On June 1st, Majka Burhardt, Peter Doucette, and Kate Rutherford completed Southern Crossing: a 1300-foot 5.11+, grade 5 rock climbing first ascent on the Brandberg, Namibia’s highest peak. 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.
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.
*I share this news with a heavy heart in light of the recent news about Jonny Copp, Micah Dash, and Wade Johnson. Just over a month ago, Jonny and I high-fived a send off for our respective expeditions and promised to trade stories when we got back. As most of you know, those are stories we will now not have a chance to hear. When my father heard the news on the radio he called me and asked me one question: "How do you make sense of this in your world?" I told him the only answer I have. "I don't."