Of all the experiences I’ve had in my life, one of the most challenging, but rewarding of those has to have been hiking Table Mountain. Long before my arrival to Cape Town, I decided that rather than take the cable car up, I would hike to the top instead. Actually, I am pretty sure that my original goal was just to see the mountain, but after meeting Jeff, he convinced me that it would be more fun to climb. Little did the two of us know that we’d actually be hiking up together.
After twenty-one days through Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa, I arrived in Cape Town, and immediately, the mountain stuck me in size. I can still remember driving in to Cape Town, first shocked at the realization of again being in civilization, but also by the grandeur of the city’s famous mountain. I knew it was big, but not quite as large as it was in actuality. I felt intimidated at my decision to hike it, but also felt some determination in reaching my goal.
After finally reuniting, Jeff and I only had two days to work with in Cape Town, one was for the mountain, and the next for swimming with Great White Sharks. To make the best use of our limited time, we decided to book a guide to help us make the climb. We were both inexperienced climbers and had heard that Table Mountain could be quite difficult to climb with ever-changing weather conditions. The last thing we wanted was to be stuck on the mountain.
But, when we woke up early Saturday morning, we were exhausted from our previous travels. To say we were dreading our decision to climb is an understatement. Luckily, our decision to hire a guide kept us to our goal, and we had no choice but to stick to our original plan. We met the guide, Mark, at our hotel, and were on our way to the park in no time.
Upon arrival, the size of the mountain was more overwhelming than it had been at first glance. I had no idea how Jeff and I would be able to take it on, and even though the cable car looked the most appealing of all of our options, we knew at the moment that our only option was climbing upward toward the top.
With several different trails available, Mark gave us some options based on time and difficulty. Jeff and I decided to take the hike up the Platteklip Gorge, which is one of the most used and straightforward trails to the top. It was one of the most strenuous options, but it was also one of the shortest time-wise, and Jeff and I knew we didn’t want to spend our entire day climbing.
The beginning of the trail was relatively easy and absolutely beautiful. I took many opportunities along the way to take plenty of photos. There were waterfalls, streams, and beautiful views stretched throughout, and on our way to the gorge, we had plenty of time to relax, enjoy ourselves, and catch up after being apart for three weeks.
While some spots were a bit tricky, long drops down the mountain face, especially when water was present – dripping down the trail on its way to the bottom – the first part of the hike was done with relative ease and enjoyment.
But, the hike got much more difficult as we entered the gorge. While the trail zig zagged up the mountain, the parts that lead uphill were very difficult to climb, and Jeff and I had to take several short breaks. The paths across the mountain were much easier, though, making the hike a little less strenuous than if it was just straight uphill. Either way, it took its toll on our bodies, which hadn’t hiked anything remotely similar to the mountain.
The higher we climbed the more difficult it became. Boulders we had to climb to reach the top seemed to go on forever, but the views all around were worth it. So, we stopped many times on the way up to admire what was around us. At the time, huffing and puffing, it was hard to fully appreciate the beauty of the mountain, but I’m glad that I did manage to snap a few shots.
As hard as it was, we eventually made it to the stairway to heaven, the last bit of the gorge before reaching the top. Knowing that beautiful views of Cape Town were mere minutes away gave us all the motivation we needed to finish the last few steps.
When we got to the top, we may have felt exhausted, but we also felt completely accomplished. The views surrounding us were breath-taking, and we felt that we could fully appreciate them now that we had earned the right to be on top of the mountain.
We may not have done it in the fastest time and it may have been a bit of a struggle, but it was worth every minute for the feeling at the top. Now, Jeff and I are a bit addicted to hiking and are looking for our next big adventure. I can tell that there will be a future of many mountains to climb, and I cannot wait to see what will be next.