Kate Rutherford - Namibia

Monday, June 1, 2009

Namibia, Africa
By: Kate Rutherford

Once you get off the airplane in Windhoek, going climbing in Namibia is easy; the people are friendly, the food great, and there is plenty of exploring and new routing to be done. Aside from the fact that your body will have atrophied by the time you get to the crag and your bags could be lost (and then found the next day) Namibian granite is a perfect climbing destination. There is limestone in the south (which we did not check out) and lots of red granite in the north. A small but fun climbing community (12 people) have also developed some good crags around the capital. Slabs and cracks weave striking features together on the mountain of fire, Spitzcoppe. And farther north on south side of the Brandberg, in the shade, with cracks galore, is the majestic, big, Orabeskopf wall. 
I have been trying to get to Namibia for 7 years. I initially wanted to go as a biologist to work on researching cheetah genetics. It is such an inspiring part of the world from an ecological standpoint, the flora and fauna is reminiscent of the Pleistocene, with rhinos, elephants, ostrich and giraffes creating a surreal reality. Now, however, my interests have seriously shifted to climbing. So when Majka Burhardt asked if I wanted to go climb in Namibia, I jumped on the opportunity without thinking twice. Soon we added Peter Doucette, Gabe Rogel, and Chris Alstrin, and were on our way.

In the research I did before heading to the other side of the world, my godfather gave me this advice; “Take your time, never try to rush. It is a big place. For example I had 13 flat tires in 30 days, and it required 40 days to replace them. Take your time, enjoy the stay, make NO schedules that require you to be anywhere at a certain time, throw away your watches, and just get to where you are going when you happen to get there.” I thought this was my kind of place.

It turned out we did have quite the schedule; which included the wild granite slabs of Spitzkoppe. We went looking for a big granite wall on a bone jarring, loose your fillings kind of drive for 3 days to the extremely hot northwest (two flat tires). We met the Himba there and played the time old game of communication with them, and I came away in awe of their ability to thrive in their 109° F environment. They watched us climb a tiny cliff, and we watched as they brought their small herds into the corrals for the night keeping them safe from large cats. 


Our ultimate mission was to find long granite cracks, and so we went to the Brandberg. Its boulders, canyons, crags and rock paintings are one of the nation’s natural treasures. Fog that rolls in from the coast creates a beautiful, moist and rich desert ecosystem, and in the shade of its south side we found the Orabeskopf with superb cracks, and we got to climb! After sleeping near a boulder with a painted red giraffe, bloodied knuckles from cleaning pricker bushes out of the cracks, and tunneling through bird poo, we put up an exquisite new line, the Southern Crossing, 13 pitches with a 5.11+ stemming crux. Go climb it before the bushes grow back! 

 

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