The Spitzkoppe is one of the highlights of visiting Namibia. A cluster of granite mountains on the north western directions of Usakos, on the way to Swakopmund. A favourite destination for campers, climbers, and photographers, and considered as Namibia's most recognizable landmarks.
The Spitzkoppe is also described as the "Matterhorn of Namibia", and rises to an altitude of 1728 metres, Although it is not Namibia's highest mountain, due to its striking outlines, it happens to be the popular mountain in the country.
Situated in an endless, dry plain, the island of mountains can be seen from far away. The difference in altitude between the mountain peak and the surrounding plains measures 700 Meter. Next to the Spitzkoppe is the "Small Spitzkoppe" with a height of 1584 metres above sea level and next to it the Pontok Mountains.
This isolated mountain, which rises suddenly from the surrounding desert, is known as an inselberg (island mountain), and shares this distinction with Uluru in Australia and Sugar Loaf Mountain in Brazil among others.
All around the Spitzkoppe and the Pontok Mountains you will find many hundreds of rock paintings. The Spitzkoppe is known to contain almost 40 rock art sites and test excavations reveal well preserved works dating back to 4000 years. Some of the art seems to portray rain making rituals.
The findings of a wide range of objects used for hunting, the preparation of animal hides, and the remains of animal and plant food, suggests that this area was a dry season base with reliable resources to sustain life.
Climbing this mountain in the early part of the last century, presented formidable challenges due to its isolation, the heat and total lack of water. It is not as difficult for today’s climbers with modern technical equipment.
The Spitzkoppe is ideal for hikers and climbers of all levels. There are slopes simple enough for beginners, and rock faces that are challenging for professionals.
Although the sunsets are spectacular around Spitzkoppe, this is a place where people come for the stars.
Because of its distance from any human habitation, there is no light pollution or air pollution, which means that the night sky is a wonder to behold. The constellations are crowded by millions of other stars which are normally invisible even from small towns.
The dry winter months of June to September are particularly good for stargazing because there are no clouds and the crisp air makes viewing clearer.
Was this how those early rock art painters saw the Namibian sky so many thousands of years ago?
Make sure you bring your own equipment and some details of the night sky although constellation maps may be available at the various camps sites.
- Rock Climbing:
Since the Western face was first climbed in 1946, The Spitzkoppe has drawn raves reviews from climbers. Beside the Spitzkoppe rise the equally impressive Pontoks, which are comprised of enormous granite domes.
Camping spots are clean and safe. It's worth spending 3 or 4 days there! Bouldering opportunities are also abundant in this area.
The best climbing is in the winter months (June, July, and August) are recommended if you want to do real climbing. During the summer months it is not advisable to climb the Spitzkoppe due to the unbearable heat.
- Hiking & Walking Trails: There are 3 walking routes available and all groups need to be done with a guide in groups not exceeding 10 people.
(i) Pontok Route: Takes 4 hours. You need to be fit to walk this route that takes you to a look-out point on the top of Spitzkoppe.
(ii) Matterhorn Route: Takes 6-8 hours. Exposed scrambling for experienced and very fit hikers, no climbing gear involved. The steep and exposed hike reaches a high viewpoint not far from the summit.
(iii) Bushman Circle Route: Takes 7 hours. You need to be fairly fit for this walk that includes a chain climb up a steep slope followed by a flat walking surface with sand and rock.
- Bird Spotting:
The habitat around the Spitzkoppe is made up primarily of scattered acacia scrub, you will see the sociable weaver birds build tenement style nests that are occupied for up to a century. The following are some of the bird species to be seen:
Herero Chat, Rüppell's Bustard, White-tailed Shrike, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Rosy Faced Lovebird, Peregrine Falcon, Black-chested Snake-Eagle and Stark's Lark.
Other activities in the area include bouldering and rustic cave camping as well as multi-day safaris. This area is not for those who want lush forests. But if you are a camper, climber, a geologist, a hiker, a bird spotter or a stargazer, Spitzkoppe is like heaven on earth. The sheer diversity of these landscapes are breath-taking and the history of the place and the night sky will stretch your mind.