Rasselbande plans to reach Koenigstein summit on 02 January for Brandberg centenary
A small expedition is currently underway in the Brandberg with the idea of reaching the Koeningstein summit on 02 January 2018, exactly 100 years after it was first scaled by a party of three German explorers.
The current expedition is the brainchild of historian, geographer and political scientist, Dr Helge Kleifeld who has been preparing for this momentous ascent since 2009 when the idea of an anniversary climb was first mooted. Dr Kleifeld is accompanied by archeologist Martina Trognitz and by Lukas Gehrig, a pilot.
The Koenigstein was first scaled by European explorers when on 02 January 1918, Ernst Gries, Reinhard Maack and Georg Schulze reached the summit at 2,537 metres above sea level although at that time, the explorers were not aware what the mountain’s exact height is. Today the Koenigstein is recognised as the highest peak in the country. Although the then South West Africa was already under South African control, the first World War still raged in Germany and Germans could only travel with special permission, for instance for scientific purposes. The exploratory Brandberg trip was then flogged to the South African authorities as a scientific expedition.
On the way back, Maack stumbled upon the famous White Lady of the Brandberg, today one of Damaraland’s best known tourist attractions, seen annually by tens of thousands of visitors.
The anniversary expedition plans to erect a Schwarzburgbund flag on 02 January to mark the successful completion of their epic ambulatory journey. Afterwards, a more academically inclined celebration is scheduled for Swakopmund.
Dr Kleifeld is an authority on the life and work of Gries. He has published numerous articles and a book on Gries as well as consulted Gries’ estate at the German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture. He is also Gries’ successor in his function as the archivist of the Schwarzburgbund and a member of a fraternity in which Gries was also a member. After the war, Gries became the principal of the Kaiserliche Realschule in Windhoek.
The anniversary climb is coordinated by Basil Calitz of the Brandberg Rest Camp. He is the only reliable local guide who was prepared to assist the modern German explorers with the planning of their expedition. A native Brandberg guide is also accompanying the group for their own safety.
Reaching the Koenigstein can only be done on foot. Local climber use a general rule of thumb: three days in, two days out, and if water is not found in the Koerner Rock by the end of the third day, the attempt is aborted, and rescheduled for another time after better rains.