Hiking, running or just going for a chilled walk on the trails all sound great. What better way to spend a morning, afternoon or whole day. That is, until things go pear shaped and that casual stroll turns into a panicked phone call or worst case scenario helicopter ride mountain rescue out of trouble.
Table Mountain, any mountain for that matter, can look friendly and inviting. Table Mountain most so due to its proximity to the city and sea. ‘Let’s just take a quick hike up India Venster or Platteklip before heading to the beach for a dip’. It’s easy to think that once you summit the mountain, that it is flat and that you will always be able to see off one of the sides to the city or sea. You thought wrong though. It is surprisingly expansive once you hit the summit of the mountain and it is remarkably easy to get lost and disorientated if you haven’t carefully planned your route or are with someone who knows the trails. In saying this – the mountain is a refuge and a place to be enjoyed by everyone and they can be with some careful planning and the right clothing and equipment.
Clothing and Footwear
Don’t be that person who tries to take on Platteklip (or even Lions Head) in slip slops, strops or thongs (for the foreigners). One, you look like a noob, and two you are definitely more likely to slip and fall, roll an ankle or get cuts, blisters and bruises. Proper shoes with a decent tread (vans will only take you so far), and proper ankle support are pretty essential if you’re heading out onto any sort of trail where there may be rocks, gravel or bush.
Clothing should be bright as far as possible, and you should always carry with you a buff/beanie, hat and windproof/waterproof jacket. Weather can change rapidly and go from sunny and still to overcast and blowing a gale in a matter of minutes. Summiting any mountain the weather is likely to be a cooler so be prepared. You don’t want to be caught unaware and unprepared on Table Mountain when the table cloth rolls over. Other items which may be useful – a good pair of socks, synthetic or merino wool for moisture wicking properties, none of this natural stuff which tends to hold moisture and not dry as quickly. Wet socks means wet feet and blisters. No thanks. Gloves are also good to have handy as, like mentioned, it gets chilly quickly even in summer when summiting any peaks.
When heading out onto any trail – you are responsible for your own safety. This means you should ALWAYS be carrying these basic items for an emergency situation.
- Space Blanket. Hypothermia can set in pretty quickly if you have been exercising and then stop suddenly due to injury. To help keep someone from going into shock, wrap them tightly in the blanket tucking in their extremities to keep their core temperature up.
- Whistle – little known fact, the signal for rescue is six good long blasts, stop for one minute, then repeat. Keep going until someone reaches you, not when you can hear someone – they may be using the blasts to direct them to you.
- Charged Cell Phone. Ideally this should be in a dry bag so if you get caught in the rain it doesn’t drown and die.
- A small roll of strapping is always useful if you roll an ankle or need to patch up a wound, just so you’re able to hobble home or to help.
Other items which are conditionally important include a good headlamp or torch with spare batteries. Obviously for any overnight mission or long hike where you aren’t sure how long it will take, this is important. In winter this becomes even more important due to the short daylight hours. If you’re going where there is little signal and you can’t rely on GPS, take a map.
Food and Drink
Take enough food for each member. Typically a runner will need ±100kcal per hour plus at least 250-300kCal of emergency food should they get stuck during a race. As a hiker/casual runner you probably won’t be needing quite as much, but be prepared to be out for longer than anticipated and rather too much than too little. Dried fruit, nuts and dark chocolate are good high energy quick fix items which don’t weigh a ton to carry, and taste good too. Otherwise GU chews and stroopwafels go down a treat!
Always carry water. Non negotiable. Even in cold weather you can become dehydrated. How much you take depends on how much water is available on the mountain but a carrying capacity of at least 1L is advisable per person. Water is Life people.
Before you head out
Eat a solid meal, charge your phone, drink lots and check the weather forecast. Make sure you know sunrise/sunset times and if there is a change in weather predicted so you can plan for these things. Don’t brave elements you haven’t planned for. If you’re going alone make sure you’ve told someone your planned route and take extra precautions as needed.
Now go out, prepared and ready to explore the wonderful mountains that we are so lucky to have on our doorsteps.
Mountain Rescue Numbers
It’s a wonderful country to hike, but carelessness can lead to disaster. If you’re visiting the Drakensberg or giving Table Mountain everything you’ve got, please keep the relevant number in mind. If there’s a fall or an incident, this lot are much better equipped at dealing with it.
- KZN: 031 307 7744
- Western Cape: 021 948 9900
- Gauteng: 074 125 1385 / 074 163 3952