A million people a year admire the view from the top of Table Mountain, Cape Town’s iconic landmark. The vast majority take the cable car up and down, leaving the mountain’s sprawling network of hiking trails largely empty.
And of those who do hike up Table Mountain, the overwhelming number take Platteklip Gorge. Following the great crack in the mountain’s front face, it’s by far the easiest, a giant StairMaster with no exposure or tricky bits. Count on between two and four hours, depending on fitness. The cable car is a miraculous 10-minute walk from where you summit – turn right.
So why would you need a Table Mountain guide? After all – thousands of people get to the top every year unaccompanied by one. Check out social media.
But even on the Platteklip Gorge trail, a good guide will be able to bring everything into context – why the mountain is shaped like it is, what made it, what’s growing on it – what’s that orangey greeny bird over there? And maybe you want to turn left at the top – hey, where does this go?
A guide for Platteklip Gorge is a good idea if you want to learn about the environment, explore a bit more and be sure that if something does go wrong, then a professional guide will know what to do. (Maybe you’re not that fit, perhaps it’s a mid-summer hike and some extra help would be good.) Assuming your guide is qualified and registered, they’ll be first aid certified and will know who to call. Things like transport, extra water, lunch, a medical kit, mobile phone – it’s all taken care of.
And what if you don’t want to hike up Platteklip? This way up is extremely popular and you’ll have to share it with scores of others on any given day, especially in the summer holiday season. There are at least a dozen other ways up Table Mountain that can be hiked with ease but all require a degree of scrambling – using your hands to balance yourself or pull yourself up over a boulder.
There are hiking trails where metal staples have been bolted into the rock face along with securely fastened chain and steel ladders. Others require hiking up a mountain stream bed – dry or otherwise – for a while. Some can be combined with a cable car descent; many are far from the cable car and require a hike down as well as up.
Here’s where a Table Mountain guide is recommended. He or she will know which route is best when, and for whom. And they’ll have a Plan B at hand and Plan C too. Take for example the weather. The arrival of rain from the north-west is heralded by gloomy grey clouds piling up against Table Mountain. But drive south for 30 minutes and there are hiking trails on mountains that are often clear and sunny while Table Mountain is covered in a blanket of drizzly cloud.
Table Mountain’s great trump card is its accessibility. The kilometre-high view is well worth it andthe natural environment one of great beauty and diversity. A Table Mountain guide brings it all together.