Our experience was terrifying hiking up Table Mountain when we were in Cape Town, South Africa. Just our first day there, and still without our luggage, we decided to find a route up the mountain. Not listening to our host’s advice to download a route map on our phone before undertaking the trek, we figured we would find an appropriate route up the mountain.
We were dropped off by the Uber driver at the start of a route title “Indian Pass” and found a few other hikers after a gentle slope. Unfortunately, we quickly found ourselves in a terrifying free climb up the mountain when we lost them. It seemed we were getting closer and closer to the top, but ledge after ledge invited a new challenge. Though we did survive the climb, we definitely feel you should heed our advice unlike we did with our host.
So, please read on carefully when planning your trip up the mountain.
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Tips for Hiking Table Mountain
- Plan your route.
- Ask questions.
- Bring supplies.
- Wear proper gear.
- Know your limits.
There are apps and maps available to you to see which route is easiest or most difficult to take up the mountain. Plan your route accordingly.
It never hurts to ask questions before you leave. Talk to your host or locals. If you meet someone along your hike, talk to them and see what route they are taking.
When hiking up Table Mountain, it is important to plan a few hours of hiking. You should wear sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun. Do not forget to pack at least two liters of water per person as well. It never hurts to pack some energy bars or light snacks.
This is simple enough. Wear proper footwear and dress appropriately for the weather conditions of the day.
It is important to know what you are capable of. If you do not think you are ready for a two hour hike, you can take the cable car up and down the mountain. Never underestimate a hike.
Before we began hiking up Table Mountain, we did not follow all of these words of advice. Our hike began as a leisurely stroll up the mountain and slowly became a free climb to the top. There were a few moments that were frightening for the both of us. However, we never turned back. We helped each other through each point, but we hoped after each one that it was the last. Below is our story.
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Preparing Our Hike Up Table Mountain
Arriving in Cape Town without our luggage was not the way we wished we had begun our trip through South Africa. Luckily, Natalie always seem to take a situation and make the most of it. We continued with our itinerary that I had planned out weeks before. The first thing on that list: Hiking Up Table Mountain.
We spoke with our host upon our arrival about the mountain. He mentioned some difficult routes that we should avoid unless we were experienced hikers. To avoid those, we simply needed to buy a route map from in town or download an app on our phone that has all of the routes mapped out. From there, we could simply find the trail head and leisurely make our way to the top of the mountain. Sounds easy? That is because it would have been had I listened to these instructions.
The next day came, we woke up bright and early, called an Uber, hopped in, and asked him to take us to a Table Mountain trail head in the direction our host told us to look. Our driver seemed a bit confused, but pulled over after a short drive and told us this is where he has dropped hikers off in the past. “Indian Pass”…sounds right.
Terrifying Hiking Up Table Mountain
We prepared three liters of water between the two of us. Our shoes were not hiking shoes because of our lost luggage. I had a backpack with my camera equipment and water in it. Natalie had her camera and cell phone.
The hike from the trail head was leisurely as we had a progressively incredible view of Signal Hill, where we were staying for our nights while in Cape Town, and Lion’s Head. Our spirits were high, and we met a few people on their way down and a couple on their way up. Everything seemed fine.
We reached a point where we met a couple of couples discussing the routes. They broke apart, but I was able to quickly ask about something I overheard. I asked about the route ahead of us and the couple stated that they were told the route ahead splits into two routes. One is an extremely difficult path that includes chains and some ledges to climb, whereas another path is more leisurely. It seemed at this point that these two routes would be clearly marked and we would just follow this couple. How hard could it be? She was pregnant and he did not look like he was in the best of shape…but neither am I.
Unfortunately, between the breaks and photo sessions we took of the gorgeous scenery around us, we lost the couple. There were no markings. From this point on, we were on our own. No help awaited us. But, we still had no thought as to how hard this climb would be.
We approached the first ledge to climb. It was not bad, we did not really question how the remainder of this climb would go. This would be the last part of the climb we would document as the camera equipment quickly went into the bag, and the bag would be thrown up over the ledge, followed by me climbing up, and finally Natalie climbing up / being pulled up.
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What can I tell you about the remainder of this climb? It was extremely difficult. Ledge after ledge. Free climbing in some situations. Avoiding looking down. Ledges at some points went up twenty feet with little to no room to rest between climbs. At first, it was a thrilling challenge, but as it continued it seemed more of a stupid decision to decide to take this route. The question was, turn around or continue? How much harder could it be?
It was one ledge that was particularly difficult where we took a short break afterwards and wondered whether or not we should turn back. We looked up at the top of the mountain, took an inventory of how much water we had left, and discussed how much more difficult it would be to climb down as opposed to up.
We continued. Ultimately the right decision, as the climb only became easier. We even passed a gentleman who must have been in his late 50s, in great shape, and making his way down. I asked if there were anymore ledges on the route ahead before we reached the top. He stated that we had done the hard part. Just a few more to go. This was the biggest relief. However, my heart jumped when I climbed over the next ledge and saw two people rock climbing using rope up a 50 foot wall. I yelled at them if this is how we needed to get to the top. They simply called back no. More relief.
The remainder of the climb was fairly easy. The path rounded around the other side of the mountain and a coastal city came into our view as Cape Town slipped away. The climbing turned into a leisurely walk, and we passed a sign that was directed at hikers going down the route we just came up. The sign warned them of the challenging hike that laid ahead of them. The route we just were hiking up Table Mountain.
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The Top of Table Mountain
Our terrifying experience hiking up Table Mountain was rewarded with the commanding view of Cape Town from the top. We had felt as though we conquered the mountain. The difficult part was over, and now we could relax. The mountain is flat as a table. The iconic natural formation of Cape Town, South Africa is a must see for anyone visiting.
We enjoyed a meal at the restaurant, did some souvenir shopping to mark our incredible journey to the top, and bought two tickets to the bottom of the mountain via the cable car. Well worth it.
After grabbing an Uber back into town, we were dropped off at a restaurant that was recommended to us to enjoy a cold beverage and to recollect the many ledges we climbed over. We had accomplished something we had never thought we would need to. We were proud, yet learned such an important lesson in preparation.
The next day we talked to our host who stated that we had climbed the most difficult route to the top of Table Mountain. “Indian Pass”.
Hiking up Table Mountain, or any mountain for that matter, is no simple feat. Take it seriously and prepare appropriately. Today we live in an amazing time. With so much information available to us with a tap of a finger on our phone, take the time to do your research and prepare yourselves for a trek. It is well worth it.
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