Cape Town  -  Table Mountain

Table Mountain - Cape Town

 Table Mountain

Table Mountain

When arriving by air or ship in Cape Town one feature that stands out on the horizon is Table Mountain. It was this feature which attracted the old Portuguese explorers into Table Bay in the late 1400's to search for water and food. The first recorded climbing of the mountain was undertaken by Antonio de Saldanha when he climbed the mountain using Platteklip Gorge way back in the early 1500's.

When the Dutch arrived in the Cape in 1652 little was known of the mountain except that it provided water to the Cape via the many streams that cascaded down the mountainside. The streams were utilised by the Dutch to provide water for the burgeoning colony that was being established at the Cape. The first stream used by the Dutch was the Frische River which was dammed up to form a reservoir near where the Golden Acre is found in Adderley street today. It provided water for the Castle and many other buildings erected by the Dutch.

 Cable car

Table Mountain Cable Car

The geology of Table Mountain is interesting in that it has three or four types of rock making up its structural base. The upper part consists of Ordovician quartzitic also known as Table Mountain Sandstone. This part of the mountain erodes very slowly and when it does forms the characteristic steep grey crags the mountain is known for. Below the sandstone is a layer of micaceous basal shale which erodes quickly and is not readily visible. when looking at the mountain. The base of the mountain consists of folded precambrian Malmesbury shale, which is mixed with Cape Granite and weathers more slowly than micaceous basal shale which makes up the middle layers of the mountain.

Table mountain has always provided water to the settlement at its base but as the demand for water rose so did the necessity for dams. It was in the 1800's that a number of reservoirs were built on top of the mountain to provide water for the city burgeoning below. The reservoirs built were the Woodhead, Hely-Hutchinson and De Villiers which can still be visited today. To get supplies and men to the top of the mountain to build the reservoirs it was necessary to build cableway.

The first cableway to be built went from the top of the mountain and descended to Camps Bay This cable car has long since been discontinued but evidence of its existence can still be found near the top cable station today. At the time of the building of the reservoirs a small steam locomotive was used to move goods from the cableway to the dam sites. It was kept in a small shed near the Hely-Hutchinson dam.

The reservoirs still provide water to Cape Town but on a much smaller scale than they did in the past. This has necessitated the building of a number of dams in other parts of the Cape Peninsula and its surrounding areas.

As usage of the mountain increased it became necessary to find a quick way to the top and the decision was made to build a cableway station on the mountain. Construction began in 1926 and the cableway was eventually opened to the public in 1929. The little box cable cars which were buffeted by the strong south east winds which prevail in the Cape during the sunmmer months remained in service until 1997 when the cable system was extensively upgraded. The old cars could only carry 25 passengers and with the increase of tourism to the Cape there were soon long queues of people waiting at the lower station to be ferried to the top of the mountain.

Since the upgrade which saw new circular cable cars with revolving floors which rotated 360 degrees being introduced as many as 65 people per ascent can be accommodated. This has gone a long way to reducing queues at the lower cable station. Table Mountain has become one of those attractions that any visitor to Cape Town must visit. The reason of course a is the spectacular views one gets from the top of the mountain. Not only are their spectacular views but many other attractions as well.

On top of the mountain is a restaurant and curio shops for those travellers who are shopaholics and need their daily fix. For those who love nature there is even more to offer. There are a number of hiking trails with varying difficulty for the fit and not so fit.

The following trails provide exercise for those people who would like to climb the mountain. Hoerikwaggo Trail, Jeep Track a.k.a. the Bridle Path, Kasteelspoort, Nursery Ravine, Pipe Track, Platteklip Gorge and Skeleton Gorge Unfortuantely many people attempt to climb these trails and are sadly totally unprepared for what is waiting for them.

A Japanese lady in a kimono and sandals and carrying a parasol attempted to climb the Plattekloof Gorge. It took her four hours to climb a couple of hundred metres and with the speed she was climbing would have taken her a week to reach the summit. She was persuaded by mountain rescue teams to return to Tafelberg road before she became another accident statistic on the mountain.

Table Mountain in good weather appears to be an easy climb but unfortunately this is not the case as many unsuspecting climbers have found out. Just a short way off the regular trails to the top are some of the most daunting climbs and rock faces one can find anywhere. Often people stray into these areas and then have to be rescued from cliff faces or are even severely injured or killed when they fall.

The weather on the mountain is not to be trusted. What looks like a clear day to begin with can suddenly change when the Cape Doctor blows in the white table cloth which covers the top of the mountain in an icy cold mist and restricts visibility. Many people have been caught with summer clothing and have succumbed when temperatures have plummeted.

Other than hiking trails Table Mountain offers the visitor more than 1470 species of plant life, more than can be found in the whole of the British Isles. The main vegetation on the mountain being the unique and rich Cape Fynbos which is made up of different species of proteas, restios or reeds and the ericas. Table mountain is so rich in fauna and flora that to protect it for future generations it has been included in the Table Mountain National Park which extends along the mountain ranges from Table Mountain to Cape Point in the south. One can follow the trails provided all the way from Cape Town to Cape Point.

For people who are unable to climb the mountain the cableway provides easy access to the mountain and the spectacular views it provides. In fact it is worthwhile going up Table Mountain before visiting any other part of the Cape Peninsula as this visit will give you a good perpective of the Cape area.

Current prices are are valid from 1 October 2019 to 30 September 2020.

Return / One Way

Operating times

Morning 8.30 to 13.00

* Morning Adult R360.00 / R200.00
* Children (Under 4 - 17 years) R180.00 / R100.00

Afternoon 13.00 till closing time

* Afternoon Adult R360.00 / R200.00
* Children (Under 4 - 17 years) R150.00 / R100.00
* Student R180.00 / R100.00
* SA Senior Citizens (Fridays only) R100.00 / R50.00

The price of the tickets compares well with the cost of some of the attractions found in and around London with Table Moutain providing a much better value for money experience.
ps. These prices change annually so please check for the correct prices for the year you are in on the official Table Mountain website.

When you visit Cape Town make Table Mountain your first port of call.

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Cape Town - Table Mountain