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German for ‘pointed dome’, Spitkzoppe is also known as Spitzkop, Groot Spitzkop or the ‘Matterhorn of Namibia’.  Spitzkoppe is a collection of smooth, granite peaks or bornhardts situated between Usakos and Swakopmund in the Namib Desert of Namibia. The rocks are over 700 million years old, and the tallest outcrop reaches about 1,784 metres above sea level.

The summits stand out vividly from the flat surrounding landscape. The tallest peak reaches around 700 metres off the desert floor. A smaller peak, Little Spitzkoppe, is situated close by and rises approximately 1,584 metres above sea level. Other significant peaks expand out into a range referred to as the Pontok Mountains.

Various samples of Bushmen artwork can be observed on the rock in the Spitzkoppe region. ‘Bushman Paradise’ was made accessible through a chained gate, but has since lost its allure as mostly all of the 2000-4000 year old pre-historic rock artworks have been destroyed. You will still, however, be able to locate many good paintings around the base of the Great Spitzkoppe – specifically at the ‘Rhino Rock’.

If you wish to hike up any of the peaks, you will be required to have a rather high level of climbing expertise. Whilst the normal route to the summit is not incredibly difficult in present technical terms, it once was near to impossible to reach the top due to its isolation and harsh conditions in which it is set.

The first documented trip to the peak’s summit was made by a climbing team from Cape Town – an expedition led by S. Le Roux. The next group to defeat the peak pioneered a route up the northern extremes of the peak, after having failed on the southwest ridge. They found entry to the gully now referred to as the ‘scramble’, but ran out of time to attempt the last faces. They tried again four days later, but eventually gave up. Some of the earliest climbers could not scale the astonishingly smooth granite outcrop of around three metres high, and resorted to carving steps into the rock with a hammer and chisel.

Several months following that attempt, Hans and Else Wong, as well as Jannie de Villiers Graaff, reached the top of the peak on a November afternoon in 1946. For the following quarter of a century, the mountain kept its reputation as a 3 day hiking struggle.

This age came to an end in 1971, when the summit was conquered in just four hours by a team led by J.W. Merchant from the University of Cape Town. This party climbed all of the lower portions without the use of ropes and made their way through the challenging band without using the carved steps. They trekked back down in a mere two hours, and as they reached the bottom rain started to fall for the first time in more than a year. The mystery of Spitzkoppe will always make the area worth paying a visit to.

Have a look at our great Tours to Namibia

About Bronwyn Paxton

Article by: Bronwyn Paxton
on August 7, 2013
Filed under  Africa Blog • Destinations • Namibia 
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