I have temporarily deleted links to a large proportion of the topos and additional route information I have been collecting for the last four years. I am currently reviewing various options for updating the guidebook, as its 5th anniversary approaches. Most likely I will restore many of the links soon. Meanwhile, message me through the contact page if you are looking for something specific.
Stephen Hyndman just sent me details for new stuff in Wadi Khab Shamis (Dibba Inland area). These are one new sport area with routes to F7a and one new multi-pitch E2 trad route with bolted anchors. Uploaded here.
Shannon Borowy following pitch 3 of Inshallah Crack, E2
Someone forwarded an anonymous document to me containing an astonishingly-grand vision for the, er, region. Here are a few extracts:
“AscendME (Ascend Middle East): is a large scale long, term project; which contains many small pieces of a much larger puzzle. It will start with the UAE and Oman and as a growing sandstorm will spread to all Middle Eastern Countries. Mission/Objective: to build, develop, promote and teach safe climbing and mountain sports; while helping to support the local communities/business around the climbing areas, to support the climbing community, to help the local children’s charities, and to clean up the climbing areas first in the UAE and Oman then other Middle Easter Countries.
“AscendME is broken down into 5 main parts that all tie together to complete the objective: 1. UAE Rock Trip (Oman in October 2014) 2. AscendME Access and Bolting Fund 3. MEMGA (Middle East Mountain Sports Association) 4. Ascendme.com 5. NEW UAE and Oman Guidebook 6. Charity …
“On a National Level this work includes advocating for climbing issues in Middle Eastern Countries: Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Northern Cyprus, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen …
“Ascendme.com will be the data base for all mountain sports in the Middle East. The website will be modeled after and function similarly to the following website: UKclimbing.com, MountainProject.com, RockClimbing.com, 27Crags.com …
“Cultural Impacts are often caused due to climber being attracted to the same geologic formations that Middle Eastern Locals identify as traditional cultural and religious places. Cultural resources include, but are not limited to, Native American sacred sites, archaeological sites, petroglyphs and pictographs, ancient and historic trails, historic mining areas, cabins, springs, and landscapes that may include a mountain or a river …
EDIT: a PDF of the full original ~4000 word document is hosted here.
A few days after it was published here, Brian Coones, a US expat in Dubai, admitted authorship. Fans of his frequent clumsy plagiarism may be amused by the large amounts of text copied from places like the Access Fund website. For example, see the reference to “Native American sacred sites” above! I guess many people will doubt Brian has either the required range of skills or credibility as a climber to follow through on this complex agenda, but no-one should underestimate his aggressive self-belief. From his Facebook page:
“What you do not know is that I am a Freight Train in the sense that my resolve is steadfast yet also flexible I might bend but will not break; that my dedication and commitment is unwavering, I do what I love and love what I do, I live an inspired passionate life. So you have a choice; either you get on board the train to help, step aside as you are passed by and if you are on the tracks and in my way I won’t stop, I will keep going, I will run you down.”
Shorn of all the other nonsense, the idea of a regional climbing organisation is not completely stupid. However it would seem more appropriate that it be driven by climbers actually from the region as an Arabic language venture.
When I first came to the UAE in early 2005, access through the border for the major cliffs in nearby parts of Oman was like this:
- Khasab area: tedious passage through UAE and Oman border posts
- Wadi Bih area: just drive there
- Dibba area: ditto
- Hatta area: ditto
- Wonderwall area: ditto
But, sadly, now, for non-GCC citizens, it looks like this:
- Khasab area: tedious passage through UAE and Oman border posts
- Wadi Bih area: closed
- Dibba area: passport checks and requirement to show hotel or tour confirmation from an Oman entity
- Hatta area: sporadic passport checks by UAE police
- Wonderwall area: tedious passage through UAE and Oman border posts, unless …
The Wonderwall situation has seen the most recent deterioration. In the last few years it has been necessary to take passports but possible to pass through the UAE border post at Hili without a UAE visa exit stamp if you said you were just visiting Buraimi. Now that border post will require you to get an exit stamp, drive to the nearest Oman border post and formally enter Oman, exit Oman again and show those Oman entry/ exit stamps when you return to the UAE. This will add considerable time and expense to a visit.
One way around this is to drive toward Hatta crag instead, passing the UAE police check just east of Madam. Then drive past the Hatta crag turn as if driving toward Hatta town, but look for a turn to the right (south) at a Shell gas station. That minor road takes a twisting path southwards east of Jebel Sumaini into “between the border posts” Omani territory. There is an Omani police post on this road but current information is that they only check passports. About 60km from the Shell station is a junction. Go left there, then after about 20km turn right (west) on to a major road (the Sohar – Al Ain highway). After about 15km the roundabout on the established Wonderwall approach drive will be seen. Go left (south) there and follow instructions in the guidebook to reach the cliff.
Note that this approach was known to “work” at September 2013, but could be subject to change at any time. It is always worth seeking out an update opinion, for example, from the Real UAE Climbers Facebook group.
This map shows the layout (click on it for higher resolution). Border line is black, major and minor roads in red. Border posts are shown by national flags, police check points by a police symbol.
For Dubai climbers the route described above will add only 10-20 minutes more to the journey but for Abu Dhabi climbers the drive will be 3 hours or more each way. The best alternative for Abu Dhabi (or Al Ain) climbers would be to exit the UAE through the southern border post at Mazyad then immediately go through the nearby Oman post just to the south. About 3km south of the Oman border post is a roundabout. Turn left (east) there, on a black top road which loops back close to the border toward Wonderwall, passing a police check point. The negative aspect of this route is that the full visa exit/ entry/ exit/ re-entry procedure would have to be followed. However it is slightly more logical than the situation further north where the Oman border post on the Al Ain – Sohar road is far to the east of Wonderwall.
For any of these routes, returning the same way will be very important.
the TNF team on a “Sand Castles” summit © Mark Synott, 2012
Around new year, Hazel Findlay kindly sent me descriptions for routes done during the North Face team’s visit last year. More recently Mark Synnott sent me some photos that complement her work. I have combined the material in a document linked here. Mark’s National Geographic article about their trip should appear in August.
Hazel also mentioned her visit briefly in a blog post … describing the area as “one of the world’s most beautiful places”. Though the team originally set out to do new long trad routes, they ended up visiting several of the previously-documented DWS areas. In a separate email Hazel commented to me specifically on the DWS that “the established routes we did or tried – we thought were really good, super classic” but that “I think the best sort of trips to this area, are more exploratory, for people who want to see the coastline, do a bit of climbing, snorkel, climb chossy ridge lines etc. I don’t think it will be the next Mallorca or Vietnam.” Neil Gresham offered a similar conclusion in his article in the UK press in 2011.
Hazel Findlay and Alex Honnold on their Lions Mouth first ascent © Mark Synott, 2012
PS hopefully I don’t have to tell anyone that the copyright symbols here have real meaning. These images are the property of Mark Synott and should not appear elsewhere without his permission.
3Somes is the area midway up the gully left of centre. Viewed from the Wadi Shahah road.
Ralph Heath has uploaded details of some of the new crags he has developed in RAK over the last few years to SummitPost. A mix of trad and sport.
I repeated some of the 3Somes routes about a year ago: some good stuff there.
Maurizio Piccoli has been busy repeating routes in Wadi Ghalilah, including Acquiescence and Exit Surprise (maybe the third ascent – I blogged about the second ascent last year). He sent me a hand-drawn topo for Exit Surprise that may be useful for some people. Again it seems the guidebook’s E2 is a very low grade estimate for the route … it sounds like E3 at least.
I also now have a written account of routes done in Musandam by the TNF/ Nat Geo team. I am hoping to obtain some photos to go with it. Then I will upload it.
There are now a few copies of “UAE Rock Climbing” on the shelves in ClimbOn/ OutWest in Squamish. This is the first time the book has been stocked in North America, as far as I know. Interestingly sales from the distributor in the UK – which either go to online or European retail outlets – picked up sharply recently. This might be somehow connected with the publicity surrounding the TNF team (Alex Honnold, Hazel Findlay, etc) visiting Musandam … or it might be coincidence.
Jimmy Chin on the TNF yacht © Mikey Schaefer, 2012
Based on various small nuggets of information on the web, it seems a team of The North Face sponsored athletes, photographers and film-makers (Alex Honnold, Hazel Findlay, Renan Ozturk, Jimmy Chin, others) is visiting the Musandam coast for two weeks in a 40′ trimaran. Not much is known about their specific intentions, but as both Alex and Hazel are more associated with serious trad’ing (and soloing in Alex’s case) rather than ephemeral fun (!) like DWS, perhaps we will hear reports of long route ascents in due course. Certainly this event is likely to raise awareness of Musandam climbing.
The team didn’t research their visit directly with any local sources as far as I can tell. They are also talking on the web inaccurately about the “unexplored” coastline. Hopefully that’s PR spin and they have bothered with a google search before setting sail. There are precedents for being concerned about this: a few years ago a Black Diamond team visited the Jebel Misht area then sprayed about a big first ascent once back in the USA – but in fact they had just (unknowingly) repeated an existing route.
Anyway, I am sure all “local” climbers wish them well. Alex and Hazel are both at the top of their game right now and presumably have many options as where to travel – so it’s an honour they are in the region.
EDIT: I have had some direct contact with the TNF team. They say they did know they weren’t the first climbers in the area, so my comment above isn’t really fair. I suspect any shortfall in their research before coming may have been caused by the classic Oman/ UAE semantic confusion. Musandam is of course in Oman but has been developed by UAE climbers. A future guidebook should be titled “UAE and Musandam rock climbing” to make that clear.
the last moves of pitch one of Acquiescence
Someone took an interest in my route Acquiescence in Wadi Ghalilah recently. This reminded me that neither the topo on the website nor the description in the guidebook (from when the route was still a project) are very good. I have uploaded an improved PDF topo here.
Obviously as the first ascentionist I would write this, but: factoring in the rock quality, the easy approach and the amazing cliff architecture I think Acquiescence is a strong contendor for the best route in the UAE. Anyone up to the job should go do it.
EDIT: as far as I know the route has only had three ascents so far. Greg and I got the FA in late 2009, then Andy LaBonte and Nasim Eshqi repeated it in early 2010 then Daniel Cieszynski and Aiden Laffey did it later in 2010.