Don’t mess with Table Mountain! 5 life-saving tips

Table Mountain’s position in the centre of a cosmopolitan city has a sneaky way of luring tourists, hikers and cyclists into a false sense of security, as if it’s not a “real” mountain. But it’s very much real, as are its dangers; more than 200 people have died up there…

Table Mountain has reportedly been responsible for something like 200 deaths in the past century, yet many of the four million people — hikers, cyclists, climbers and tourists — that visit the mountain each year don’t prepare properly before they go.

“People don’t treat Table Mountain like a ‘real’ mountain because it is so easily accessible surrounded by a city that views it as a back garden … people are under the impression it is a walk in a park,” says Merle Collins, SANParks’ regional communications manager.

She says many hikers don’t even take the basics ‒ sunscreen, water, food or proper lighting and clothing ‒ when venturing onto Table Mountain’s trails. A lack of preparation that could lead to a rescue mission, or worse.

The 35,000-hectare Table Mountain site has seen about 228 deaths between 1920 and January 2015, according to online reports from South African Mountain Accidents Database project manager Andrew Lewis. While some of these deaths can be attributed to suicide, random violent crime or homeless people dying from exposure, many are the result of falls or poor planning.

When Table Mountain’s infamous cloud (known as the “tablecloth” among locals) rolls in, the fog can obscure trails and cause hikers to become disoriented, lost or unaware of looming hazards. Many people also underestimate the time it takes to reach the cable car and begin their hikes too late in the day. They’re then stuck on the mountain at night without a torch or warm clothing.

Here are 5 basic tips that could save your life:

1. Pack the essentials

Merle says hikers should all carry a few essentials, regardless of whether they’re taking a casual stroll or doing a more challenging hike.

She recommends packing a detailed map of the park, sun hat and sunscreen, a torch or headlamp, sufficient water, energy snacks, sturdy hiking shoes (no flip-flops!) and gear for wet and windy weather.

2. Don’t go alone

Don’t hike or cycle alone, Merle adds. Good practice is to hike in groups no smaller than four but no bigger than 10.

3. Check in with someone

Let someone know which trail you plan to take and when you’ll be back, says Merle ‒ they can notify authorities if you become lost.

Also sign up for the free Whatsapp group monitored by mountain rescuers (details here).

4. Save emergency numbers and check the weather

Save Table Mountain’s emergency number on your mobile phone (+27 86-110-6417) and check SANParks’ website for the weather forecast before embarking on an adventure.

5. Stash it, don’t flash it

There are occasional muggings on the mountain, especially on lesser-trodden routes. If you do take valuables such as iPods, cameras or smartphones, don’t keep them obviously visible, and stick to popular routes after 08h00 and before 18h00.

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