Table Mountain’s tablecloth – ancient myth or modern marvel

Table Mountain’s tablecloth – ancient myth or modern marvel

image Table Mountain covered in her cloth. Photo courtesy W.Franke

During the summer months, Table Mountain is best admired in all its magnificence against the blue backdrop of clear Cape skies.

Ironically, it’s on such cloudless days that the mountain’s legendary white tablecloth is suddenly cast over the “table”, as if by God himself.

It’s no wonder that when the ancient San saw the tablecloth, they attributed its appearance to their mantis god smothering a mountain blaze with his massive white kaross (“animal skin”).

Another myth handed down over generations would have us believe that the tablecloth is caused by a smoking contest between the devil and a legendary local pirate known as Van Hunks.

Albeit marvellous, the truth is less fantastical. Table Mountain’s “tablecloth” is nothing more than an orographic cloud formation (clouds that develop in response to the forced lifting of air by the earth’s topography). As a south-easterly wind blowing up the mountain slopes meets colder air at higher altitude, condensation takes place and a thick mist soon coats the top-most regions of the mountain.

As the cloud cover pours over the side of the mountain, the process is reversed. Clouds encounter warmer air layers lower down, where the moisture evaporates, making the clouds disappear.

Despite its undeniable beauty, the tablecloth can be dangerous to unwary hikers. The cloud often descends rapidly, obscuring visibility and posing a threat to hikers unfamiliar with the mountain.

If you’re planning a trip up, be sure to prepare for this eventuality by contacting the weather hotline on (021) 424 8181.

You can buy adult and child return tickets online. Buying tickets online means that you will avoid the queues when you arrive at the Cableway. Please note that you cannot book tickets for a particular time, but instead buy tickets that you can use whenever the weather suits you best.

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