Admirers say a close-up encounter with this geographical marvel in the heart of the mother city remains a wondrous awe-inspiring experience. Those envied the most are privileged property owners and residents of nearby neighbourhoods such as Devils Peak Estate, Tamboerskloof, Higgovale, and Scotchekloof. Panoramic mountain views and easy access to the foothills from the luxury of their homes is just one benefit of living in such a prime location.
Most impressive is the mountain’s natural heritage as part of the Table Mountain National Park and the Cape Floral Kingdom World Heritage Site to be one of few global conservation areas entirely surrounded by a city. As one of the world’s most diverse floral kingdoms the reserve boasts 1500 plant species across 22 000 hectares, more than in the British Isles or New Zealand.
Table Mountain and The Waterfront
Table Mountain’s highest point at 1085m is marked by Maclear’s Beacon, the large stone cairn built by Sir Thomas Maclear in 1844 who ensured the exact spot to remain in evidence. Its geographical history reflects an estimated age of approximately 260-million years, compared to the Andes at about 250-million years old, the Rockies of about 60-million, the 40-million year old Himalayas, and the Alps at 32-million years old.
The mountain has brought joy to many a states person, including General Jan Smuts known as a keen walker who regularly resorted to mountain meanders while contemplating complex political matters. And during his imprisonment on Robben Island, this national treasure had become the Mountain of Hope to Mr Nelson Mandela who fondly reflects on his historic bird’s eye view of the mountain’s most classic angle across Table Bay.
So powerful the mountain’s magnetic attraction, that in 1790 a famous Capetonian, Lady Anne Barnard became the first women to summit the mountain on foot. She reportedly set off on a small expedition comprising three “gentlemen”, several slaves as well as her personal maid. After selecting the safer option to ascend via Platteklip Gorge, the group celebrated their summit over a lavish picnic amid spectacular views before descending.
The less energetic option of summiting by cable car only came about in 1926, after numerous efforts were made prior to World War 1. What posed an enormous challenge became a masterful engineering feat, achieved in difficult terrain and a set of complex circumstances. Approximately 800 000 visitors from around the globe enjoy spectacular views annually from the cable cars, as one of only three such cable systems in the world, with the other two in Titlis, Switzerland, and Palm Springs in the US. The two circular cable car cabins rotate to allow 360° views to 65 passengers each and a total weight capacity of up to 5 200kg.
Also impressive is the mountain’s stringent environmental program that sees water for daily consumption transported in the bases of the cars where each is fitted with tanks holding 4000l, while adding extra ballast in windy conditions. Both water consumption and waste water is minimised through the implementation of chemical toilets using just three-quarters of a litre of water per flush, showing huge water savings compared to conventional flush toilets at 13 litres per flush. All blackwater waste leaves the mountain in a tank hooked onto the bottom of the cable car when it descends with the night shift team after 03h00.