Americans Free Climb Big Wall in Namibia, Africa


Nambia's mighty Orabeskopf Wall with Majka Burhardt, Peter Doucette, and Kate Rutherford's two new routes routes drawn in. The blue one is Southern Crossing (V 5.11+), the red one is Painted Giraffe, (V 5.9+), the yellow is called Dogbreath from 1974. Photo by Gabe Rogel / www.rogelphoto.com

Majka Burhardt, Peter Doucette, and Kate Rutherford have climbed two new big wall routes: Southern Crossing (V 5.11+) and Painted Giraffe (V 5.9+), on the 1300-foot Orabeskopf Wall in Southeastern Africa. The massive golden, granite wall is located on the Brandberg, Namibia's highest peak, with a summit just over 7,000 feet.

But that’s only part of the story. There’s also a 2,000+ year-old painted giraffe, 108-degree temperatures, eight days at 15km/hour over washboard roads, scorpions, laser sharp granite cracks, crumbling granite faces, cobras, realized conservation, weathered maps, and rugged mountain passes.

Forty-two days ago, I went to Namibia expecting to climb, explore, and push my understanding of how curiosity, ambition, and adventure work vis a vis culture. I knew all of these components would come into play during the month long trip, I just didn’t know the formulation. In the north, where we’d originally planned to climb the most, our best moments came from sitting in the shade of an Acacia tree with a group of Himba women painted in red ochre and butterfat. Himba, Afrikaans, English, Spanish and Portuguese were spoken, but often hand gestures and figures drawn in the sand gained us the vital information we sought. Further south, on the Brandberg, we scraped through the dirt, bushes, and bird refuse that guarded our perspective line for three days to get to what we hoped would be a way up. Each day, we looked for a way for this country, the “easy Africa,” to give us portals to a higher stance, a greater understanding, or a smooth road. We eventually found all of them.

Watch a video trailer of the adventure by Chris Alstrin here.

Namibia 2009 was supported, in part by The Polartec Challenge Fund and the Mountain Grant Program of the Banff Centre, with additional support provided by Patagonia, Osprey Petzl, Outdoor Research, Clif Bar, and Scrapa.

Date of Ascent: Early June, 2009

Sources: Majka Burhardt / majkaburhardt.com, Gabe Rogel / rogelphoto.com and Chris Alstrin / alstrinfilms.com

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