Damaraland desert hiking (Namibia)

A couple of short, evening hikes to some of the Damaraland peaks around Camp Kipwe, with stunning views over the desert landscape.

Camp Kipwe Circuit

We arrive at Camp Kipwe, in the Damaraland area of Namibia, at around 3pm. The rest of the family is keen to have a swim and enjoy a quiet afternoon, so I take advantage of my “free afternoon” to explore the area on foot. I’d found some information on-line that states: “This region is ideal for walking and guests are encouraged to explore the area surrounding Camp Kipwe”. So I set-off in the direction of the nearest small hill. It looks a reasonable height, but in reality is less than 50m – and it seems to be a pretty straightforward “climb”.

The top is quickly reached, and even the relatively low elevation gain provides 360-degrees over the Damaraland desert. The vegetation is very sparse, with the dry landscape broken up by a number of rocky outcrops and mountains.

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To the south, the Aba-Huab River is marked by the denser and greener vegetation; while the riverbed is dry and water rarely flows down the watercourse, the deep roots of the trees are able to reach the underground water table.

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Sending up the drone yields an even better view of the arid landscape, with the taller mountains to the north-west, and the long line of trees to the east marking the path of the dry Aba-Huab River.

From here, it seems logical to head down the other side of my mini-mountain, and complete a small circuit around our camp up and over the next three outcrops.

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The next mini-peak is directly opposite Camp Kipwe, and you can see from here how the huts are nestled into the boulders.

From the end of this outcrop I’m right at the edge of the Aba-Huab valley.

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Ahead of me is the last mini-peak of my circuit…

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This one proves the trickiest to climb, although it too is only about 30m high, consisting of larger boulder than the previous outcrops. It takes a few attempts to find a viable route to the top!

There’s another great view from the top over the Damaraland desert: looking east there’s Camp Kipwe down below (the smallest outcrop in the middle) with some of the higher peaks beyond.

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Descending on the other side proves a bit quicker. I make a slight detour to have a closer look at a tree that stands out by it’s whiteness against the red landscape. I learn later from one of the guides that it’s a Star Chestnut Tree, which grows mostly on rocky outcrops and hill slopes. The trunk is smooth and appears very white due to a powdery white substance (bloom) that rubs off – this white bloom only occurs on trees growing in the arid western parts of Namibia.

From here it’s quick walk around the Camp Kipwe outcrop, and back to the camp in time for sundowners. I don’t know it (yet), but in the distance is a larger mountain that’s the target of tomorrow’s evening walk…

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Mountain Climb with Stanley

During sundowners, at the top of Camp Kipwe which overlooks the desert with peaks all around us, I ask one of the staff “have you climbed any of the peaks?”. To my surprise, Stanley points very definitively at one of the higher mountains and replies “I’ve always wanted to climb that one”. “How about tomorrow”, I suggest, half-jokinly… and his immediate response is: “I’ll be ready at 6pm”.

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The following day, after our afternoon drive, I grab a water bottle and head-torch, and we set-off. Although the very top looks attainable, our plan is to reach the top of the odd-shaped boulders at the front of the mountain.

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We look for a way up to the left of the “funny boulders” – there are some steep sections initially, but the going is not too difficult. There’s another Star Chestnut Tree on the steep slope, standing out starkly against the red desert.

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As we get closer to the boulders, we pick a path around the back of the boulders – they are enormous, and the only way up is to find a way through the gaps!

Finally we find a suitable rock ledge at the front of the outcrop, with 180 degrees over the desert below us, as we wait for the sun set to set. (Unfortunately, poor planning on my part means we don’t have a Gin & Tonic in the backpack!).

An aerial photos shows where we are, at the top of the first few boulders. Well below the mountain peak, but with more time it looks feasible to reach the top of the mountain. Next time!

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To the east the desert and rock outcrops continue well into the distance. The Aba-Huab valley is clearly visible, marked by the ribbon of trees through the desert.

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To the west, the sun is setting over an equally vast stretch of desert.

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It’s not a bad spot to end the day… Once the sun has set, we head back down, finding an easier path down the western side of the mountain. There’s a few large bounds between boulders, and we make the bottom of the mountain by nightfall.

From here, it’s a short walk back to the camp. Thanks Stanley 🙂

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Location Around Camp Kipwe, in Damaraland (western Namibia)
Distance Camp Kipwe circuit – 3.6km (70m total ascent)
Mountain climb – 4km (130m ascent)
Grade Easy/moderate (rock scrambling; minimal exposure)
Season/s All year round
Maps None available
GPS Route Camp Kipwe circuit and mountain climb Routie GPS trails.
View route and export to KML format.

SatelliteMap-KipweWalks

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