DWS in Muscat and Musandam compared

I was lucky to snatch a few hours DWSing in Bandar Jissah, just east of Muscat last week. A couple of people who have climbed both there and on the Musandam coast (“Dibba Coast” in the guide book) have told me that the Bandar Jissah area is more worthwhile. Now that I can make the comparison I thought I’d comment.

Roof area, Bandar Jissah

The short answer is that I think they are mostly right! The Bandar Jissah area is much less hassle, as the routes are all within a few minutes boat ride from the beach, and can even be accessed by kayak at high tide. The complex topography of small islands and peninsulas also concentrates a lot of different climbable facets in a compact area. And the best routes are very good.

Arete area, Bandar Jissah

The main negative is that the rock is not fantastic. There is a lot of salt and sand in the limestone, making holds variously a little fragile and dusty in places. The best of the rock on the Dibba Coast routes is better.

Barracuda Stack and The Pyramid, Musandam

Another obvious difference is that the Musandam coast is much wilder, especially at the locations distant from Dibba. The area around Barracuda Stack, for example, has some of the most dramatic seacliff scenery I have seen anywhere on earth (see photo above). But it is an effort to get there! Finally (caveat: I am no expert) a quick spot of snorkelling at Bandar Jissah also suggested that the sea floor there is far less pristine than in Musandam, with some rather sad dying coral. This probably reflects the rapid recent development there. The Shangri-La complex (three hotels) occupies one whole bay and there is apparently a new hotel going in at Bandar Jissah public beach itself.

The Bandar Jissah DWS is described in an online guide at omanclimbing.com and was also profiled in Climbing magazine. From Abu Dhabi or Dubai it is about five hours driving plus the unpredictable border delays to get there. A fair bit further than Dibba but factor in less time stuck on a boat on the way to the cliffs and the calculation is not so one-sided.

Persian Gypsy (a new route added that day), Bandar Jissah

All that said, making clinical comparisons and evaluations is quite contrary to the anarchic spirit of deep water soloing. I had not DWSed for about nine months and had forgotten just how viscerally-intense an experience it can be. Chasing specific grades can seem unimportant and success (on anything) can be as much about managing the jittery adrenaline highs as overcoming physical constraints; especially once a few of the 10-15m jumps necessary to descend have been completed. I don’t know anything else that delivers such a pure dose of elation.

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One Response to “DWS in Muscat and Musandam compared”

  1. Christine says:

    “Persian Gypsy” route. How appropriate.

    I’m so jealous of the Persian Gypsy and the Canuck-Brit dirtbagger that got to scale those rocks. Maybe one day……

    Sad about the developing going on – like everywhere though.