Choose & book your hike:
- New hikers, always contact the hike leader/co-ordinator before joining any advertised hike – check the calendar entry for the best time to call (please also note – no call-me-backs or SMSs). This is also important for anyone who is unsure of the required fitness level or experience, or to check that the hike has not been cancelled (especially if you are not on e-mail).
- Take note of our grading system & choose your route according to your ability & fitness. Start with flatter, undulating routes & gradually work your way up to the steeper ones. Bear in mind – gym & general walking fitness does not always prepare one for walking up steep inclines, the pace of a group is by necessity set by its slowest member & someone will be forced to turn back with you, should you not manage.
- If not made clear in the calendar, call the hike leader to find out whether s/he is happy to have children along on a hike. Note: A designated legal guardian must accompany & sign the indemnity form on behalf of hikers up to the age of 18.
- If not made clear in the calendar, call the hike leader to find out whether s/he is happy to have dogs along on a hike. Note: A Wild Card with id is required to walk dogs anywhere within the Table Mountain National Park & only in areas where they are permitted – this is enforced by National Parks staff & not by the hiking club.
The following items are essential for day hikes:
- Hiking boots/shoes & hiking socks (good sole support for longer routes)
- Comfortable day pack
- Sun block (or not! Be aware of the toxicity of most of these products)
- Wide-brimmed hat (with fastening chord, for the wind)
- Warm clothing, suitable rain jacket/wind breaker (the temperature often drops unexpectedly on the mountain, even on the hottest day)
- Layers of clothing, gloves & beanie (in winter)
- At least 2 to 3 litres of water (depending on distance & weather)*
- Food & snacks – consider distance/time & allow extra for emergencies
- Cell phone – fully charged, on silent, with ICE numbers (see Emergencies, below)
- Personal medication & relevant medical information
- Personal first-aid kit (if you’re prone to cramping, speak to your pharmacist about suitable emergency medication)
- Emergency space blanket
- Small, reliable (preferably head) torch, with extra batteries
- Whistle (from a toy or sports shop)
- Copy of driver’s license or ID
- Plastic packet for used tissues and other litter
- Meridian membership card or R15 in change for your guest fee
- Wild card with id or entry fee, if applicable
*The most common problem experienced is that of hikers running out of water & suffering sudden dehydration symptoms or cramping (also caused by insufficient water intake during the days prior to a hot day on the mountain).
- A set of walking poles. Used properly, they (a) go a long way towards avoiding knee problems (made worse by excessive strain on the knees & tendons during the ascent, which causes tenderness during the descent), (b) spread the load & workout between the upper & lower body & (c) minimise erosion-causing impact when descending a loose path
- A hands-free water system such as a Camelbak or Platypus bladder
- Money for drinks/meal afterwards
Hiking safety & etiquette:
- Never go ahead of the hike leader or split off from the main party without prior consultation – this puts strain on the leader & other members of the party
- While on the move, always keep in contact with those behind & in front of you & try not to let too big a gap develop
- Electronic tones & cell phone conversations are intrusive in a mountain setting. Switch your phone to silent (& vibrate, & put it in a shirt or trouser pocket – if you have to be contactable). If you have to take or make a call, do so privately & quietly
- Tread lightly & in a controlled manner so as not to damage paths. Should you accidentally dislodge a rock or large stone, the internationally-recognised call to warn other hikers is a loud ‘below!’
- Never take short cuts – they cause erosion & encourage other hikers to use them, too
- Move away from watercourses when nature calls so as to not pollute streams. First tell a fellow hiker, so that they know to expect your return to the party. Solid matter must be properly buried & paper must be taken off the mountain (pack a small plastic bag for the purpose)
- Do not litter (not even fruit peels – they are unsightly to other hikers & encourage further littering) & remove litter that you may come across, if possible
- Never pick any flowers or greenery
Emergencies used to consist of either being lost/trapped in bad weather, or injury. Nowadays, we also hear of the occasional mugging. It should only be necessary to call for help in case of a major injury or other serious event. Hike leaders always carry the relevant emergency numbers. However, all hikers are responsible for their own safety.
- Program these numbers into your cell phone (for ease of finding, list emergency numbers at the top in your contacts, preceded by ‘AA’):
- AA Metro Rescue – 021 937 0300 (WSAR = Wilderness Search and Rescue forms part of Metro Rescue) – for medical assistance & rescue services
- AA Mountain Security – 086 110 6417 (City of Cape Town’s Technical Operations Centre – they report criminal activity, etc. to National Parks)
- ICE1, ICE2, etc (In Case of Emergency) – each with a number of a personal contact (emergency personnel look for ICE numbers on patients’ cell phones to know who to contact)
- A whistle is easier to use than to rely on your voice, when in distress. The International Mountain Distress Signal is six equally-spaced blasts (or torch flashes, etc) in rapid succession, interspersed with a one-minute pause, and repeated. The reply thereto is three signals and both are repeated until the casualty is located
- Pepper spray can buy valuable time for potential mugging victims. However, it is essential to use the single-stream (not the fog) variety (e.g. Liquid Bullet) and carry it in your hand when in risky areas
- Don’t carry your driver’s license, credit cards and other valuables with you – a laminated copy of your driver’s license/id will suffice for id purposes
- The safest place for your id, keys, cellphone, etc is on your person – in a shirt or trouser pocket
- Carry only your car key/remote on your person and not the entire bunch