A world-class climbing destination?

Greg’s closed his review of the UAE guide at UKB with this sentence.

“The overall impression is that the UAE and nearby mountains of Oman are already on the climbing map, and are likely to become even more recognised as world-class climbing destinations in the next few years.”

I have just read some fairly sharp criticism of that, so thought I’d add my own view. First of all, I think Greg was trying to be supportive of the book in his review and coloured his language accordingly. I am grateful for that. Second, “world-class” is quite subjective. There are a lot of lists out there (*) and they all vary according to the author’s prejudice. Third, the book addresses this issue pretty explicitly on page 13:

“None of the cliffs are world-class … but many individual routes are excellent and the environments will be novel for all but the most jaded climbing globe-trotter: sand deserts, bare limestone mountains, coral coastline.”

I hope that’s clear enough. I have been lucky to climb all over the world for a very long time. I genuinely think there are a few routes within the UAE guidebook coverage area that are world-class. Acquiescence is the best four pitch route I can think of anywhere. Lactic Labyrinthe at Shark Fin is completely unique and extraordinary. The nearby Exile at Wonderwall is also a very very unusual slice of rock, if a little abrasive to climb. League of Shadows at Hatta is the biggest “easy” roof I have ever done. Bridge to Nowhere at Khasab is one of the most striking single-pitch cracks I have ever seen. The Limah Roof is as good as any DWS I have done on the UK sea cliffs (maybe not as good as the best in Mallorca but I haven’t been yet). Unfortunately all but one of those are “my” routes so I could be accused of bias – but I am being as objective as I can.

Meanwhile there are a steady flow of climbers flying into Muscat each winter just to climb, especially from continental Europe. I used to think that the “proper” Oman end of the Hajar mountains was so overwhelmingly better than the cliffs in/ near the UAE that sticking close to Muscat made sense. But I think the quality of development at “our” end means that is no longer true, and geologically there is no difference. My recommendation to people who ask me about visiting now is to fly into Dubai (which is usually cheaper than Muscat), hire a car with insurance for both countries and do a broader tour. Encompassing some of the cliffs I have listed above but also La Gorgette, the Bandar Jissah DWS, Wadi Daykah. And something long around Jebel Misht if they are up to it.

* FWIW, my top 10, of places where I have actually climbed:

the Utah desert
Devon/ Cornwall
the grit
Czech sandstone
Arapiles/ the Grampians
Wadi Rum

OK, that’s eleven.

And five places on my must-climb-one-day list:

Mallorca DWS
Castle Hill

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