Conquering Table Mountain

by biltong101

ct 2Finally! After years of living in Cape Town I’ve conquered Table Mountain. And yes, for a lot of Capetonians it’s just another trail run they do five times a week but I’m proud of myself. After a few weeks of hiking on less demanding trails such as Lion’s Head or Skeleton Gorge, my husband, I and a semi-random “hike on Saturday, who’s keen?” group of ours attempted Table Mountain.

Platteklip Gorge is the easiest way to get to the top and the recommended route. This doesn’t mean it’s easy. A cardio workout starts right at the bottom and the first time I almost burst into tears, abandoned the group and turned around was half an hour into the hike. The mountain goat like, marathon running female friend of mine certainly was making me feel like a failure and so did the other male hikers who were a part of my group. I did hear that Platteklip Gorge consisted of steps but I assumed it would be like Skeleton Gorge or Devil’s Peak: more like the stairs you have to climb when the elevator isn’t working than anything else. Unfortunately, Platteklip Gorge is nothing like that and it has steps made for actual giants. If you’re like most mortals you’ll use your stronger leg more than the other one and therefore half of your bum will get sore already on your way up.

Apart from the giant steps, the hike may be discouraging if you look up. Don’t do it! The way up does look a bit like mission impossible and can kill you motivation. Rather keep looking at what’s directly in front of you. Certainly don’t trust people who’re telling you that you’re almost there, because people are liars and you can’t trust them. My thing when dealing with such adversity is: keep quiet and try to survive without crying. I honestly don’t know why this hike was so difficult for me because I’m certainly not a couch potato.

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The trail is fortunately not as busy as other hiking trails in Cape Town, probably because of the difficulty level. You do encounter some trail runners but not as many as in other places. The path is narrow, though and there is a limited number of ways in which you can move up, so you my end up waiting quite a bit. In general, people seemed to be better prepared than for other hikes so in hiking shoes/sport shoes and equipped with water, sunscreen and caps as opposed to high heels/flip flops and skirts which I saw elsewhere before. As the hike is challenging I didn’t see many small kid but I did encounter one cruel couple with kids around 5. I’m sure the trip traumatized the little ones and will keep them off hiking for at least a century.

the tree

That’s me doing what I know how to do best: showing off

It is quite tough but it’s worth it too. There are nice views as you’re walking up and some even nicer ones when you’re on the top of the mountain. The peak of the mountain is much bigger than what I’m used to with other hikes. You can easily do yoga selfies, meditate and do whatever else will bring you Instagram fame on the top. Approaching the very verge of the mountain is quite a vertiginous experience but can end up in getting some very nice shots. It did feel exhilarating to look down on Cape Town being all tiny tiny.

lion's head

Do you see this nipple down there? That’s Lion’s Head

Walking down is a challenge on its own as it’s quite heavy on your knees. Your back may also get sore from weird crouching that’s required occasionally. I call it crabbing down but no one seems to get the analogy. Once you’re down you’ll probably walk like a cowboy for a bit but I’m sure you’ll feel it was worth it. I really recommend attempting some easier hikes before doing this one. You may be fit in general but hiking is a particular activity and it seems to require the hiking kind of fitness, which on this trail entails being able to make giant size steps.

Have you managed to do Table Mountain yet, Dear Reader? What’s your favorite hiking trail?