Any ascent of the peak involves exposed and delicate rock climbing of a high grade. While the standard route up the peak is not severely difficult in modern technical terms, it presented quite a formidable undertaking in the earliest days, owing to the isolation of the peak, the heat of the desert and the total lack of water.
Before the First World War what is now Namibia was German South West Africa. It is possible that the main peak was summited as early as 1904, when a soldier of the Imperial Schutztruppe supposedly soloed the peak and made a fire on the summit. What he may have burned remains a mystery, as there is absolutely no natural fuel of any kind on the upper parts of the peak. The legend suggests that he never returned and that his body was never recovered. Certainly, no proof of his conquest is available today. The first documented conquest was made by a team of climbers from Cape Town, led by S. le Roux. The next party – O'Neil, Shipley and Schaff – pioneered a route up the northern extremes of the peak, after having failed on the southwest ridge. They gained access to the gully now known as the "scramble" but ran out of time to attempt the final faces. Four days later they made another attempt but finally gave up. Some of the earliest climbers, defeated by an extraordinarily smooth band of granite only about 3m high, resorted to carving steps into the rock with a hammer and chisel.
A few months later Hans and Else Wong and Jannie de Villiers Graaff arrived and they reached the summit at noon, in November 1946. For the next quarter of a century the mountain maintained its reputation of presenting a two- or three-day struggle to potential climbers. (There are accounts of these ascents in old volumes of the Journal of The Mountain Club of South Africa – one of which can be found at scanned extracts from MCSA Journal).
This era came to an end in 1971, when the peak was climbed in four hours by a party led by J. W. Marchant from the