Posts Tagged ‘Abu Dhabi’

border issues for climbers at September 2013

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

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:

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.


NPZ Update

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Theo kindly contributed this update for Abu Dhabi emirates’ only substantial sport climbing area. I am quite amused by the TLA names.

Sorbonne University Wall

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
The Sorbonne wall

The climbing wall at Sorbonne University, on Reem island in Abu Dhabi, is probably the best wall so far built in the UAE. It’s only ~10m tall but the width allows for about 20-25 independent routes and the modern Walltopia design has a good variety of interesting features. It is also very steep. About three quarters of the routes involve some sort of overhang and the steepest have a continuous violent lean. Perfect for power-endurance training. Critically it is also indoor; in fact, in a very high quality (and under-utilised) sports facility.

Though the wall has been there since mid-2010, when the campus construction ended, it has only been possible to gain (limited) public access recently, despite a barrage of requests by climbers to the university during the intervening period. To be fair to the university administration, they probably had more urgent priorities during the first year in the finished campus. The owner of the campus buildings is also an unconnected entity (a quasi-public Abu Dhabi investment fund) making decisions about facility usage especially complex.

In September 2011 these decision makers did finally resolve (but not advertise!) a scheme for non-student usage of some of the sports facilities, which I discovered by chance in November. Unfortunately, for the climbing wall, their proposition was aimed at small school or corporate groups, who could “rent” the wall and its coach for a short sequence of weekly sessions at a very high price. Our challenge became to persuade them to instead accept a much longer duration arrangement for more people at a lower price. Thanks to fantastic support from the head of sports, this was eventually agreed. However it required accepting several constraints that have little resemblance to normal climbing wall usage: pre-payment for 20 weeks in advance and a fixed group of climbers. The university also required that their counter-party in the transaction be a single company with its own insurance, not the individual climbers themselves. This was solved thanks to the help of Abu Dhabi businessman and climber Sami Matuq. Axa insurance were also very accommodative.

The process of finding a group of climbers who were prepared to pre-pay for twenty weeks worth of Monday evening climbing sessions at a still quite high price was not especially easy. I think I must have fielded several hundred emails cumulatively along the way. The large number of people expressing a casual interest rapidly collapsed down to a small number when they learned the constraints, and especially when asked to part with hard cash, but we were – just – able to assemble a group of twenty. The first session was Monday 20th February. My impression is that everyone considered it a huge success. Thanks are also due to Pete Aldwinckle, from Global Climbing, who did a safety briefing free of charge.

Inevitably requests to join the group have already started appearing. A few points worth making: this is a hard-won and experimental project that will hopefully encourage the university to allow more flexible usage in the future; for the first 20 weeks there will only be space for new people if existing members of the group want to drop out; though Theo Giani, Sami and I did most of the work to make this happen, this is essentially a spontaneously-assembled co-operative and no-one is “in charge”; similarly this is 100% non-commercial – no-one has carved out even even a single fil from the transaction; there is no “operator” with incentive to boost numbers. Bottom-line, if you are reading this and interested: please be patient.