The hills rising up from Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast are the last gasp of the giant arc of limestone that starts in southern Spain and runs almost continuously eastwards through Catalunya, southern France, Italy, Croatia, Greece and Turkey. Unsurprisingly there are plenty of cliffs there. Given the large number of direct flights between Beirut and the UAE, the relatively short flight time and the much cooler climate, I was intrigued as to whether Lebanon is a worthwhile climbing destination. I spent a weekend there, receiving all sorts of generous assistance from contacts I had been passed by Mike Olver, who recently relocated from Dubai to Beirut. I was taken to Harrissa Tannourine, high up on Mount Lebanon near the ski slopes, and Beirut River cliff, within Beirut itself.
|residual snow patches on Mt Lebanon above Tannourine|
Unlike the UAE, the climbing scene in Lebanon is not dominated by expats, though most of the new routes (predominantly bolted) have been the work of expats or visitors. For example, Harrissa Tannourine, currently the country’s most extensive cliff, was originally developed by visiting French climbers. Last year, Alex Chabot, a world-cup-winning Frenchman (is there any other kind?) passed through on a tour of the Middle East, adding routes up to 8b, which were documented in the March 2011 issue of Grimper. My hosts Marcin Pius and John Redwine were responsible for the Beirut River cliff development and also recently put up The Gold Mine, a 200m route, with a 7a crux pitch, in the Tannourine gorge. Like the UAE, Lebanon has some “Not in Kansas any more” characteristics; John and Marcin had to avoid a summit minefield left over from the civil war whilst equipping their route.
|Beirut River cliff|
Is it worth visiting Lebanon from the UAE to climb? My tentative conclusion is “yes”. The cliffs and environment reminded me of other Mediterranean climbing areas, especially parts of Italy. But unlike Italy you can be there in three hours from Dubai or Abu Dhabi and there are at least ten flights a day (counting Etihad, Emirates and Fly Dubai). And most of the climbing is at high-altitude, so it’s a summer destination. As I was looked after throughout, I can’t describe precisely how hard it would be to rent cars and find the cliffs independently, but it looked fairly OK. Probably the biggest negative at the moment is the lack of climbing information. The website ClimbingLebanon has a forum, some access descriptions for cliffs and a few route descriptions but there’s nothing comprehensive in the public domain. Local climbers do have some topos.
|Not the fabled Beirut nightlife|
Overall I’d guess it would suit a group who wanted to mix up some sport climbing with hanging out in Beirut, which has some reputation for its nightlife (I’m told) or sight-seeing (ie Baalbek). Grumpy tradsters probably shouldn’t bother, though if they do, it seems that Lebanese medical provision stands ready …
Many thanks to Marcin and John for their hospitality at short notice.