Bushes, bird excrement, snake paranoia, exfoliating faces, incipient seams—all to get to one perfect crack climb. Peter Doucette, Kate Rutherford, and I have just returned from a month-long climbing expedition in Namibia. At the end—on our very last possible climbing day—we completed a first ascent of Southern Crossing, a V 5.11+ on the Orabeskopf face at the Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain. It took five days of work to find the line, clean it, and do a one-day ascent on June 1.
Our route has 13 pitches, and the first seven are 5.10 or harder. The meat of the route is three pitches of 5.11 in a row (pitches 5 to 7). Above this, the angle kicks back on a ramp system that leads to the top of the wall.
This climb was only made possible by the discovery of water at the base of the cliff—water that was first a sea of mud and algae in a 20-by-40-centimeter granite depression. Peter cleaned out the muck on day one, and each day thereafter we were able to collect 14 to 18 liters on our way back to camp. We spent a total of seven nights on the col between the face and the standard hiking route to the southern side of the Brandberg.
Earlier on our trip we did a one-day car-to-car ascent of Painted Giraffe, also a new route on the face, at 5.9. This route parallels the route Dogbreath, established by Namibian climbers on Christmas day 1974. No climbing on the face had been done since.
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