Spitzkoppe – Namibia

We started off at 4am on the 18th of June for the 14hour drive from Cape Town to Windhoek. Two hours short of Windhoek we ran out of petrol and had a little hitch hiking adventure in the Middle Of Nowhere, Namibia. It all went well and we decided to camp on the side of a side road for the night.

We pulled into Windhoek the next day, filled up 180 litres of water, did some shopping, picked up our sponsors: the Edelstein clan (Charles, Margaret(with 2 children and a 3rd on the way) and drove the last 2.5 hours, packed like happy little sardines into a German engineered tin can.  When Spitzkoppe came into view (for those who could see round the luggage) it was a truly awesome sight in the late afternoon.  Standing 700meters above the Namibian semi-desert, the pure granite monoliths of Spitzkoppe and the Pontoks stood out like giants over us.  We literally exploded out of the Kombi and onto the rock and got a quick lesson in desert friction. John and I got on a 1 pitch 21(5.10d) called Desert Storm and trembled our way up the first 5meters to the first bolt!  John practised a few leads falls/slides first while Seb and Clinton tackled a 2 pitch 25(5.12a) and came down in the dark. Let the Epics begin!

The next day we warmed up on To Bolt or Not To Bolt 18(5.10a) which climbs to the summit of the Pontok Spitz for an awesome view of Spitzkoppe.  The approach was beautiful and the climbing was fun despite the rotten cardboard texture of some of the rock.  We learned to avoid the good edges as these just flaked off and rather balance up on rounded crystals that looked well embedded in the half baked granite.  The next day we tackled the Standard route to the summit of Spitzkoppe which was a moderate 17(5.9) trad/sport mix.  The abseil down turned epic though as John and I went way off route and abseiled off the end of the ropes onto a sloped ledge in the middle of nowhere with no more abseil bolts.  Clinton did some bold exploring around the corner and found the bolts and we got down just in time for sunset and cold beers handed to us by smiling children.

What service!

INXS is by far the boldest line at Spitzkoppe and Clinton was determined give it a go the next day.  400meters of 60 to 80 degree slab climbing over 12 pitches.  The rock was unstable and the 24(5.11c) grade was a sandbag.  It is extremely bold, run out (up to 12m between bolts!) 26(512a/b R)!  After the first 4 pitches of unbelievable balance moves (matching my toe to a thumb tip mantel) we knew we were going to race the sun.  John and I started climbing the rope to save time. Clinton’s leads were agonizingly slow, tense “incremental climbing”.  We topped out in total darkness and after some scary blind scrambling found the descent gully and got down by 11pm.  It was truly a mega route that I had no real business being on except to be lucky enough to assist in Mike’s ascent.  For a climber who has redpointed 33(5.14a/b) he described it as the boldest route he’d ever done.

We chilled the next day.  I onsighted a short pumpy 23 (5.11b) and spent the rest of the day napping, reading and napping some more.  Our campsite was like a desert Grand Central Station with bugs, birds, lizards, and a meercat buzzing and scuttling all over the place.  Life seems to thrive on adversity.  Seb dropped off the Edelsteins back in Windhoek and the next day dragged 2 epic wary climbing partners up a 9 pitch pure trad route called Royal Flush 21(5.10d)  Luckily the route description was wrong and he ended up leading all the crux pitches instead of me.  It was a very satisfying crack climb with every thing from fingers to hands to offwidths to chimneys to slab and with the exception of the masses of skin we all left inside various crystal lined cracks it was a fine last climb on the massif.

We drove out across the dessert towards the sea, bone weary and skin sore but the magic of that place had captured us and we’ll be back as soon as we can!