Climbing area Spitzkoppe

Am Gipfel - Quelle H. Gantze

The climbing area around the Great Spitzkoppe in Namibia is still the classic destination of mountaineers from around the world. The fascination that detects the visitor who spends a night under the open southwest Matterhorn with its 1728 m altitude, now called the Matterhorn of Namibia, is still the same. If in the west behind the Little Spitzkoppe the sunset's blood red, and the African nightfalls come over the huge climbing mountain, man becomes small. Anyone, who has experienced, after a rich rain, the awakening of nature or even the sporadic small rocky stream under the southwest wall of the Great Spitzkoppe, takes home an unforgettable experience.

Position of the climbing area Spitzkoppe

The "Spitzkuppe" (also Spitzkoppe) is geologically a classic mountain island in the Namib Desert 100 km away from the Atlantic Ocean. The travel distance from Swakopmund is about 180 km, from Windhoek 280 km. The rock is very rough granite, which is badly weathered on the sunny side and care is required. There are many pure sports climbing tours (mostly friction), but also heavy chink climbing. For the latter a good range of wedges and chink clamps (preferably up to Camelot 5) are required. The current guidebook "Spitzkoppe & Pontoks" by E. Haber (2010) is out of print.

The area is accessible apart after rare heavy rainfall, with a normal car.

Overnight, Camping, Safety

Today the area around the Spitzkuppe is managed by a local village community. At the reception, a relatively small fee for entrance and camping is payable. The camping area can be chosen freely. There is also a simple bungalow to stay in, even beer and souvenirs can be bought from the friendly people at the reception, the latter but at exorbitant prices. In a brochure of NACOBTA "guides" are highly praised. It must be noted that none of the local leaders physically or mentally are in a position to guide a rope team on to the summit. About equipment we do not talk at all. Keep your hands off them, it can turn out into a disaster. The question about safety is discussed again and again. Namibia is certainly the most peaceful country in Africa to travel. However, it should not be denied that in recent years, attacks have taken place, unfortunately sometimes fatal. To blame these incidents to the settling Damara community in the area would be unfair. They most likely benefit from as many overnight guests as possible. The situation has improved considerably, but some care has become important all over the world. Since June 2009, the municipal community was connected to the water and power supply.
Unfortunately, it is now over with the tranquility of the Spitzkoppe. The village is lit up like the London airport and nocturnal sleep disturbance due to loud bongo bongo music spoil the visitor's stay. Shebeens (drinking houses) pop up like mushrooms and those seeking the tranquility and charm of an African night under open sky, rather go and visit other areas. A sad outcome of development aid, but probably not stop here. Recommended is the climbing in "layers" - it should always be someone to remain close to the vehicle or tent. No telephones are available at the reception. Mobile phone reception is (mostly) guaranteed. The nearest hospital is in Usakos (60 km). However, it is better to drive direct to the modern hospital in Swakopmund.

There are no mountain rescue teams in Namibia! In case of an accident, call "Medrescue Namibia" at the following numbers:
By Mobil phone: 112
From the local network at the reception:
Medrescue Windhoek: 061 230505
Medrescue Walvis Bay: 200200 (local call, no area code)

African spitting cobra - Zebra snake - source Dr. Stutz
African spitting cobra - Zebra snake - Naja nigricollis nigricincta

General History and Development

Already 1896 the colonial society, build a trading post. Later the Farmer Jooste settled and a police station was built (the foundation under Pontok 4 are still visible).

military base at the Spitzkoppe 1906 - source H. Gantze  the station at the Pontoks 1912 - source H. Gantze
military base at the Spitzkoppe 1906 and the station at the Pontoks 1912

In 1964, during the so-called Odendaal-plan for the creation of homelands (homelands) for the black population, the farm was expropriated with compensation. In 1970 multiple Damara families settled at Spitzkoppe and since then a village with church and school developed. Since 1998, the municipal campsite exist and on 9.07.2003 the area was declared around the Great Spitzkoppe to "Gaingu-Conservancy". Unfortunately a high game fence was build by a Hollywood film company, blocking off the entire area between the large Spitzkoppe and Pontoks. About half of the camping sites disappeared, access to many rock climbing and also for the normal route to the Great Spitzkoppe was blocked. Also the popular hike around the Great Spitzkoppe (1 - 1.5 hours) is no longer possible. The "Bushmen Paradise" to the right of the old dam in the eastern part of the area made accessible through a gate with chains, has lost its attractiveness. Many of the 2000 - 4000 year old prehistoric rock paintings have been destroyed. Around the foot of the Great Spitzkoppe one can still find good drawings, especially at the "Rhino Rock" and on some blocks so-called Boulder Valley.

Mountaineering Development

After many failed attempts of the main summit, the first success was on 14.11.1946 by Hans and Else Wongschofsky and J. de V. Graaf. At that time climbers still bivouacked at the mountain. Meanwhile, a very well trained roped group makes the normal route in 2 hours. To date (March 2009) the main peak is has been reached almost 600 times in 7 different ascents. Even on the easiest route, the "normal route", the difficulty 17 (UIAA V +) is achieved.

Only in 1960, Friedrich Schreiber, H. Lachenmann, R. Helm, achieved the ascent of the "West Wall", difficulty 19. For days, these old warriors were fighting with rusty wall hooks through the steep flank of the mountain. The first complete crossing of "Big Spitzkoppe head, southern and eastern summit, with simultaneous first ascent of a "Direttissima" the main summit and the first sport climbing of the big policeman in the south, Hasso Gantz and Volker Müller succeeded on 10.04.2004 in 12 hours!

1982 ventured for the first time the native of southwest Eckhardt Haber and his comrades dared to the ascent of the southwest wall of the "Great Spitzkoppe" and opened up the "South West Wall Route" in the difficulty 24, in thouse days still partly in the classic style Western Alps. A great performance!

1966 Pontokspitze (1629 m, V +) was climbed for the first time. Since about 1970, by many classic first ascents and the first sport climbing routes followed. From 1998, increasingly Namibian climbers, as well as Italians, Saxons, Spaniards, South Africans and others targeted the area and opened up a variety of great trails and rock towers. Currently there are about 200 routes of various requirements to select from a short, extremely difficult sport climbing route up to routes of more than 10 pitches by the "Great Spitzkoppe-south-west wall and the walls of the" Pontoks. The current level of performance documented, are great routes such as "Arch Herero" (26/A0) and others.

View from the Spitzkoppe summit to the Pontoks - photographer D. Reimann  View from the Spitzkoppe summit in the plane- photographer D. Reimann
View from the top of Spitzkoppe onto the Pontoks (thunderstorm in the background) and in the plane

Omaruru, Hoodia bainesii, photographer Hasso Gantze Omaruru, 80 oder 08, photographer Hasso Gantze
Hoodia bainesii; turvy world - attention always on the speed limit

--> A field report from Switzerland (external link, a report in german)

Route descriptions

--> The complete revised and expanded edition of the Climbing Guide (2010) is now available.

--> Big Spitzkoppe Normal way 17 (german description)
--> Prima Varianta 18 (german description)
--> Langer Ritt (Long Ride) 19 (german description)

Ralf Reissig in the route Desert Sports 27 at the Dinosaur Rock
Ralf Reissig in the route "Desert Sports" 27 at the "Dinosaur Rock"