The Grosse Spitzkoppe and surrounding Pontoks is a unique and unspeakably beautiful place to climb. Tall granite peaks and domes lay sprawled over a large area of arid desert, huge slabs sweeping down from elusive summits, some split by long cracks and enticing corners. In and around Spitzkoppe, there is an abundance of climbing on offer, from single- and multi-pitch sport routes (from easy to very demanding) to fantastic multi-pitch trad climbing on the bigger peaks. The classic Standard Route on Spitzkoppe which goes at about grade 17 and is somewhat of an adventure is a must do, as well as To Bolt or Not to Bolt on the Pontok Spitze – an immaculate route at only grade 18. Besides these two moderate gems, there is a plethora of excellent climbs adorning all the peaks, from short to long and from easy to hard. Well protected routes to not so well protected. But there something for everybody and it is a place that will remain in your memory forever.
IMAGE: Alex Honnold laybacking on the superb Nothing in Moderation. Marianne Schwankhart
Best time to visit
Spitzkoppe lies in the mid-north of Namibia, which is basically in the middle of the desert, so taking this into consideration it is not a wise decision to visit during the summer months. Summers are excruciatingly hot and it is almost impossible to climb. The best times to do a trip to Spitzkoppe is from May through September, with June to August being optimal.
The whole of the Spitzkoppe area has a typical desert climate – insufferably hot in summer and perfect climbing conditions in winter, but with rather chilly nights. You can just about bank on no rain, but there are times when the desert areas experience lashing rain causing minor flooding, but this is normally short lived.
IMAGE: Alex Honnold high on Nothing in Moderation. Marianne Schwankhart
Camping and accommodation
The camping at Spitzkoppe is magnificent. Beautiful wild campsites under the crisp desert skies. There are 31 sites accommodating up to 8 persons per site. Each site has a dry toilet and refuse is collected daily. Hot showers are also available at the reception area. There also some rustic rooms available. For more information visit www.spitzkoppe.com
The rock and the climbing
The whole area is comprised of very weathered granite. No fine grained Yosemite granite here. Most of the slabs are slightly crunchy, unless you are climbing within a water worn dyke, in which case the rock is beautifully hard and crystallised. Routes either follow cracks and corner systems, which are fairly well protected (be sure to bring a range of large cams along), or bolted dykes and slabs, or a mixture of both. Overall the quality of the rock is pretty good, but care should be taken as the weathered granite has a tendency to crumble in places.
IMAGE: Alex Honnold sport climbing around Spitzkoppe. Marianne Schwankhart
For more information on all of the above and detailed descriptions of the climbing get the following guidebooks, which are all available from Mountain Mail Order:
Spitzkoppe and Pontoks – Namibia
Visit samountain.co.za/bluemountain for more details about the guidebooks
All text by Tony Lourens.