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Bouldering in Namibia: Nils Favre's Quest for Quality

Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Namibia has its share of wildlife and sand dunes, but, until recently, it remained lacking in quality bouldering problems. This year a Belgian-Swiss team arrived in the South African country, seeking a trip off the beaten path.

For three years I looked for a special trip. I had traveled to a lot of places for bouldering, and each time the plan was a bit the same: try some really hard boulder and attempt to repeat the already-developed classics in the area. This time I was looking for another approach. My goal was to discover a new area in a new country; I wanted to travel to a new part of the world and try to establish some bouldering in this place.

Stephane Hanssens and I began to plan for the trip, deciding to travel to Namibia because the landscape looked amazing and the conditions for climbing looked quite good. Although we found a lot of rock with Google Earth, we didn't know the quality. Still, the landscape and the wildlife looked so nice that we decided to go even though the quality of rock had the potential to be bad. We were joined by my girlfriend, Vivi Monteiro, Stephane's sister, Nathalie Hanssens and Jean-Louis Wertz.

Upon arrival we found a lot of rock, but the quality was incredibly poor, making climbing impossible. Each day we moved to another area to explore, wondering if anywhere in Namibia had rock strong enough to be climbed.

Favre climbs Le Diamant.
Favre, spotted by Hanssens, on a project that is still waiting for the right climber.
Favre climbs at moonrise, avoiding the heat of the day.

Finally, we found the first good climbing of the trip in a place called Kleine Spitzkoppe. I was looking for something special, for a line that immediately makes you want to climb it the first time you see it. And I found it. The problem sat on a big boulder with a good undercling to start, and I was sure this problem would be one of the best lines that we would find in Namibia. It was exactly the line that I had wanted to discover before leaving Switzerland. I brushed it and during the evening with good condition I did the first ascent of Le Diamant—“The Diamond” (V12). It was probably the best looking line I have opened in my life.

Over the next few days, we found a few more quality problems, and at the very end of the trip we stumbled upon what is probably the best area in Namibia for bouldering. In Mont Etjo, the area is full of boulders and the quality of the rock is compact and clean. We only had two days in Mont Etjo, so I decided to choose the best hard line and give all my energy to it. The line—Madisa (V13)—is a compression-style prow. It’s a bit high, and I needed to find some tricky beta to send.

During our trip we didn't just climb. We slept in tents every night with absolutely nobody around. Sometimes we stayed many days in the same place and didn't meet anybody except some zebras. We discovered an amazing country with a lot of beautiful landscape.

—Nils Favre