficulty and hikers should be realistic about their fitness levels. When you reach the top, take time out to catch your breath and enjoy the view. There is a restaurant on the “table” where you can get some sustenance before heading back down.

You could even stay the night on the mountain. Hoerikwaggo Trails offer guided tours with porters for your kit and overnight accommodation.

Read our mountain safety tips here. For more advice and information, contact your nearest Cape Town Tourism Visitor Information Centre.


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