Climbing Namibia’s highest mountain

Namibias highest peak

Climbing the Brandberg 6 – 10 July 2008 by Wild at Heart Safaris

The Brandberg is Namibia’s highest mountain. Königstein is the highest peak at 2573 meters.

About the Author: Kobus Alberts is 34 years of age and is married with 2 children. He was born in Usakos, Namibia, and is currently living in Swakopmund. He holds a diploma in Nature Conservation and has spent 11 Years of his life living in most of the National Parks and Game Reserves of Namibia. He has most recently been heading up the National Marine Aquarium of Namibia in Swakopmund, a position he held for 5 years and is now a director of Wild at Heart Safaris and Namibian owned travel company unique is that it was established entirely by ex-game rangers with a love of thier country.  email: info@wildatheartsafaris.com

On the 6th of July I, Steffen Oesterle, Volker Mohrholz and Toralf Heene started the climb to Königstein.

We left at 14:00, with the aim to overnight in the area near to Springbokwasser. (Just to put the distances and height a bit into perspective, you need to know the following.  The vehicle was stopped at the foot of the Brandberg at a height of 700 meter. The total distance from the vehicle to Königstein, using a GPS, was 11 Kilometre)

Following a footpath it looked really easy, until the footpath disappeared. After some boulder scrambling, we found a trail again and this trail led us straight to camp.

Passing by Springbokwasser I were nicely surprised to see this very strong fountain. Even more to my surprise were the Bushmen painting close by. It depicts 2 Springbuck and a human standing behind them. It is very clear and the colours have been brilliantly preserved. A stunning Bushmen painting. 200 Meter further, in a straight line, and about 150 meters higher were our camp. This is one of the few places where there was level ground for sleeping purposes.  Also in the area we found some “stone circles” from previous times.  The saddle near Springbokwasser seems to be a well known place to both mountain climbers and to the people from earlier times.

We covered 3, 45 Kilometre and gained 484 meters in height.  It took us 4 hours to achieve the first walk to camp.

The highest temperature during the day was 31, 4ºC and the coldest 12, 9°C.

The second day started with coffee and some muesli for breakfast. Today would be the big climb as we aim to reach the plateau by evening. Instead of following the Hungurob valley, we found a trail that skirts the mountain side.

This gives you some exceptional views of the valley below as you continue to climb.  The trail itself is used regularly, but that does not make it easier, as the climb is mainly straight up.

Lunch was had at another strong spring on the valley floor. At this point there is a split in the valley and we take the steeper of the two valleys presented to us, of course. This is still part of the Hungurob, so the climb continues. Finally reaching the plateau I received a strange surprise.  All the while I was under the impression that the plateau would be relatively flat, but oh man was I wrong!!! As far as the eye can see it is just more rolling hills and valley, but this is the plateau as the climbing becomes less steep from this point onwards. After a long lunch stop we carry on, climbing once again. At the “Waterfall” we fill up our water bottles and explore the area.  Again some good Bushmen paintings are found.

Close to our camp for the night we came upon the famous “Snake Rock” Bushmen paintings. An extremely good site, with at least 30 or more, pictures of several different kinds.

Our camp for the night is not well sheltered but to make up for this we have a view that is breathtaking. As the sun sets the colours form a painting of the plains below our feet. That evening we could see the lights of a town called HentiesBay as well.

Total distance covered were 3, 71 Kilometre and we gained 956 meters in height. (Snake Rock camp at 2140 meters)

Hottest for the day was 26.6ºC and the coldest 8.7ºC, at night.

Today we aim to reach Königstein. In our quest to finally reach the summit we leave behind most of our equipment and only take some food and water in our ruck sacks.  This of course lightens the load immensely and walking is suddenly not so hard and difficult anymore. The tension inside me is building quickly now, as Königstein is the highest point in Namibia, and I would dearly love to reach it.

Climbing low ridges and crossing over small flat plains we gain ground quickly. Suddenly Volker lets out a yell, and as we stop we see a leopard racing away from us. He must have been as surprised as we were, because he is only about 30 meters away from us. A splendid animal, lean with a very dark coat.  We have seen the tracks on the previous day, but now know for sure that there are some live leopards around. He was seen at a height of 2264 meters, and I am very sure that is the highest leopard in Namibia. (Will pass this information to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, once I am back in Swakopmund again)

At around 09:00 we take a last break, before attempting Königstein. Once we started climbing we do not want to stop, just keep going with an easy and steady rhythm. At 10:30 all four of the team are on the highest point in Namibia.  Sitting around laughing and joking, each takes his turn to fill in the book that is left there for future climbers.

The view from Königstein is like looking from an airplane.  The Spitskoppe, Erongo and several other mountains can be seen in the distance, but it is mainly the immense space that gets to you.  The air feels cleaner and the body is rid of all tiredness in this moment of victory.

Slowly we make our way back to the previous night’s camp. After packing everything again, we decide to go back via another route. Instead of following the Hungurob valley again, we will go the Helm Pools.

Of course I should have known what was coming, but still being on a “high” after Königstein I just walked along. Crossing a saddle we looked down a gorge that will take us to Helm Pools. At first sight it looked really easy, but once we started going down we realised we may have a long afternoon ahead. Big boulders and a lot of vegetation made the going very hard. At 17:00 we reached our camp for the night. It took us 2 hours to descend 300 meters.

We covered 9, 8 Kilometre that day, and descended 773 meters in total.

Camp 3 is situated on a height of 1800 meters.

Hottest temperature was 28 °C and the coldest it got was 4, 3 ºC

After a good nights rest, me and Volker head to Helm Pools. It is a formation of valleys, linked by a small river. We started at camp and walked uphill to the highest valley in search of Bushmen Paintings. Volker found some, however hard we looked, we could not find any more. The area itself is stunning. In these valleys there is a huge array of herbs and plant life.  The little plains that are present are fully covered in Bushmen grass and the effect of the grass waving in the wind is just spectacular.

At 11:00 we were back at camp again, and ready to start the big descend, back to the

Springbuck water camp.

Again the team decides to follow a gorge that will eventually meet up with the big Hungurob gorge. Again it is a small mission just to get down again, get slowed down by plant growth, just to climb the mountain again to get out of the plant growth.

Walking is hard, but the views more then make up for the discomfort.  The rugged and steep valleys with their various colours and shapes keep catching your eye.

Lunch is made at the Bushmen spring, and now the team knows that from here on we will follow a trail.

Another absolutely awesome day comes to an end as we come around a bend and catch sight of our campsite.  After unpacking we walk down to the valley and found some more Bushmen paintings.

Total distance covered, 6, 58 and we descended 616 meters.

Hottest temperature for the day was 27, 5°C and the coldest 7, 3ºC

Once again one can see the plains as we are nearly on their level again. Some 484 meters and we will be on flat ground again.

During the night the team decided that we would go hunting for some more Bushmen Paintings as we descended. The “Lower Accumulation” comprises of quite a lot of Bushmen Paintings and these we would seek once we are on their level.

At 09:00 we split up in teams of two and start searching for these elusive paintings from the past. Steffen found quite a lot during this period, as did Volker and Toralf.

Again the paintings are really impressive and the pictures can be seen very clear. At 11:00 the team start descending the last 200 meters and 12:00 on the 10th of June we reach our vehicle again.

Distance covered for the day 4 Kilometre.

Hottest temperature, measure until 12:00 only, was 34, 7°C and the coldest for that day was 12, 6ºC.

The Brandberg is truly one of the last wilderness areas in Namibia, due to its rugged and difficult nature.  This in turn protects some of the best Bushmen paintings I have ever seen.

Do not be fooled by the distances covered, as it really does not seem like a lot, but add the height and the terrain of the trails, sometimes no trail at all, and you have a mountain worth climbing.

On average we walked a speed of 1, 56 kilometres per hour. That should say enough of the terrain.

The views, splendour and raw nature presented during the climb will take me back to Brandberg time and time again.

Kobus Alberts | Wild at Heart Safaris

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