Posts Tagged ‘world-class’

reworked Acquiescence topo

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

the last moves of pitch one of Acquiescence

Someone took an interest in my route Acquiescence in Wadi Ghalilah recently. This reminded me that neither the topo on the website nor the description in the guidebook (from when the route was still a project) are very good. I have uploaded an improved PDF topo here.

Obviously as the first ascentionist I would write this, but: factoring in the rock quality, the easy approach and the amazing cliff architecture I think Acquiescence is a strong contendor for the best route in the UAE. Anyone up to the job should go do it.

EDIT: as far as I know the route has only had three ascents so far. Greg and I got the FA in late 2009, then Andy LaBonte and Nasim Eshqi repeated it in early 2010 then Daniel Cieszynski and Aiden Laffey did it later in 2010.

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.

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!

A world-class climbing destination?

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Greg’s closed his review of the UAE guide at UKB with this sentence.

“The overall impression is that the UAE and nearby mountains of Oman are already on the climbing map, and are likely to become even more recognised as world-class climbing destinations in the next few years.”

I have just read some fairly sharp criticism of that, so thought I’d add my own view. First of all, I think Greg was trying to be supportive of the book in his review and coloured his language accordingly. I am grateful for that. Second, “world-class” is quite subjective. There are a lot of lists out there (*) and they all vary according to the author’s prejudice. Third, the book addresses this issue pretty explicitly on page 13:

“None of the cliffs are world-class … but many individual routes are excellent and the environments will be novel for all but the most jaded climbing globe-trotter: sand deserts, bare limestone mountains, coral coastline.”

I hope that’s clear enough. I have been lucky to climb all over the world for a very long time. I genuinely think there are a few routes within the UAE guidebook coverage area that are world-class. Acquiescence is the best four pitch route I can think of anywhere. Lactic Labyrinthe at Shark Fin is completely unique and extraordinary. The nearby Exile at Wonderwall is also a very very unusual slice of rock, if a little abrasive to climb. League of Shadows at Hatta is the biggest “easy” roof I have ever done. Bridge to Nowhere at Khasab is one of the most striking single-pitch cracks I have ever seen. The Limah Roof is as good as any DWS I have done on the UK sea cliffs (maybe not as good as the best in Mallorca but I haven’t been yet). Unfortunately all but one of those are “my” routes so I could be accused of bias – but I am being as objective as I can.

Meanwhile there are a steady flow of climbers flying into Muscat each winter just to climb, especially from continental Europe. I used to think that the “proper” Oman end of the Hajar mountains was so overwhelmingly better than the cliffs in/ near the UAE that sticking close to Muscat made sense. But I think the quality of development at “our” end means that is no longer true, and geologically there is no difference. My recommendation to people who ask me about visiting now is to fly into Dubai (which is usually cheaper than Muscat), hire a car with insurance for both countries and do a broader tour. Encompassing some of the cliffs I have listed above but also La Gorgette, the Bandar Jissah DWS, Wadi Daykah. And something long around Jebel Misht if they are up to it.

* FWIW, my top 10, of places where I have actually climbed:

Squamish
the Utah desert
Devon/ Cornwall
the grit
Ceuse
Siurana
Czech sandstone
Lofoten
Fontainebleau
Arapiles/ the Grampians
Wadi Rum

OK, that’s eleven.

And five places on my must-climb-one-day list:

Rocklands
Yosemite
Kalymnos
Mallorca DWS
Castle Hill