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Shirley on our morning approach at Spitzkoppe.
Spitzkoppe and the nearby Pontoks are a series of huge granite domes rising out of the plains of central Namibia . The area is currently fenced off and run as a conservancy by new management (Alex and Dorinda with their cobra-hunting dog Jondi) and staff for a partnership of private investors and the Damara village just outside the park. It seems to be popular with campers, hunters, but we only saw one more team of climbers (bailing from the first pitch of the same route we had tried). There are entrance and camping fees but the park is spotless, campsites are well laid out, and there are clean, open air toilets. Think City Of Rocks but with granite domes being in the 10-15 pitch size range. There’s also a restaurant and a bar as well as a place to buy firewood and some local crafts. We were planning on 2-3 days of relaxed cragging at Spitzkoppe after ticking our main goal of the trip. This is not the right mindset for the place. Bring your A-game.
The ratings seemed sandbagged and going with lighter ratings means facing long runouts on exfoliating slabs. Yes, we’ve seen runout slab venues before…eg. Stone Mountain in NC where at least the rock is clean and solid and there are some bolts even on 5.8-5.9 routes. In the end we did not do much. We tried what we thought would be a good “warm up” line only to be shut down by the first pitch. We did the short (3-4 pitch) Watersports
crack line, supposedly 5.10- but it felt harder. We tried the Compromising Positions
route only to bail from 6 pitches up as somebody could not step up to leading a 120 foot slab pitch with no gear. In the end, we tucked tail and ran.
Driving to the Spitzkoppe (on the left) Conservancy. The Pontoks are the series of domes on the right (May 2013).
Our campsite at the foot of the southwest wall of Spitzkoppe (May 2013).
Shirley on our morning approach to the first failure on Spitzkoppe (May 2013).
Leading pitch 1 of Watersports (May 2013).
Shirley topping out on pitch 1 of Watersports (May 2013).
Pitch 2? Hard to say – they all look and climb pretty much the same (May 2013).
Pitch 2 of Watersports. It’s a bit like Crescent Arch in Tuolumne Meadows but more awkward (May 2013).
Watersports and one of the many gear hanging belays we had in Namibia (May 2013).
Nearing the end of the Watersports route (our pitch 4). We had enough (back aches) at this point (May 2013).
Pitch 2 or 3 of Watersports…guess it doesn’t get done too often given the amount of lettuce and such growing in the crack (May 2013).
Shirley somewhere on Watersports (May 2013).
Rapping off the “top” of Watersports (our pitch 4). Amazingly colored granite (May 2013).
View from the base of the southwest wall of Spitzkoppe (May 2013).
Spitzkoppe area. Soutwest face of Spitzkoppe is visible (May 2013).
A dassie (which I believe is Afrikaans for marmot) on a 6b+ slab somewhere by Spitzkoppe. In fact there were hundreds of these rodents in the area – you’d turn a corner and three dozen would go scurrying away. Nothing was chewed, no trash seemed disturbed (civilized marmots).
The nice Spitzkoppe camping. After procuring some brandy, the only things missing were John’s standup and camp chairs (May 2013).
The southwest face of Spitzkoppe. Watersports route climbs the shadowy, lowest arch on the right. Compromising Positions climbs the pillar on the right side (May 2013).
Pitch 1 of Compromising Positions on Spitzkoppe (May 2013).
Leading the third pitch of Compromising Positions (May 2013).
Shirley on pitch 3 of Compromising Positions (May 2013).
View down back to camp from Compromising Positions (May 2013).
Shirley on our pitch 4 of Compromising Positions (May 2013).
Starting up what we thought was the crux pitch (our #5) of Compromising Positions (May 2013).
Shirley nearing our highpoint on Compromising Positions (pitch 6; May 2013).
Bailing from Compromising Positions route (May 2013).
Spitzkoppe Conservancy (May 2013).
Nice camping in the Spitzkoppe area – all that we were missing were some camp chairs (May 2013).
Shirley giving some attention to Jondi – the spitting cobra hunter…yes, there apparently were two recent and separate incidents where somebody had venom sprayed into their eyes after taunting a “zebra snake” (May 2013).
The Pontok formations next door to Spitzkoppe. Though it doesn’t look it, the faces in the photo are in the 10-15 pitch length range (May 2013).
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