words by Alexandra Schweikart, Christopher Igel
pic by Nils Ohlendorf
A journey of discovery in Africa
After the fall of Robert Mugabe in December 2017, we explored the country to find mountains, and climbing routes that were previously considered unknown. The people of Zimbabwe welcomed us with open hearts and enjoyed our busy-ness – the ‘crazy Europeans’ who wanted to climb their mountains. We put up a total of 31 pitches graded between 6a and 7c+, many of them easy to moderate trad routes.
In the last few years we have travelled to many western-influenced countries like the US, Spain and New Zealand to find unclimbed rock, but this time we felt we should explore more unfamiliar cultures, something new, a trip of not knowing what tomorrow would bring! Southern Africa was our match, and we started to look for climbing destinations in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia.
In 2011, we’d shared a wonderful time with a group of climbers from South Africa who praised the great climbing potential in Zimbabwe. When we found out that a friend of ours, Jörg Helfrich, had already been there and was keen to go back, our destination was finally set. And Nils Ohlendorf came along to capture it all through his lens. Two weeks before our flight, a military coup and civil protest forced President Mugabe to step down. It is not the most settling thing to see your travel destination on the news − with tanks and troops on the streets – while you are in the throes of packing! Several locals assured us that everything would be alright and it turned out to be true. When we arrived, we felt the spirit of optimism!
During our three-week trip, we found tons of granite rock, from small boulders to 300-metre pinnacles and domes with perfect cracks. We explored the mountains north of Harare and south of Bulawayo, the two main cities in the country. Basically, we were looking for rock formations we had seen on Google Maps and on pictures online. Members of the Zimbabwe Alpine Club generously shared information and pictures of unclimbed rocks in exchange for some lead climbing instructions and cam placing exercises on their local crag in Harare.