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Start of the approach.
The following day – nothing. We bummed around “town” and saw our first Himba people. Finally, in the early afternoon Basil got the email green-lighting our climb on the condition that John would accompany us. John was in and the porters were out as John had agreed to not only help us carry in the water but to also do a water resupply run. By the time Basil dropped us off at the foot of the valley, it was after 2pm and the sun was blazing (even in Namibian winter). A pretty stout 3-hour hike and boulder-hop followed as we were all loaded up with gear, food, and water. Initially things were exciting as Shirley and I kept on thinking about all the varieties of venomous snakes that live among the boulders and grasses we were fighting our way through. John assured us that the area had no black mambas …only puff adders and zebra snakes but those were probably less active now (“winter – too cold”…hard to buy this when it’s 32C). The former were the real danger because their nature was to lie still when approached while the latter were more aggressive and spat venom. A cute name for what is a flavor of a spitting cobra. After two hours we were so destroyed we did not care much anymore. We made camp above some slabs as the sun was going down about 1.5 hrs shy of the high camp we were hoping for. Southern hemisphere’s winter at that latitude meant daylight hours from just past 6am till just past 5pm.
We both liked John right away. He seemed to love the area and really took the leave-no-trace to heart. John was Damara and grew up in the shadow of Brandberg. He’s been guiding hikers and tourists for over a decade and though he’s hiked up to the summit of the Orabeskopf Wall via the backside trail a few times, he’s never been to the valley we were hiking up as that was only of interest to climbers. If our online research (& Basil’s accounting) is accurate, we were the fourth climbing party headed for this wall. First climb was in 1974 via the Dogbreath
(5.8) route – not sure whether or how many times it’s been repeated. This was followed by Majka Burhardt, Kate Rutherford and Peter Doucette establishing two routes in 2009: Painted Giraffe
(5.9) and Southern Crossing
(5.11+). The last activity was the establishment of a new route called Hungarob Combination
(7c or 6c A0) by four German climbers in 2011.
In the morning, we packed up and moved camp another 1.5 hours higher up the valley. While we played housewives and set up camp, John hiked back down and carried up some 36 liters of water that we had stashed at the trailhead. That is one hell of a feat under any conditions but particularly so if you consider the terrain and the heat!
Shirley haggling over the price of some trinkets with Himba women outside of Uis (May 2013).
Packing stuff into Basil’s 4×4 for the drive out to the trailhead (May 2013).
The start of the hot approach to the Orabeskopf Face (highest formation in photo) under a blazing afternoon sun. John is in the lead (May 2013).
Shirley hiking up through some prime puff adder real estate (May 2013).
Not quite yet destroyed but getting there…did I mention it was warm (May 2013).
Nearing the end of our first day with the objective looming still so very far away (May 2013).
Shirley and John in our first camp (May 2013).
Shirley and John having PB sandwiches and tea for breakfast the next morning. Shirley is still sporting that thousand-yard stare courtesy of previous day’s effort and heat exhaustion (May 2013).
Morning of day two…still quite a bit to go (May 2013).
Fascinating plant life in the approach valley (May 2013).
Some light reading in camp two. Having enjoyed the history of rum book during our trip to Madagascar, figured that something along similar lines would work here. It did indeed. Thanks to our friend Clay for yet another recommend (May 2013).
Hanging out in our upper camp (May 2013).
John relaxing (after the superhuman effort of bring up a million fucking gallons of water) in our camp 2 (May 2013).
Shirley and John enjoying a campfire in our “camp 2” the evening before the climb (May 2013).
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