Posts Tagged ‘sport’

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.

next up on the Project Wall

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

There is a wall in my house where there are always three photos of routes on show. I call it the “Project Wall”, as the routes are ones I have yet to complete (and, sometimes, yet to even try). As soon as the project is done, the photo comes down. At the moment it has: Freeway, an eleven pitch 5.11 trad route in Squamish (Canada), which has been there a long time; the unclimbed Caracal Tree extension at Tawiyan here in the UAE; and La Guerre Sainte, a twelve pitch F7b sport route in Wadi Rum (Jordan). As I am flying to Amman in four days time for a ten day session in Rum it’s La Guerre Sainte that’s very much on my mind.

As ambitions go this is quite a major one. Twelve pitch routes are usually all-day climbs even if the grades are amenable. In this case there are four pitches in the F7 zone, and I am only confident of onsighting up to about F6c. And one of the F6c pitches is notorious for sparse bolts and christened the “Climb or Go Home”. So I anticipate some swearing, bolt grabbing and possibly even outright failure. But I feel compelled to go and try it, and am lucky to have a climbing partner who is prepared to indulge me.

Why this route? The routes often talked about as the “best in the world” have some common characteristics: long enough to occupy a day, ascend a striking rock feature, have classic climbing and distinct historic pitches. There is no official “list” but a few names always come up when climbers debate the topic. The preeminent example is Astroman in Yosemite with its “Enduro Corner” and “Harding Slot” (no, I have not done it and I am not sure I will ever be capable!). Astroman is so iconic that the “Astro” prefix gets slapped on classic new routes all around the world. The crazily-overhanging Fiesta de los Biceps in the Riglos, which I have climbed, though in poor style, is another example, as is Squamish’s Grand Wall, which I have done twice in good style.

La Guerre Sainte is much younger than those routes (the FA was in November 2000) but it seems to be gradually building a reputation. The wall it climbs is certainly astonishing: vertical and flat for 400m. It also summits what may be the world’s tallest desert tower, North Nasrani. This giant block has 400-500m walls on all sides with no non-technical route up it, unlike all the other major summits in Rum. So I am guessing it is heading for the “list” and am nerdy and egotistical enough to want to be able to say “oh yeah, I have done that” once it is there! Hopefully the actual attempt will be enjoyable too …

Wish us luck!

Tawiyan update

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Tawiyan has been popular over the last few months. All the routes have seen some attention, especially on the Azimuth Wall. At the same time I have been tidying up some bolting and working on some new lines.

The rebolting is as follows:

Stone Pussy – first two bolts moved on to the normal line (previously too far right)

Echo Beach – bolt on the crux roof moved higher (makes for a more flowing redpoint, the next bolt is now only needed for working the route). The route has been redpointed by at least six people now and is currently well chalked and tickmarked. Perhaps only worth F7b+?

Burnt to a Crisp – new bolt just below the anchors (to prevent any repetitions of Solomon’s near-groundfall). A new sequence for the crux has also been found; some people now think that the grade is more like F6c.

Bloody as Hell – moved first bolt higher (safer) and placed new chain anchor (old chain was crap and in a bad position). In contrast to its neighbour this route doesn’t get redpointed often and seems to be holding on to F7a.

Another grade opinion is that Fujairah Spaceport may be easier than F7a+ but everyone who has done it has enthused about its quality. Frankly I think people deserve the grade for making the effort to go up there!

Matt Pfeifer flashing Fujairah Spaceport

Back down in the wadi basin, Office Clerk seems to be holding on to F7a+. Because of its centre-stage location it is probably the most attempted route at the grade in the region.

And the new stuff (click for larger images):

Tawiyan Feb 2011

1. Caracal Branch F7a+ 22m Start just left of Stone Pussy at twin bolt anchors, move up the easy groove for a few metres then shuffle right to the hand crack and follow it to where it ends in the corner under the flat roof. Cross this to a large flake then move rightwards with big dynamic moves for 7m to an obvious hole (and reasonable rest). Exit up and right on positive but spaced holds in a wild position. Chain anchor. Possibly F7b.
Toby Foord-Kelcey, 6 February 2011

2. The Caracal Tree F7b 25m Follow the Branch to the rest at the hole. Leave the hole with a tenuous move left then climb more easily up to the big hollow flake. A couple of strenuous pulls above this reach better holds and twin ring anchors where the rock turns blank. Possibly F7b+.
Toby Foord-Kelcey, 24 February 2011

3. The Caracal Tree Extension F-hard 32m Follow the Tree to its anchors, then somehow improvise a move past the blank section and continue up the spectacularly-positioned arete above to a chain anchor just under the Jebel Jebel traverse ramp. Take care lowering off.
a work in progress

4. Más Sangrienta F6b 10m Scoop and shallow groove right of Bloody as Hell to that route’s new chain anchor.
Toby Foord-Kelcey, 29 January 2011

The “Caracal Tree” refers to a macabre discovery Scott Barber and I made during the early days of new-routing at Tawiyan. About one kilometer from the cliff, in the gravel flats near a quarry entrance, was a tree with desiccated animal corpses hanging in it.

At the time we thought they might be foxes but a few months later a photo of the same tree appeared in The National newspaper, accompanied by an interview with the conservationist who had made the discovery, explaining that they were caracals and that they’d been trapped then hung there by local goat herders. (Though not very large, the cats are fast and agile enough to kill goats.) Unsurprisingly the corpses swiftly vanished after the article appeared.

2010/2011 mid-season update

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

I thought it might be worth updating on some of what’s been going on in the winter season so far. It’s mostly from RAK, as the sport climbing tribe have been (admirably) focused on repeating routes recently.


In Wadi Shahah, the Gregory quarrying/ climbing machine continues to operate productively. A new cliff, Farside, has been opened opposite Nearside, with several routes. Descriptions here. Andy LaBonte has climbed a hard new partially-bolted route (Crack Rock Steady, F7b + E3 at the start) at Nearside. I have no other details but I am fairly sure it is just right of Tim’s Tipple.

Elsewhere in the wadi I also have update details for Yellow House, including new star ratings and descent details and one new route. Apparently consensus is that the rock quality is unusually good. The Far Right area at Dickinadozer is now known as the Zombie Skull sector. Some additional anchors and tidying-up has taken place – I am not sure of the precise details.


In Wadi Ghalilah, adherents of the noble art of chossaneering have been busy. Ben Ranson (*) has climbed the giant 1000m (!) Ghalilah Headwall right of Stairway to Heaven in two stages.  The topo is here. As mentioned late last year, Aiden Laffey added Wadi Roulette near the Shady Circus area. More recently he and Andy LaBonte repeated the 600m Barun Wall route (original description here), probably by a slightly different line to the original ascent. Looks bold, committing and – no surprise – loose.


Mid-summer 2010 Gordon Rech and friends started work on a new sector, The Narrows, a long way up Wadi Khab Shamis. There are four sport routes from F5 to F6b so far.


As previously noted, Aiden and I climbed The Pyramid.


There’s also some new stuff at Hatta Crag. Sadly I don’t have details at the moment, though I know they include a F7a eliminate through Spiderpig, another F7a on the back side of the same buttress and two lines left of Tadaima.


Solomon Lau passed me details of two new problems at Wonderwall. In other news, Gordon Rech made the probable second ascent of Ninja Smartypants on the Monkey Bars block.

If anyone knows of anything else, please let me know.

* whoops,  I mean Peter Thompson ;-)

Shark Fin topo online

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Out of curiosity I set up Shark Fin at 27Crags, a global route database/ logbook site. It took about an hour’s work. One of the efficient aspects of the site, which I didn’t appreciate until I had part-finished my topo, is that you can upload an un-annotated photo then draw lines on it within the web application. Clever stuff.

Shark Fin is one of the best sport cliffs within the guidebook region, though it is a shame it isn’t 5km west (ie on the UAE side of the border). And it needs more routes! However, even as it stands, its three grade 7 routes are must-do classics. Lactic Labryinthe, which was done just in time to make the guidebook’s “recommended” list, is truly awesome, unique and world-class.

The Shark Fin approach is the same as Wonderwall (see the Al Ain chapter of the guidebook) until point (c), where you don’t turn into the “narrow gap” but instead drive 1km south on the truck road until the cliff is visible. Then drive to the obvious giant “parking boulder” under the cliff.

From UAE Climbing
From UAE Climbing

the Columbian Slapper

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Dan Cieszynski, visiting the UAE from the UK for a vertical access contract in Abu Dhabi, has accumulated an impressive tick list over the last few weeks, culminating in the first ascent of the Columbian Slapper project at Tawiyan. He has given it F7b+. It took him several tries spread over two visits. The route extends the warmup pitch, Laundry Service, over a juggy roof to a dynamic boulder problem launching off very slopey holds to the finish ledge.

From UAE Climbing

Dan’s other ticks include: third ascent of Acquiescence E4 at Shady Circus, with Aiden Laffey; second ascent of Tradistan Incursion E4 at Nearside; third ascent of Echo Beach F7c at Tawiyan; fourth (AFAIK) ascent of Tadaima F7b at Hatta; third clean ascent of Jebel Jebel F6b+ at Tawiyan (the guidebook cover …) plus onsights of all the other routes at Tawiyan!

This is highly embarrassing for the rest of us. Fortunately his employers are ending his contract early and sending him to China …

Office Clerk

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

I have finally completed the last (maybe!) full-length project on the Azimuth Wall at Tawiyan. I placed the anchor bolts above the line in the summer of 2008 but didn’t do anything further as I wasn’t sure whether it was possible. Last year the rise in the level of the wadi base eliminated one uncertainty – the blank start – but I still wasn’t sure about blank sections in the middle and at the top. However I decided to take another look in June this year, adding bolts to the line and starting the cleaning process. With Greg Caire’s help I have been back twice in the last month to finish the job. Key discoveries were a way to lank past the central blankness, and some good edges at the top, revealed after levering off a large flake. The route overhangs about 3-4m in 20m, quite pumpy with very varied interesting moves. Either hard F7a or easy F7a+. Highly recommended!

The naming convention on this crag is that names are paired where possible. Students of early 1980s Canadian new wave will immediately spot the relationship between “Office Clerk” and its neighbour “Echo Beach” …

Azimuth Wall update

We also modified Laundry Service which had ground-fall potential (witnessed last summer – sorry Hamad!) at the second clip. There are now two new bolts, below and above the old second bolt’s location.

There are still a few obvious unclimbed lines to do at this brilliant cliff. The main corner should be a good moderate trad route (HVS-E2?) but will need some cleaning. Then left of the top of section of the corner and right of Fujairah Spaceport is the greatest, most insane line in the UAE: an outrageous crack/ flake in the giant (12-15m!) horizontal ceiling. Definitely climbable but probably not by me. There are also some slightly less daunting possibilities in the big roof between UAQ Overshoot and Fujairah Spaceport.

Access to the cliff is now very easy with ample parking on the edge of the new road (exactly 3km from the school mentioned in the book’s approach description, at a falling-rocks warning sign). The cliff is then only about 5 minutes walk. The road is very flat and would be fine in a 2WD/ low-clearance vehicle. It actually looks as if the road will be black-topped eventually. Shade is currently around 10am – 4pm on the Azimuth wall and all afternoon on the left side routes. By October the cliff should be back to all-day shade.

UAE climbing page on YouTube

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Aiden Laffey just emailed me to say he is collecting UAE climbing videos on YouTube.

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.