Namibia 2014 Part 2

Date: November 13, 2014

So last time I left you, on part 1, we were on the ocean. We went there to get food, take advantage of the ocean, and then go to Brandberg.  This was the third place we had spotted from Europe. But during the day, we received a message from some Belgian friends, Chris and Rosa, who have been travelling in Africa for six months after having been teaching in Kigali for three years. You can follow their adventure by clicking on this link. They are very good friend of ours. We knew they would be in the area but we thought they would be in Brandberg. But no, they were in the Klein Skitzkoppe. This was our last opportunity.

So we went back. It’s a nice gravel road to go there. An hour drives straight in the middle of the desert. Incredible. We had three crash pads on the roof. So we spent a lot of time using them as a platform while we were driving. It was great to spend some times over there. After a while, we were climbing up and down the roof even while driving, changing places, moving in and out of the car. Something we would never even think of doing here in Europe. But in Africa, no worries… If you’re feeling a little sick inside the car, don’t worry, go on the roof to take some fresh air. It is the best place to enjoy the Safari, except in Etocha, the only place where we had some trouble with our method, it’s clearly written on the permit of the park that it’s not allowed. But we wanted to see a rhino, what else could we do…

Anyway. So we went back to the Klein Spitzkoppe and found Chris a Rosa, close to  our last Base Camp. It was really funny to see them there in the middle of nowhere. A new expedition began because, they are more focused on living it up than we are. For instance, they had poker coins, I will not explain how the game unfolded, and other similar games. They also had good vibrations and motivation and of course, a nice Parmegiano that they had kept for this special occasion.

We climbed a few more days here. I had a project I badly wanted to do. A nice hard dyno. We spent some nice sessions with Nils trying to find the methods, and then trying hard. But we didn’t succeed. One morning we even got up very early to avoid the heat. It was hard for me to give up. But I thought that maybe we might come back. Brandberg is not too far away. Other hard boulders and easier were opened here. It was the best area we had found so far. Not a world class area, but some really nice boulders and with lots of potential. And the place is just great. You are alone in the middle of nowhere.

We had an alert once. Rosa went back to the camp a bit earlier than us. It was already night. We use to climb a lot at night time, mainly because the night was falling early, around six o’clock, but also to avoid the heat of the afternoon. We had the option to climb early in the morning or late at night. I’m not sure why we choose more often to climb late… So Rosa went back to the camp and she thought she saw a light moving near the camp. So we all immediately went back to have a look. Of course we saw no one, and everything was there. But it was a good warning because we had left the camp in a mess. The doors of the Jeep were open, not unlocked, really open, with cameras on seats, wallets and passports in the glove box, everything spread out around our tents. Even in Europe we would never do that. But here in Namibia, we felt at home, and we hadn’t seen anybody for a while. But we still do not know if Rosa really saw something or if she was hungry and invented the story to bring us all back to camp fast as possible. Jean-Louis was sure that the visitor stole his telephone until he found it in his bag, of course.

So we left Klein Spitzkoppe and the team split in two. Chris and Rosa would spend some more days in the south, exploring some more and we went north to our next goal, the Brandberg. On Internet, we had found some places that looked incredible, with many many boulders. We expected that this would be the main objective of our trip.  People told us that it’s here we would find the best rock quality in Namibia. We drove through Dorob National Park. An incredible road on a moon-like landscape. We also saw our first real big animals, zebras, ostriches and more and of course we had to take the time for Jean-Louis to take pictures. He was always asking to stop for pictures. He can’t do without…  As usual, we arrived at our next camp at night. So we didn’t know where we were sleeping and what it looked like around us. But it was a nice place at the end of a track with fireplace and it was pretty flat. In the morning, Nils got up early to go and explore. He wasn’t very optimistic. It seemed that we were not in the right valley.

The Brandberg is a granite mountain in the shape of a circle,  it’s the highest point of Namibia. And there are valley going inside it. And we were in one of them. The place is wonderful. The granite is a little bit more red here, so when the sun sets, it takes a strong red color, it looks like it’s on fire. That’s why it is called the Brandberg (the mountain on fire).

So we were not in the right valley. We decided to try all valleys running down the Brandberg to have a look. And we decide to go anti-clockwise. The next valley also wasn’t very good for climbing. There were some scattered boulders, but it wasn’t really a nice place. We started to be a little disappointed. It seemed that the Brandberg wasn’t as good as we had thought. So we started thinking about the whole trip and the chance to find really good rock in Namibia. Maybe it wasn’t a nice place for bouldering.

So we moved to another valley. We were all quite frustrated and thought that another day of climbing was wasted and it didn’t look like we were going to find any climbing at all. But when Nathalie was driving through the next valley, boulders appeared next to the trees. Trees are a good sign of good rock, because of water. And the closer we got the bigger their seemed. Finally we parked at the end of the track, only a few meters from boulders. And what luck, they were good and there was a lot. Enough for a good few days of bouldering just a few meters from the jeep with also a perfect spot to put our tents.  And when we went a little further into the valley, we found a small stream of water running down and disappear some meters below. The first one we had seen here in Namibia, and actually, the last one. It was a magical place. We called it “La Vallée Vierge”, The Virgin valley.

We spend three-four days there. The rock quality was good, but still not perfect. So it was hard to find really nice hard lines. We found a lot of boulders of grades 7 or 6, but no 8. Nils opened a scary 7b with a big slab at the end with loose rock. Not hard, but dangerous. He called it : Don’t be afraid”. Just before he opened another boulder, a nice arête of good quality he called: “Hey Jude”. I myself opened a lot of not so hard boulders. Sometimes just running from one to another. You see a line, you climb it, then you go the next one, just jumping from one to the next. And sometimes, a line seemed easy and you spend many tries on it and sometimes it’s the opposite. I opened “Le dauphin”, a nice short and powerful 7b/7b+ and some others.

We couldn’t find really hard lines. Real big projects, things you see and you say, I want to climb this, like “le Diamand” or the jump in Klein Spitzkoppe. So after some days exploring this place, we decided that it was the time to find something else and continue to discover the Brandberg. It was to time to continue exploring the other valleys. But it was quite disappointing. In one valley, first, we saw nothing. But, I was still really focused on all rocks around us and it seemed that there was a stream of good quality rock coming from somewhere. I followed it, and found what maybe the best place was so far. Good quality, big and a lot. But we had to go to the city first to get some water and food. So we decided to continue and I thought we would find a better place later. So we kept going around the Brandberg to the white lady valley. The most touristic place in Brandberg because of paintings. Normally it’s forbidden to go inside the park without a permit but in other valleys if you stay discrete and quiet, there isn’t any problem. But on the White valley there is a gate, rangers and you have to pay. It wasn’t the type of things we wanted for our trip. So we decided to avoid exploring this area. Also because a ranger had to be with us at all times. But it seemed that there would be a lot of boulders inside this valley. So we thought that maybe on the other site of the range, it would be the same. And that’s what we did. So we turned around and went to the city of Uis before continuing to the other side of the Brandberg. In search of a nice big place.

The goal was to find a major boulder area, world class. We knew that there were some places with a lot of boulders, we just had to find them. So we kept on turning around the Brandberg but clockwise this time. The first valley we went to was a really nice valley, but it didn’t have many boulders A few but not many. We just found a dead snake and Dutch people camping in a nice bivi place. We arrived at the second one in the dark, as usual. So we put up the tent and it seemed that there were a lot of big rocks. But when we woke up we were disappointed once again. Everything was loose again. The only thing interesting in this valley was the old painting on the best rock quality we had seen. We thought it probably was not the best idea to put chalk on these prehistoric paintings. So we moved to the next one. The landscape changed again. it was much more of a lunar desert landscape. Much drier and rockier. It was the last valley to explore. And we arrived at some big trees, which meant water and potential for good rock. We also saw a big tree uprooted and a huge mound of shit. It was a bit like a scene of Jurassic Park. At the end of the valley, it seemed that there were a lot of rocks. But the closer we got, the smaller they seemed, and finally they were no bigger than a man. So we decide to go back to the “Vallée Vierge” after having a look at the sunset on the Brandberg on this west side, the best place to appreciate it.

For the first time there was a big tension in the group. Maybe the trip was going to turn bad. We were not finding what we were looking for and people started to get tired of the trip and people started to become more easily irritated. And that morning we started getting the worst toast bread….