Posts Tagged ‘dws’

stealth Musandam 2011 DWS film found!

Friday, January 3rd, 2014


 I was recently pointed to a nice 5 minute video of the 2011 British-sponsored-heroes visit to Musandam hosted by Oddly they seem to have uploaded it but never actually publicised it. Worth watching.

Link to video is here

The following routes are featured:

0:27 The Equaliser F7a+

0:43 Free Diving F6b+

0:57 One Liner F7a+

(1:54 the Red Armada editorial team chasing dolphins in a kayak)

2:32 Drop Zone F6c+

3:11 Partheon Slots F8a (incorrectly labelled as an unclimbed project – Read Macadam got the FA during this trip)

4:08 GenerationX F7b+

(5:14 the Red Armada itself, just visible parked at the dockside)


Musandam publicity ramps up

Friday, December 27th, 2013

 Screen shot 2013-12-26 at 13.14.39

In 28 years of climbing I’ve never seen rock formations as magical.

This month’s National Geographic carries Mark Synott’s article about the TNF/ NatGeo sponsored trip that he, Alex Honnold, Hazel Findlay and others made around the Musandam coast in October 2012. The website also has various supporting material including a nice DWS video. It is probably no coincidence that Alex and Hazel have also been talking about the trip for the first time in interviews. For example, in Hazel’s podcast interview at the excellent Enormocast.

I was slightly involved in the article. Mark gave my name as a source for fact-checking, which resulted in a quite lengthy email exchange with a NatGeo sub-editor in – oddly – Toronto! Mike Nott in the UAE also helped out. I was pleased to see Mark’s final article contained no mention of the team’s original claim to be the first to visit the area. However there was no mention of the active “local” climbing communities in the UAE and Oman; a shame in my opinion. Nor the beta on where to find the existing DWS routes (ie from this site!). Anyway, the stunning photos definitely justify the price of the magazine. Go buy it!

Elsewhere Gripped magazine in Canada has also just published an article about sport climbing near Muscat in its latest edition, focused especially on expat-Canuck Read Macadam’s new hard stuff at Hadash.

route descriptions from the TNF team

Monday, February 25th, 2013


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.

Read Stack topo

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Just uploaded a topo for the Read Stack, a DWS sector just past Gen’s Cave. It is a companion to the Shark Bay topo uploaded a couple of days ago. The available topos for DWSing now comprise: the chapter in the 2009 guidebook, the major DWS update from 2011 and these two new topos. Enjoy!

The Read Stack (left of centre) © Theo Giani

Shark Bay topo

Monday, June 4th, 2012

I have just put together a topo for Shark Bay, a DWS area quite close to Dibba. It was actually the location of the first ever DWS route (*) on that coast in 2006, but until now I had forgotten the location. A good range of routes from F4+ to F6b+. There are also several unclimbed projects.

A few photos:

Dave Watson on Insouciance F6b+ © Vanessa Becker

Mohammed the boatman contemplating the jump from Mohammed’s Route F4+ © Theo Giani

Emily Manuel on Whitewash F6a

A similar topo is in production for the Read Stack, further up the coast.

* EDIT: Alan Stark reminded me that the Cook brothers did some DWS in 1999/ 2000 ish near Dibba. From Damian’s article, which I will upload shortly, it sounds like they looked at the coast from a “serious rip-off” boat, but didn’t climb, but did traverse a bit along the coast from Zighy Bay.


DWS risks?

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

April in the UAE means deep water solo season. The water is still refreshingly cool but not so cold that a frigophobe like me can’t stay immersed for a while. The sun is still low enough in the sky for long enough to dry out the caves and overhangs. The jellyfish of winter are gone, and with luck: the choppy seas too. The best conditions seem to last until the start of June. Further into the summer and the rock is either in the sun and too hot to touch, or in the shade and too humid. So now is the time. For me a good DWS session – last Saturday, for example – leaves such an excess of psyche that I can barely keep still at work and find myself crimping the edge of a keyboard or undercutting my desk.

Middle-aged desk jockey sketches up Generation-X F7b+, Gen’s Cave

One background worry though: how dangerous is this game? So far in the six year history of DWS’ing out of Dibba there have been numerous minor injuries but none serious. Two types dominate: muscle tweaks and bruises from poorly executed jumps or awkward falls, or cuts from contact with barnacles or sharp rock near the water line. Both risks can be minimised with care. Learn to jump from someone with good technique (not me! though my older son isn’t bad), or at least study the photo of Jiri on page 127 of the guide book. Don’t try to climb on to the rock direct out of the sea, especially in choppy conditions when a limb can be loaded unexpectedly. (Some experiments have been conducted with rope ladders anchored to the cliff with skyhooks, for water exits, but the jury is still out.)

What hasn’t happened so far though, as far as I know, is an accident stepping from a boat on to the cliff. An obvious worst-case scenario could be something like this: 1. climber steps from the boat on to a low foothold, 2. unexpected swell pushes the boat abruptly forward and/or the climber slips, 3. the climber’s foot or ankle is caught between the boat and the rock. I don’t think it is possible to reduce this risk to zero but there are some obvious commonsense precautions. Padding the front of the boat with a bouldering mat makes it easier for the climber to jump off if the exit is going badly. And an attentive “spotter” at the front of the boat can help support the climber’s body out of harm’s way. The climber should always aim to step high … materially higher than the boat. Maybe I am being alarmist. But do take care.

PS Thanks to Alan Christmas for the photo.

Musandam in the UK climbing magazines

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Neil Gresham had an article about the April DWS tour published in the August edition of “Climber“. Amongst the routes mentioned he described “Parthian Slots” F8a as “worth a trip to Oman in itself”. He also described Gen’s Cave as an “exceptional crag”. Summing up he wrote:

Similarly Mike Robertson wrote about his Musandam experience in the September edition of “Climb“. The article, “The Aquatic Art”, is more ambitious in scope than Neil’s, putting the recent trip in the context of two decades of his DWS exploration to exotic places. Mike focused especially on the wildness and natural beauty of the “stunning” peninsula.

2010/2011 season wrap

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Shockingly a whole year has passed since I wrote the 2009/2010 report. But as I brought things up to date in January, there’s not a huge amount to add. As last year, in chapter order:


Still neglected AFAIK.


Pete Thompson went back to his Stairway Headwall route with Pete Myers in February and made a one-day ascent. The route is now called Black Dog.


John Gregory has been cleaning and climbing new routes at Transition, another area in Wadi Shahah. No details available yet. Apparently Ralph Heath and friends have also been developing routes elsewhere in Wadi Shahah. No details available.


Very neglected. More reports of people failing to gain access even using the Dibba approach.


Lots of action at Tawiyan, both new routes and repeats, all noted in a February blog post.


Gordon Rech and friends have added more new stuff at The Narrows and also have a secret hard project on the go elsewhere in Wadi Khab Shamis. Matt Pfeifer completed the excellent slopey steep project at the Strip Club at about F7b, after quite a lot of effort. No name forthcoming so far. I made the second ascent in April.


The main excitement was the strong Brit/ Canuck team visiting in April, about which I have already written extensively and added an update guide. A few new routes have been added since their visit, notably at The Salt Mine, by Matt Pfeifer, Jose Molina and I.


At Hatta I climbed the trad crack project near Open Wide and Say Ahh in February.

Theo Giani has been bolting new stuff at NPZ. No details yet.

The Red Armada Publishing Ascent of the Season should probably go to Read Macadam for his first ascent of Parthian Slots F8a on the Dibba Coast, especially given the sponsored-heros snapping at his heels. But Matt Pfeifer deserves an honourable mention for his rapid progress through the grades within 18 months of starting to climb: two F7b+ redpoints and an F7b new route. Similarly Maddy Stocks has reached F6c within less than a year.

If anyone knows of anything significant I have missed, please let me know.

the DWS update

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Finally! This eleven page update to the book’s Dibba Coast chapter contains more than eighty new DWS routes … some probably the best you’ll do in the region of any climbing style (a recommendations list is included). The link can also be found at the updates page. It’s around 12Mb, so be patient if your internet connection is slow.

DWS visitors add over 60 new routes

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

A team of five climbers from the UK – Neil Gresham, Grant Farquhar, Seb Grieve, Mike Robertson (author of Deep Water), Tim Emmett – spent six days in a dhow on the Musandam coast in April exploring the DWS possibilities, along with Read Macadam and I. All have been involved with the early development of major DWS areas in other countries, notably the world-class routes at Cova del Diablo in Mallorca and Halong Bay in Vietnam, and were looking for similar potential here. The trip was very fruitful with over 60 new routes recorded from F4 to F8a. I will put out a detailed PDF update for the coast as soon as I can, but for now here are some highlights:

- the whole Indian Ocean coast of Musandam explored all the way north of Dibba to the Straits of Hormuz.

- a major new area, Big Wall Bay, a few km south of the Barracuda Stack, developed with 24 routes including the world-classic (in their opinion) Partheon Slots, F8a – sent by Read.

Read attempting Partheon Slots F8a, Big Wall Bay
Tim on Dreaming of Trevallen F6c, Big Wall Bay

- a total overhaul of the Gen’s Cave area including several long (15-18m) vertical routes at Gogarth East, a zone of very solid white rock right of the cave, re-ascents of Read’s unrecorded routes from 2006 plus the first ascent of the amazing direct route through the cave at F7b+ by Neil.

Neil scoping Gen’s Cave Roof Direct F7b+ before the first ascent

- a similar overhaul of the Limah Roof area with 7 new routes and a new area, The Badger Set, developed on the mainland nearby.

The team also swam with dolphins and sharks, caught barracuda on a handline, night-kayaked in phosphorescence and consumed their full booze allowance from DXB arrivals’ duty-free. Tim also set a new personal best at free-diving (28m). 

Tim chasing dolphins in Musandam

There should be a magazine article from Mike and probably some video from the trip appearing on sponsor sites.