A visit to the famous Table Mountain (the Khoikhoi, Hoerikwaggo, Afrikaans, Tefelberg) when on a trip to South Africa is a must for many tourists. It is what many describe as the ultimate scenery that one can hardly miss on. The mountain overlooks the busy Cape Town city and has a flat top leading to the name Table Mountain. You will find it in numerous local government’s insignia and in Cape Town’s Flag. This place continues to be a vital tourist destination with hundreds of tourists hiking or using the cableway to the top. It is part of the larger Table Mountain's National Park that streams in thousands of visitors each year.
One of the key feature of this mountain is it's level plateau stretching 3 kilometres wide separated by impressive cliffs on the edges. To the west of the plateau, you will find the famous Lion’s Head while there is the Devil’s Peak found on the east that enhances a incredible back drop to the Cape Town. Combine these mountainous heights with Signal Hill and you have an amazing amphitheater that makes up the City Bowl together with the Table Bay harbor.
On the eastern part of the plateau, you will find the peak point of Table Mountain significantly marked with the Maclear’s Beacon. It is basically a cairn constructed back in 1865 by the legendary Sir Thomas Maclear to aid in trigonometrical survey. This points stands 1,086 metres above sea level and is nearly 20 metres tall than the popular cable station found on the plateau’s Western end.
The cliffs on the sides of the plateau are separated by Platteklip Gorge famously referred to as “Flat Stone Gorge”. It offers an easy access to the summit as it is a route once taken by Antnio de Saldanha who first climbed the mountain in 1503.
The flat surface of this Mountain is covered with orographic clouds that significantly characterize Cape Town. They uniquely for when wind blows upwards the slopes into some colder air, the air then condenses to form “table cloth” like image made of cloud. There is a mythical tale among the local here for the effect that claims it represents a smoking battle between a famous local pirate named Van Hunks and the Devil. It symbolizes contest for many locals when it shows up.
Found on the northern end which is part of the Sandstone Mountain, Table Mountain together with other form the spine of Cape Peninsula. You will find a range named the Black Table on the southern part of the main plateau. The range stretches to the Cape point and is referred to as the 12 Apostles.
There are about 450-510 million years of the old Ordovician rocks on the one kilometer high table which make up the two lowermost Cape Fold Mountain Layers. The youngest of the 2 layers features extremely hard quarzitic sandstone leading to the name “Table Mountain Sandstone - (TMS) or most commonly Peninsula Formation Sandstone. The layer is known to be resistant to erosion and is characterized with unique grey crags. The lower layer is 70 meters thick and is famously known as “Graafwater Formation”. It is made up uniquely colored maroon mudstones laid down in thinner horizontal strata as compared to the layer above.
To get the best views of this rocks in the second layer, you will have to be at the contour path that is on the front side of the Mountain. You can also get some amazing views at the cutting along Chapman’s Peak Drive. The rocks are said to have originated from shallow tidal flats where some Ordovician fossils have been persevered. TMS is believed to have been formed due to the rise in the sea level or subsidence.
Graafwater rocks stand on a basement mainly consisting of the Cape Granite as different with Signal Hill, Devil’s Peak and City Bowl together with most of the “Cape Flats” which stand on altered andheavily folded hornfelses and phyllities referred to as Malmesbury shales. Malmesbury shales and Cape Granite make up the gentler slopes on the lower-part of the Mountain range towards the Cape Peninsula. Most are of late Pre-cambrian age, coming approximately 40 million before the “Graafwater rocks”
When you examine the geological cross section of the this Mountain from the left to right, you will see the isthmus which connects the Peninsula and African Mainland of Hottentots-Holland Mountains. It gives a clear indication of how erosion has ate through the famous Cape Fold Mountain leaving what was initially the valley bottom to become the flat Surface of the Mountain.
Basement rocks here are not as resistant as those of the TMS, but you can see some outcrops of Cape Granite from the western-side of the Lion’s Head. The same views can also be found when below Chapman Peak Drive and even the Boulders found near Simon’s Town. The good thing with granite slopes found on the lower end of the Peninsula is that they are very fertile as compared to less nutritious soils of the TMS. You will thus find wonderful vineyards on these slopes.Table Mountain
owes much of its shape to the fat that it's a syncline type of a mountain formed by the bottom of the valley. You will find the anticline, which is the peak point of the folds on the this Mountain and can be seen to the east. They have however weathered off as the case with Malmesbury shale and the granite basement resulting into the “Cape Flats”. These then form the isthmus which links mainland and the Peninsula.
Something that has added up to the table-like shape is the hardness of basement rock that made up the lower-layer of the beautiful Table Mountain Sandstone. Earlier, this was made up of thin glacial layer referred to as Pakhuis Formation. Which used to be the top layer of the this Mountain. When they were blown away by erosion, they left the hard surface that formed the current shape.
Table Mountain happens to be the furthest, to the north, of the Cape Mountain Fold that is 50 km long and 610 km wide forming Cape Peninsula’s back bone. It is an amazing stretch from the famous Cape of Good Hope that is located in the south and Devil’s Peak that flanks Table Mountain towards the east. To the west of this stretch is Lion’s Head and Signal Hill. Table Mountain stands on the highest peak of the range that is parallel to other ranges of the Cape Fold Mountain stretching to the east.