.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.
.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.
Go to Etosha page.
Go back to Namibia page.