The Surreal Landscape of Deadvlei, Namibia

The picture below is not that of a painting. It was taken inside the Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia, in a strange and alien landscape called Dead Vlei. Although sounds similar to “dead valley”, Dead Vlei is not an actually valley. The term means “dead marsh” (from English dead, and Afrikaans vlei, a lake or marsh in a valley between the dunes).

Deadvlei is a white clay pan located near the more famous salt pan of Sossusvlei, scattered with hundreds of dead Acacia trees that once thrived when water from the Tsauchab River soaked this piece of land. Some 900 years ago the river diverted its course, leaving Dead Vlei literally high and dry. Dead Vlei has been claimed to be surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the world, the highest reaching 300-400 meters which rest on a sandstone terrace.

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The Southern Namib desert is home to some of the tallest and most spectacular dunes of the world, ranging in color from pink to vivid orange. These dunes continue right to the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The cold waters of the sea brushing against the dunes of the Namib desert is one of the most surreal sights.

While the sea coast extends for hundreds of miles, one of the best places to see these dunes is at Swakopmund. Known as Swakop in Namibia, it is the country’s biggest coastal town and a mecca for Namibians on holiday. The city’s German origins are quite pronounced in beautiful old German Colonial buildings throughout the city, making an even starker contrast for this town sitting at the edge of the Namib Desert.

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The Daredevils of Yosemite

In the grand peaks of California’s eastern wilderness, a new generation of super-climbers is pushing the limits of adventure – with no rope to save them from error.

A true cliff-hanger

In California’s Yosemite National Park, a new breed of daredevil climbers practice the sport of free soloing — rock climbing without a rope and relying solely on hands and feet wedged into the cracks to ascend the park’s massive granite obelisks. When the 2,130-ft tall Half Dome (pictured in the distance) was first climbed in 1957, it took Californian Royal Robbins and his teammates five days to reach the top – and that was with the aid of ropes. Today, free solo climbers summit in just a few hours. Pictured is free solo climber Dean Potter ascending a route on Yosemite’s Glacier Point. (Mikey Schaefer/National Geographic Stock)

 

Over the rainbow

Climber Kate Rutherford jams her hands into fissures of a climbing route called Freestone, close to the roar of Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America at 2,425ft. In Yosemite, 83 climbers have died during climbs since 1955. Free soloing leaves no room for error. (Jimmy Chin/National Geographic Stock)

 

Granite Titans

Yosemite’s peaks are sheer vertical cliffs thousands of feet high, rising above the fog and dwarfing the hundred-foot pine trees in the valley below. About four million people visit Yosemite every year, though only a few thousand of them are climbers. They venture to the park to measure themselves against its giants, including El Capitan (left), a prow of stone 2,916ft tall. To climb in Yosemite is a rite of passage. (Jimmy Chin/National Geographic Stock)

 

A bold ascent

Kevin Jorgesen, a climber since the age of 12, clings with fingertips to the face of El Capitan. On the right is the Thank God Ledge — a 40ft-long sliver of granite on Half Dome and the only way to get beyond the Visor, a massive roof that looms over Half Dome’s Regular Northwest Face route. Most people crawl, but Alex Honnold (pictured), who became a celebrity in 2008 when he first climbed the famed route without a rope, prefers to face the 1,800ft void beneath him. (Jimmy Chin/National Geographic Stock)

 

A tent with a view

Climbers live in portaledges – tiny tents suspended from the wall – when working on a route. Jorgeson (left) and his companion can live in a portaledge 1,500ft above the valley for up to two weeks; the best amenities in their studio in the sky are a French press for coffee and iPhones (charged with a solar panel). (Jimmy Chin/National Geographic Stock)

 

Final descent

Climbers BASE jump from Half Dome before hiking down the back of the mountain. Like those who made the pilgrimage before them and those who will follow, these thrill seekers come to Yosemite to test themselves against the parks granite Titans. (Jimmy Chin and Lynsey Dyer/National Geographic Stock)

 

Straining to reach

Climber Cedar Wright grips with chalked hand the roof of Gravity Ceiling on Higher Cathedral Rock, located on the south side of Yosemite Valley near its entrance. Like many professional climbers, he trains relentlessly to keep fit. Unlike some European professionals who enjoy generous corporate sponsorship, most American climbers barely get by financially. Many earn just enough cash to crash in their vans and eat beans and rice. Because of visitation limits at Yosemite, many live full-time in vehicles at the park. (Jimmy Chin/National Geographic Stock)

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The Saar Loop at Mettlach

The Saar River rises in the Vosges mountains on the border of Alsace and Lorraine, in France, then flows northward through western Germany to its confluence with Mosel river, near Trier. Within Germany the Saar River pursues a winding course until it reaches a barrier in the form of Hunsrück, a low mountain range made of hard quartzite rock. Quartzite is a hard, metamorphic rock which was originally sandstone. Sandstone is converted into quartzite through heating and pressure usually related to tectonic compression. The river, unable to carve a way through the rocks, makes a full 180-degree turn and cuts a deep U-shaped gorge through the thickly wooded mountains. This remarkable hairpin bend located above Mettlach is called the Saar Loop or Saarschleife in German, and is one of the most famous sights of Saarland. The river flows parallel for a long stretch in the opposite direction before turning left and continuing its northward journey towards Mosel river.

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