Namibia Rocks

October 1-7 (Windhoek and Spitzkoppe, Namibia) —

So our plan is to spend the month of October traveling in Namibia and Botswana. Some of the places we want to visit do not have lodges, but do have camping. Since sleeping in a ground tent in the African bush seemed like a really bad idea, we rented a truck with a roof tent for the month. We picked up “Jimmy” — our Suzuki Jimny 4×4 — from Bobo Campers in Windhoek on October 1. Isn’t he cute?

We then spent two days camping at Daan Viljoen National Park, just outside Namibia’s capitol, Windhoek, so that we could test all the equipment and stock up on supplies. I’m afraid that the rest of our campsites may fail to measure up.

The bathrooms:

Why, yes, I will take a fancy bathroom with my campsite

The biggest challenge we faced was finding the rock climbing guide we needed for Namibia. There’s very little information on the internet about finding the routes here, so we really needed the guide. We knew that a guide book existed and reportedly was available in Windhoek, but had been unable to buy it from the States. We really hoped that we hadn’t lugged our climbing gear across three other countries for no reason.

Everyone kept telling us to “try the German bookstore” but no one knew the name of the store and all gave vague directions to its location. Google didn’t help either. After hours of calling and visiting bookstores, we finally found a tiny German bookstore right in the center of town but hidden by road construction. And they had the book!!!!

Book in hand, we headed to the small town of Spitzkoppe in the Damaraland area of Namibia and were greeted by this view of the Great Spitzkoppe and the Pontoks:
East Face of Great Spitzkoppe

And our campsite (10C) was outstanding as well.

Looking at Sugar Loaf
West Face of Great Spitzkoppe

We cooked some steaks over the fire, drank a bottle of terrific South African red wine, climbed a little on the nearby boulders to get a feel for the granite rock, and watched the sun set.

Although the temperature during the day had been in the 90s, it cooled off rapidly and was actually cold at night. We read the guide book, cover-to-cover, by the fire. There are hundreds of routes at Spitzkoppe, but many require natural protection and/or a mixture of trad and sport, and we only brought our sport rack. We also discovered that all of the multi-pitch sport routes within our abilities required more than one rope due to the long pitches (we had brought just our 70M rope). But there were still plenty of single pitch sport routes for us, so we were looking forward to climbing and headed to bed.

And then the winds started. Gale force winds (or, at least, that’s what they felt like) starting whipping over the Great Spitzkoppe behind us and pummeling our tent. It was only our third night sleeping up there, and I’ll readily admit that the possibility that we, our tent, and/or Jimmy would all go crashing sideways crossed my mind more than a few times. Although we didn’t get a lot of sleep, nothing bad happened and we got up the next day at dawn to watch the sun rise behind the Great Spitzkoppe.

Elephant Rock, a 30 second walk from our campsite, was our first choice.

We started with Jumbo on the south side — a fairly easy slab route, rated as South African 16 (equivalent to 5.7/5.8 on the Yosemite scale).
David at the anchors
V at the anchors, with Great Spitzkoppe behind
We then moved right to try Trunk (RSA 17 or 5.9 Yosemite), with a near vertical section and a bulge at the crux. David lead it beautifully:
enjoying the view at top of Trunk
We then enjoyed some afternoon entertainment by the local grey squirrels and African hornbills while we rested during the heat of the day under a tree.
This hornbill hopped around our campsite for days, so we nicknamed him Dennis Hopper
The next day, we decided to climb in the cracks of Lion Rock, which was right next to our campsite:

Getting to the start of Cub was half of the challenge as we had to squeeze through the crack to the very small belay station where the two cracks intersected.

After a tricky start in a no-fall zone to the first bolt, David sent the route and I took this picture after he reached the anchors. It was a stunningly beautiful morning. Just blue, blue skies and crisp sunlight on the rocks.

After another night of high winds, which we started to think were an every night occasion next to the Great Spitzkoppe, we decided to move camp to the Swakop 1 campsite by the Felsenteichs.

Because Jimmy is so small, we were able to maneuver into a protected spot between some boulders:

The sunset was again stunning:

Although the winds were high again, we slept much better in our hiding place and decided to tackle some longer pitches on Dinosaur Rock:

Bonsai (RSA 16) was super fun:

After 4 days of excellent climbing at Spitzkoppe, we were surprised to not see any other climbers on the rocks except for this small antelope:

I’m happy to report that we did not see a single one of the 19 types of “highly” venomous snakes endemic to the area (five of which will kill you if bitten).

We stopped at the campsite bar for some cold drinks on our way out and enjoyed some final views of the Pontoks and Great Spitzkoppe.

A note about the campsite: The Spitzkoppe campsite is now run by the local Damara community and is under new management. Past issues reported on the internet appear to have been solved. Campsites were cleaned daily and the ablutions were spic and span. The solar-heated outdoor showers (each surrounded by an eye level rock wall) with views of the Great Spitzkoppe are outstanding. And the bar has cold drinks. It was perfect.