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As John was discouraging pre-dawn hikes, we set out for our climb just before 6am on the third day. We were at the base an hour and half later. Though we initially thought about warming up on the easier Painted Giraffe route, we realized that the water situation would make it difficult to do more than a single route during the outing. And so we started up the main objective, the beautiful 13-pitch Southern Crossing
. After the quick scramble, the first pitch probably had the flakiest rock of the route and the 10- rating felt stiff (off-width). Higher up, things improved quickly. The 5.10 pitches had fun crack climbing, mostly solid rock and offered great protection. Four or five pitches up one of the gear loops on my harness decided to come apart and airmail its content into the bush below. This unfortunately included a full water bottle and a #6 C4. After a fighting through a bird shit chimney which also featured bushes, we arrived on the large ledge at the base of the “Enduro Corner.” The 5.11 start featured a bit of hanging on the rope on my part and I ended the pitch early as my finger sized and smaller pieces were mostly depleted. As it turned out, the rest of the Corner mostly required larger pro.
We broke up the rest of the Corner (11-) with a hanging belay midway up and somebody took a 15 foot fall on the third and final lead (bloodying up a finger for dramatic effect). The corner was mostly clean of dirt and bird shit but did have some shrubbery growing. This section put us on a ledge constructed of …yes…bird shit and featured a few bird carcasses. The short 5.11+ off-width got mostly French freed and we were finally done with the crack system and the difficulties. A 5.7 pitch put us on the diagonal ramp system (joining Dogbreath route) where three or four rope stretching pitches (5.6) finally deposited us on the summit ridge. With about 45 minutes of daylight remaining and only a vague idea of how to get down, we found a sheltered spot with some deadwood nearby and settled in for a reasonably comfy night under a star filled sky. We are getting way too good with this routine. While Shirley wove the 140 meters of twins into comfy mats (in a record 22 minutes), I gathered enough fire wood to last us the night. We then shared an amazingly tasty apple, took a couple mini-sips of our remaining liter of water and were pleasantly surprised to find a space blanket in our tiny pack.
Hiking off the summit.
As expected, the night went by slowly if painlessly with bouts of conversation, sleep, star gazing and a touch of shivering. In the morning, we found the hiking trail and followed it off the backside of the mountain into the adjacent valley. Eventually we saw the key notch above us and scrambled up the slabs towards it. The notch would allow access back to the base of the wall where we had a water bottle stashed. As we were scrambling down the gully on the other side, we heard and soon saw John scrambling up to us. John also decided to bring the whole shebang with him: water, food including freeze dried dinners and a stove! Man, we certainly could get used to this. We celebrated the climb by pigging out, chatting, taking in the scenery and eventually hiked down to our camp. It turned out that while we were busy stargazing the previous night, John was busy fending off a curious leopard in our camp.
We hiked out early the following morning and saw giraffe tracks at the bottom of the valley – seeing the animal itself would have to wait till Etosha the following day. Basil showed up right on schedule and we were back in Uis well before 11. We both thought that Southern Crossing
was a great natural line. It follows an obvious dihedral system right up the center of the face (proud!) with the only fixed pieces being two knifeblades. This was the most remote bit of climbing we’ve ever done and – considering the quality of the climbing along with the setting – probably some of the most unforgettable. That afternoon, we drove the 350 km north to Okaukuejo encampment in Etosha National Park for two and half days of animal sight seeing and overeating.
Brandberg Massif, Orabeskopf face, Southern Crossing route (V 5.11+). Click photo for full res. version (May 2013).
Shirley on the morning approach to the base of the wall (May 2013).
Starting up the Southern Crossing route. This here pitch 1 starts with a runout 5.7 traverse to reach the 5.10 crack system visible in the photo (May 2013).
The wide on pitch 1 of Southern Crossing (May 2013).
Shirley on the opening section of pitch 1 of Southern Crossing (May 2013).
Nice granite on pitch 1 (May 2013).
Leading pitch 2 (May 2013).
Shirley arriving at the top of pitch 2 (May 2013).
Flared chimney opener of pitch 3 (May 2013).
Shirley climbing through some light vegetation on pitch 3 (May 2013).
The views (May 2013)!
Shirley topping out on pitch 3 of Southern Crossing (May 2013).
Pitch 4 camel toe. As it would turn out, much of our Namibian climbing would be in right-facing dihedrals (May 2013).
Higher on pitch 4 (May 2013).
More views from the route (May 2013).
Shirley topping out on pitch 4. Twenty feet below her is the bird shit chimney. This is the base of the “Enduro Corner” section (May 2013).
Starting the “Enduro Corner”, pitch 5 of Southern Crossing. We made this into a short pitch thinking I might be short on finger sized cams but the crack actually widens up a bit higher (May 2013).
Shirley on our short pitch 5 – the start of the “Enduro Corner” (May 2013).
Leading pitch 6 of Southern Crossing (May 2013).
Shirley starting the amazing pitch 6 Enduro Corner (May 2013).
Shirley in the middle of the “Enduro Corner” (5.11-) on Southern Crossing. This is our pitch 6 – amazing climbing (May 2013).
Shirley nearing the top of our pitch 6 on Southern Crossing – another hanging belay…not so comfy (May 2013).
The final (our 7th overall) pitch of the “Enduro Corner” on Southern Crossing (May 2013).
Leading pitch 8 with some aid (May 2013).
Views from pitch 8 of Southern Crossing (May 2013).
Shirley on the last pitch of the difficulties (our 8th) of the Southern Crossing route. 5.11+ if free or with some A0 for us (May 2013).
Shirley on the easy exit ramp pitches of Southern Crossing. These are shared with the original Dogbreath route (May 2013).
Views from near the top of the route. Late fall sun is getting a bit low (May 2013).
More of the exit ramps on Southern Crossing (May 2013).
Shirley on the final exit pitch of Southern Crossing. With about 45 minutes of daylight remaining and John’s advice not to hike in the dark, we’d hunker down and enjoy a night of stargazing (May 2013).
A pretty comfy night on the summit of the Orabeskopf Wall. To our delight, we found this here space blanket at the bottom of our pack. In combination with the fire, things were positively posh (May 2013).
After spending the night on the summit of the Orabeskopf Wall, this brilliant sunrise greeted us on the descent (May 2013).
Hiking off the summit (May 2013).
Found the descent gully (May 2013).
Shirley and John in the gully below the west side of the notch. John brought not only water but also the stove and food and met us partway back to camp as we were descending off the summit in the morning (May 2013).
Shirley hiking back down to camp (May 2013).
John and Shirley almost back in our camp (May 2013).
Our final night in camp. We’d miss John’s stories (most had quite the punch line) couple days later while camping by Spitzkoppe (May 2013).
Shirley and John on the descent hike the following morning (May 2013).
Shirley and Orabeskopf face on the descent (May 2013).
John showed us the cave paintings (apparently dated to be 2-4 thousand years old) which are at the heart of the current permit uncertainty (May 2013).
John showing us the cave paintings (May 2013).
And the star of the show (May 2013).
More hike out scenery (May 2013).
Shirley hiking down the slabs. Our pick up point is visible at the mouth of the valley (May 2013).
Nearing the trailhead (May 2013).
Basil brought a cooler full of beer (Namibian brewed Windhoek lager) and sandwiches when he came to get us. Goes without saying that the spread was a BIG hit (May 2013).
Cochise or Namibia?
Traffic jam (May 2013).
Something to watch out for while driving in Namibia (May 2013).
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