Table Mountain looms over Cape Town, South Africa like a mother elephant looms over her young in the African wild to protect and watch over them. It is a truly awe-inspiring sight that can be seen from anywhere in Cape Town like a beacon guiding you home. It is a large and impressive, perfectly placed tabletop mountain directly in the center of the city which thrives below it. At night, it is lit up for all to see. The night and the light lend a mysterious, Gotham quality to its already awesome plateau-like appearance. Although it is just a big rock above a beautiful oceanside city, it is impossible to take your eyes off its majesty.
My two friends and I were staying in Cape Town at a beautiful hostel in the Gardens district called the Ashanti Lodge. The view from the deck of the hostel was straight at Table Mountain, and we were at its base. It was incredible. We decided that we were going to conquer the mountain on foot instead of taking the cable car to the top. Not to mention we saved 55 Rand (US$8) by climbing for free.
We heard from the locals that the climb should take approximately two hours and anybody could do it. Being the competitive, “somewhat” egotistical Americans that we are, we decided to try to climb it as fast as we could. One afternoon, we teamed up with an Irish lad we met at the hostel and made our way toward the base of the mountain to try to climb the steep 1000+ meters in 90F degree heat in one hour.
When we got to the base of the mountain we realized that the mountain was a lot steeper than we thought it was going to be. One of my friends had a bad knee and after about a minute said he wasn’t going to be able to do it, and he turned back to take the cable car and meet us at the top. My other buddy, the Irish lad and I held firm and began the ascent.
The beginning of the climb was totally in the sun and involved following a dirt trail that zigzagged across the base of the mountain. As we continued our climb we were rapidly ascending and not drinking properly so as not to waste time in order to accomplish our goal. Eventually, we collectively just stopped for about five minutes to catch out breath and load up on water. We were practically halfway up the mountain – the easy half. The rest of the climb was literally straight uphill. It contained large boulder steps, which required lots of energy to climb each one, especially mixed with the searing heat and our fatigue. We started trying to go as fast as we could but soon learned that we would never make it because we would be too worn out. We knew we had to pace ourselves and take short breaks every minute or so.
We trudged onward and upward, climbing hard for a minute and resting for twenty seconds. Onward and upward, we continued for another twenty quadriceps-killing minutes. After a look at our watches we realized we had ten minutes left to accomplish our goal. We had ascended to a break in the mountain where it was totally in the shade and we could see the top but it still looked very far off in the sky. We did some quick math and decided to bust our butts as fast as we could for as long as we could. The climb was really taking a toll on our lower bodies and we were all out of water and had visions of the restaurant at the top showering us with water when we arrived at the peak.
With two minutes remaining on our self imposed time limit we saw the rocky stairway that was the final obstacle to achieving our goal. We all had another burst of adrenaline and energy and eventually made the top at one hour on the dot. We had accomplished our goal. As soon as we made it to the top we all plopped down on a nearby rock. We were busy congratulating each other and admiring the breathtaking view when my other friend emerged from the crowd of tourists coming out of the cable car. It was perfect timing and we said, “What took you so long?”
Our conquest of Table Mountain was complete and all that was left was the incredible panoramic view of one of the most picturesque cities in the world. We drank water like it was celebratory champagne and made fun of our friend for being a wuss and enjoyed the splendor that is Cape Town, which is the crown jewel of the incredible country of South Africa.