Posts Tagged ‘Musandam’

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.


Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

I have just added a slightly facetious FAQ page for the UAE guidebook. Apart from the last two, these are all questions I regularly receive, in some cases a few times a month. Please let me know if I am have missed out an important topic.

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.

The Pyramid

Monday, November 15th, 2010

The Pyramid is a large (300m?) semi-sea-stack above the Barracuda Stack, mentioned as a project in the Dibba Coast section of the UAE guidebook. 

Aiden Laffey and I made the first ascent on 12 November, approaching in Aiden’s yacht from Fujairah marina. Mike Olver supported us: helpfully staying awake through the night on the outbound leg and watching out for trouble whilst we climbed. The route is pretty easy (VS’ish) but quite serious with patches of very loose rock. The views from the top are amazing.

The Pyramid from the south
The Pyramid from the north
Looking down at the Barracuda Stack
Aiden following the last pitch
view south from the summit

For anyone interested in a repeat there’s a route description here. It would probably be possible to do the climb in a day using a fast boat out of Dibba.

2009/2010 season wrap

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Some notes on what has been happening since the guidebook was published:


Oddly neglected!


At Shady Circus Greg Caire and I made the first ascent of the four pitch Acquiescence in early December, just days after the guide went to print. Andy La Bonte and Nasim Eshghi then repeated the route in February, confirming the overall E4 grade and technical grades. However Andy did think that an E2 leader, also able to do F7a sport, could try the route as the cruxes are not runout. Aiden Laffey has been chossaneering elsewhere on Jebel Ras Al Qays with a view to pushing a route all the way to the top of the 1000m face … would be impressive if ever complete.

Outside Ghalilah, some new routes have gone up at Grayskull but the area seems to still be regarded as too sensitive to be publicised. Nearby some short routes were done at Clint Eastwood Crag.


John Gregory and fellow tradistanis continue to develop the Nearside/ Junction area. There are about ten more routes additional to those in the interim guide. I hope to get these written up by the end of the summer.

Further down Wadi Shahah, Dave Watson climbed several more problems on the Cube including the obvious sharp line right of Mike’s Problem, probably V5ish, and the fun arete right again at about V2.

Yellow House has seen some traffic. Al Zawir, Ruby in the Dust and Captain Flamingo are all considered worth two stars. The latter now has bolt anchors.

At Roadside,  Steve Worth soloed the Clog Dancer project at sounds-likes-a-sandbag E2, calling it Oates So Easy. Round the corner Andy’s Project is still unclimbed and now open to all to try. Pokemon has now had five ascents (me, Read Macadam, Andy, Juliette Danion and Gordon Rech) with opinions on the grade ranging from F7a+ to F7b+.

The long Hila routes get some traffic. Over the Hill is regarded as worth a star or two.

Further south in Wadi Naqab – which will one day deserve its own guidebook section – is Andy and Pete Thompson’s uber-project, the Vertical Vice; as yet unrepeated. I am awarding this the inaugural Red Armada Publishing Ascent of the Season (… there might even be an actual prize when I get paid for the book by the distributor, which will be when they get paid by GoSports, etc). There’s plenty of other potential in Naqab and the wadi road has been extended recently.


Also neglected. There have been some worrying reports of the Omani border post refusing entry to the wadi from the east side, except to GCC passport holders. Seems to be a sporadic phenomenon and possibly negotiable. Above the pass between Wadi Bih and Wadi Khab Shamis, Aiden has found a high-altitude summer bouldering venue: The Hole in the Sky – great name!


At Tawiyan, Arash Alam repeated both Echo Beach F7c and Fujairah Spaceport F7a+, confirming the grades. Strangely the route on the book’s cover, Jebel Jebel F6b+ (or perhaps E3), has still only had one clean ascent. Of the projects mentioned in the book; the Columbian Slapper remains virgin, Office Clerk has been bolted and should have been led by the end of the summer and the aptly-named Your Face is a Mess has had hangers removed. The Stone Pussy anchors have been improved. Roadwork above the cliff seems to be finished for now and access is now very quick.

The Colosseum remains ignored, probably because of the long approach walk.


Damian’s Boulders have become wildly popular, not only with real climbers. Dave reported finding a large school group camped there. Hopefully access won’t be compromised – there is a village nearby. Dave has been working through the harder problems, notably making the probable second ascent of Days Don’t get Better V7, which he confirmed as hard and brilliant. Around the corner, Gordon and the other Dubai crew have started developing The Strip Club, a new sport crag.

The giant Nant Bidey also remains untouched.


Also popular though most groups don’t get beyond the Conga Line area. As blogged recently, I got the first ascent of the properly-scary Limah Roof project at Limah Rock, with help from Mike Olver, who had eccentrically kayaked over there (40km!) to clean it the evening before.


Jerry Spring continues to add routes at Hatta, mostly in the Fridge area and the complex territory left of Tadaima. Detail has been posted on the forum. Tadaima has had at least two repeats, by Juliette and Arash, and is confirmed at F7b.


The main event in the Al Ain area has been the ongoing development of the awesome Shark Fin, sadly accompanied by accidents: of which by far the worst a serious head injury caused by lowering off a 30m route on a 50m rope. Be careful. The three big routes there, all Gordon’s creations – Trencherman, Lactic Labyrinthe and Second Life – have all had multiple ascents though with some dissent on the grades. All are in the F7a to F7a+ range. Lactic Labyrinthe has seen the most failures so is probably the hardest. There’s is much more to be done at Shark Fin so no guide yet. Elsewhere I am not writing much about Good Morning Helena crag as I have still never been there, still not sure where it is and a spy assures me it is a bit crap. However Gordon says his F6c there is good. Will add it to any eventual Shark Fin guide.

Wonderwall has been host to a lot of partying/ camping but little new climbing. Gordon has been making valiant attempts to get the third ascent of Exile and bolted some easy routes on the new Bunny wall. Ninja Smartypants remains unrepeated AFAIK, despite some attempts, and may be hard for F7b.

On the UAE side of the border I have peered hopefully at the extensive chossy cliffs on the east side of Jebel Hafeet and even bolted some minor things at White Wadi. Again see the forum for detail.


Astonishingly Crag on 34th Street has still only had one visit. Abu Dhabi municipality are building a bridge over there to encourage more interest (at least, I assume that’s the reason …).

Please let me know if there is anything important I have missed.