Yes. I’ll just post few pictures, as i don’t have the strength to write about it. The trip itself was tough and long drive from Aqaba to the northern border crossing (the other 2 aren’t good for foreigners). There is enough info on the interwebs of how to actually make the crossing – but I wouldn’t recommend it to any but the most adventure seeking travelers. If you decide to do it get ready for adventure 🙂
From Jerusalem, we went back to Jordan’s Capital Amman, and stayed there for few days until our return to Dublin.
We did go to visit one more place, north of Amman called Jerash, definitely worth a trip – a half day stroll through some of the oldest remains of the Roman Empire.
The other half day we spent in some local climbing spot – bolted, but meh. (on top of that we were all tired as well).
The trip home went uneventful (as expected). Returning the car went smooth (we did get couple of flat tires during the 2 weeks stay, but managed to get it changed and patched up as needed).
I’d like to come back in the future, perhaps better prepared for climbing, and maybe later on in the year, that will give better chance of good conditions.
From Wadi Rum we moved west towards sea side resort of Aqaba. Peter and Phillip aren’t very aquatic, so they mostly sat this one out, mostly chilling out after a week in the sand
Monika and I went scuba diving, which is what people mostly do in this place.
All the dives are from the shore, and have fantastic coral reefs, as well as some cool artificial features (such as sunken plane, a tank and a boat).
It was time well spent, however after 3-4 days you kind of seen it all. One thing that stood out was a night dive. Monika’s first of this type.
The most interesting part was the fast that all the divers had to be escorted by and accounted for by the local military personnel – mostly due to the fact that one technically could swim across the sea to Israel. A big nono.
We did go see the town one evening, but it is a town – nothing special that I remember now.
Next stop from Aqaba was Israel, and oh my, that’s a mini epic of a journey on its own…
The thing with Wadi Rum is that while it is remote desert location, it’s actually surprisingly close to civilization (1h drive to Aqaba, which has airport, hospitals etc).
Generally speaking I think that by general population sees Wadi Rum as 1 or 2 day adventure destination. People want to see the desert, be guided around by ‘the locals’, maybe spend a night in the desert camp, but with all the comforts of modern, western hotel.
I’ll try to describe it form a climbers perspective, people who generally are independent, don’t need much beside a bed.
Wadi Rum is located in southern Jordan. You can get there by number of ways – we opted to rent a car and just drive – it’s a long one – over 4h if to be done in 1 day.
Other methods are a bus from Amman, taxi from Aqaba, or an organized tour by your hotel.
The area can be divided into 2 main categories:
Wadi Rum Village – which is essentially a town of couple hundred huts where locals live. It has very basic facilities, with 1 place where you can eat, and 1 or two mini shops.
Wadi Rum Desert – It is vast area of sand and stone – it is around 720km2, where 40km drive through the desert (no roads!) will eventually get you to Saudi Arabia Border (not recommended!).
Some 30+ commercial camps have been setup, and every local will try to ‘recruit’ you to stay at their site. Those things cost more than a hotel room in a city.
There are no hotels, b&b’s, hostels or other organised accommodation in the Wadi Rum Village – so you have 3 options for accomodation.
camp (wild in the desert)
stay with a local family
stay in a luxury camp
There is nothing stopping you from just driving to the desert yourself and setting up your own camp in the shade of one of many high mountains that are out there. Locals don’t seem to like it though – they seem to be under the impression that it’s their ‘turf’ and one should be using their ‘guiding’ services.
Now, it is the desert – it is VERY easy to get lost or get stuck (driving in sand is hard, there are no roads!), and it would be costly to get rescued.
Either way those are the choices. For serious climbers specifically, I feel the best no hassle approach is to have your own tent, food and water supplies for few days – and just get driven to the area of your choice, climb, and be picked up after few days.
Now, our group was definitely not of the ‘hardcore’ climbers types so we picked middle option – stay with a local family.
Initially I was planning to bring the camping gear and just go to the desert (like we have in Oman), but the group decided we will stay in the village and make our way from there.
It was probably a good choice, since there is plenty to explore on foot, without having to go deep to the desert. On top of that the immense heat meant we couldn’t really climb any way and we cut our visit to Wadi just to 5 days.
Having said all of that, the views are absolutely stunning, but again – it’s not for everyone.
If the weather is not cooperating, there isn’t much to do – its sand & rock everywhere.
On top of traditional climbing, mostly long multipitch , there are plenty of ‘Beduin Routes’ – which is the local name for scrambling to the top of surrounding walls. Those can be all completed in runners and with no rope – mostly run at M with occasional S.
Sport climbers won’t find much – its all about that trad on questionable rock – we did though find 2 spots with bolts, but honestly, they were poor.
The draw is with sense of adventure, breathtaking views and humus. Humus for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
After getting to Wadi Musa the gateway city to ancient site of Petra, we had to make a decision on how we’ll spend time we have there. The Jordan Pass we purchased before arriving to Jordan gave us 2 days for sightseeing.
The site itself is huge – at first I didn’t realise its just a massive place with many different buildings carved into the walls.
Our itinerary, in short was following Route1 all the way to The Monastery (visiting all the major points, incl Treasury, then its vantage point, some lesser important temples and the amphitheater) the return path from the Monastery was via a route that lead through High Place of sacrifice, a mountainous trail that has easy scramble to get you down to the Treasury.
I won’t be getting into details of what’s what – as this can be easily found on wiki, but i’ll give those few tips:
Stay in Wadi Musa and start your sightseeing at 6.15 when Petra opens.
If you are outdoorsy person, you can do the whole thing in 1 day – it took us 11h of walking around around 20km (all the trails combined is around 40km) – but it was a lot. Not a problem for us though
If you are not hardcore hiker, get yourself 2 days – albeit do to the layout of the park you’ll be walking some of the trails twice (mainly since its 1mile between the entrance gate to the Treasure- the first major feature).
Guides are not required to move around, but they are present everywhere and will try to lure you in to avail their services. To be honest it was very good experience for us to explore on our own (make sure to grab a map at the entrance).
Bring plenty of water, but don’t stress out if you run out – I brought 3l with me and finished it after 4h) – local people sell water, often ice cold – it’s expensive – 2JD per 1.5l, but that’s the way it is (to compare 6×1.5 in a shop in the city costs 1.5JD).
Have your own food – it’s extremely overpriced, and only available in 1 spot.
All the ‘best view in the world’ viewing spots are free, BUT you are expected to buy a drink/tip the bedouin that mans the post.
Enjoy yourself – it’s easy to just forget that you are there for fun. Don’t stress out if you get lost – the place is so busy that someone will show you the way!
Either way, the 2 nights at Wadi Musa went fast, and we promptly moved on to Wadi Rum – a desert which meant to be our main climbing destination.
More about Wadi Rum in the next blog… (As i type these words we actually already completed the Wadi Rum leg of our journey, but the net is slow, so pictures are still uploading – and I’m not writing blog with no pictures!)
For holidays 2018 we decided to go back to the Middle East and this time around visit country of Jordan.
This place seem to be one of the less popular destination for climbers (or tourists in general), probably most due to the fact that there are so many other places that don’t neighbour states that are currently at war…
I did my research and all reports make it safe enough for a visit (especially if you stick to the sourthern parts of the country).
And that is exactly what Peter, Phil, Monika and I are planning to do.
The rough plan for two weeks is:
Visit Madaba & Dead Sea (lowest point on Earth)
Visit Petra (main tourist destination)
Visit Wadi Rum (main climbing destination)
Visit Aqaba (main scuba destination)
Visit Jerusalem (main weird access destination)
Visit Amman & go home
While I was hoping for this trip to be focused mainly around climbing (Wadi Rum is world class trad climbing spot) – it seems that on the very first trip to the country it’d be a shame not to visit at least some of the world famous tourist attractions – hence the list above.
Since we are equipped for both sport and trad climbing (both gear and skill), we decided to see how it goes and climb when possible (we are a bit early as far as climbing seasons go, as It’s still a bit hot).
In this series of blogs I’ll write every couple of days on how the progress go.
Part I – getting in & around
We arrived on Sunday morning, after quite interesting flight with connection in Istanbul. It’s a very odd setup with Dub flight departing at 4.30pm on Sat, and with 3h layover in Turkey we were in Jordan Capital city at 4.30am.
Phil’s bag came out VERY last, so it took a while at the airport, but after that we picked up few sim cards, got the car sorted (again, big 4×4 since we have tons of bags) and were on our way to the hotel in Madaba. Luckily enough they let us check in early (7am!, for a small fee) – so we were able to get quick nap (not much sleep on the plane) and make our way to Dead Sea.
The problem with The Dead Sea is that while its public, the best spots are all taken by resorts, so you have to dish out between 20 and 40 JOD to get access (you kind of want to do it anyway, since the supersalt water ruins everything if u don’t shower straight away.
After some floating around and mud baths and lunch we wen’t towards nearby JC Babtism site, however we were to late for 4.30pm tour, and to early to wait 40 mins for next one. Oh well… Back to Madaba for an evening stroll.
Part II – due South
We hit the King’s Highway towards Petra, with a quick stop over at Kerak Castle & some climbing at nearby Weida Slabs.
Castle was ok as far as castle go, it seemed to be restored in some places, but mostly it was ruins. Still worth a visit if you are passing by.
Climbing however was something else – and it wasn’t for the rock or the fact it was all bolted (pretty well actually) – It was the heat. We got there just after 1pm, which isn’t ideal, but there was no other option – we still had 2.5h drive to Petra so couldn’t wait for it to cool down. It also goes without saying that TOPOS are rare and any material on routes you find is priceless. I found THIS website –> http://tropicaldesert.me/kerak-weida-slabs
It seems to have decent descriptions of places (other than obvious Wadi Rum) worth visiting.
With 35C heat it was impossible to do anything other than 1 or 2 climbs – the sweat was rolling in, dehydration was imminent and all of it was attracting those nasty flies – they were everywhere – big nasty flies. I wish I had my head net, so useful on those hot day in Wicklow or the Mournes.
Another thing is that since routes don’t get that much traffic some of it is quite loose. Monika experienced it first hand, when a handhold she grabbed (around fist size) just detached itself and went flying my way. Luckily she had strong feed and didn’t fell off.
We are in Wadi Musa now- which is the gateway town to Petra. Plan is to get there for 6.15am (it’s only 5min drive from our hotel), when they open – and start before the crowds come in. With Jordan Pass, that guarantees no queuing for tickets, as it has tickets to Petra included it should be a good day out.
Buachaille Etive Mòr Mountain near Glencoe was the place we chosen to climb on yesterday. Standing just over 1000m tall it provides climbing and walking routes for all.
After very exhausting previous day on the Ben we have decided to pick an easier option of Curved Ridge (II/III 3) that gave a pleasant experience in truly amazing setting.
40min drive from Fort William, roadside parking and easy approach on a much calmer, but still cold day made both of us happy.
On the approach we have met 2other parties, which always makes it easier in terms of route finding by using their steps (albeit you can’t just blindly follow others!).
The route itself was rather easy, started by couple hundred of snow gullies climbing (with one easy ice pitch) and then one mixed move onto a rocky ridge. We soloed all of it and when we roped up we realized that we were actually past the Crux already.
Another couple hundred meters of easy snow climbing and we were at the windy top.
The descent is rather tricky to find. Generally it was meant to be an easy walk around.
We opted however to follow our companions and go down a massive gully through a break in the cornice.
5hours car to car for 700m elevation gain was pretty good time. We were home by 3pm.
Unfortunately today marks end of our short trip. Pity, as the weather just gotten very good. There is zero clouds and full on sun today. If not for the fact that I’m pretty busy at work and can’t really afford extending this stay I’d definitely would be up for few more days.
Since our ferry wasn’t until 3.30pm we decided to stop few times on the drive back. First stop was by Buachaille and took couple of aerial shots of the mountain and it’s surroundings, results of which you can see below. I have more interesting shots, just dont have time to put them together yet. I’ll come up with some nicer, more refined cut soon.
The most famous, the most sought after, the most bad ass, the most scarry and allso the highest mountain in all of Great Britain. Here we come! All of the bellow happened yesterday, on Paddy’s day 2018. A tradition by now, when on this day we go out and climb some ice.
After the previous days fail, we decided to use all of the energy and enthusiasm we have for a proper alpine day out on the Ben.
I actually don’t have that much experience in tackling massive objectives like that, particularly not in the winter setting, so I was quite excited to be able to go out on an adventure with much more experience Del.
We got up just after 4am and by 5 we leftthe B&B we are staying at in Fort William.
It’s only a short drive, so by 5.15 am we were at the trail towards the CIC hut. For those lucky enough that get a bed there (people book it as far as 6months ahead), it’s a major win. The rest of us have to walk… And it’s a long a terrible walk. Especially when the conditions are not great (so almost always).
The walk itself is long. And steep. And on this particular morning it was super windy, with gusts going as fast as 100km/h. It took us over 2.5h to get to the hut (it’s only a short stop to gear up, non guests aren’t alloeed inside).
It was so windy that when I put my bag down it immediately tumbled away. 13kg….
The wind chill made the -7C feel like -15C. Taking the glowed off to tie down the crampons wasn’t an option.
It was actually difficult to decide if we should set off at all. The forecast had it wind and cold, but it was meant to calm down as the say progressed. It did not.
Either way, as all of the parties around us (there’d be total of around 15 or more teams of climbers on the Ben that day) we set off with intention of getting to the base of our climb and assessing the situation further.
It took another hour of steep snow slopes uphill battle, with winds that put both of us at our knees more than once when I had enough.
We looked up at the gullies ahead of us, and I totally lost all willingness to climb.
I’ve learned that day that perhaps I’m not cut out for this winter Scottish mountaineering thing. People warned me that it’s hard. It’s not enjoyable and mostly suffering. Now I know.
Del knew that conditions were in were poor, and was ready to retreat if I wasn’t ready to go. After all we are a team. I looked up last one time, found some weird force inside me that pushed me forward though. ‘Let’s go’ I said and we pressed on. It’s not that I’d be super dangerous to climb. Technical difficulty is well within my range. I’ve climbed much harder routes. It was the general high wind and cold, as well epic walk in that drained my tank that made me want to quit.
Anyway, we picked Green Gully ( IV, 3) route in the Scottish grading system, which was a fitting name for a route to be climbed on Irish National Holiday. It’s around 200m long.
We were already at 900m when we ropped up (so already had some 500m elevation gain that day) and Del grabbed what we considered first pitch. Just a 50m snow slope with one ice screw and one nut. Belay was constructed on two weeds of grass and a Snickers bar wrapper, which is a standard Scottish practice.
I quickly followed and led up P2. It was as blank as they get. I think I’ve put half an ice screw in the whole 45m. Despite the wind it was easy and we should have soloed.
I run it out to good patch of ice. This is where the ice climbing ad I know it started. A patch of ice that actually made you use your crampons front points.
Del grabbed the gear and moved on. The thing is that in scotland you climb until you can find something to belay on, and if you run out of rope, then your partner just moves with you. Luckily Del found a nice steep section he could put two ice screws in. And they went all the way!
The cold wouldn’t give up, the wind was as bad as it gets, but we were powering though. The most annoying part was that it was impossible to take more pictures. Neither of us wanted to take already cold hands from the gloves…
I grabbed the next pitch, which was nice and solid 15m of proper ice climbing (wi3+ if I had to guess, with another possible more direct line of wi4) , followed by another big snow slope, with massive cornice finishing the climb. I went as far as I could and constructed a belay with a dubious screw and two lollipops.
Del followed and immediately attacked the cornice. Unfortunately no photos as there is no way to grab the camera….
The finishing moves were on Del now and it wasn’t easy. There was no obvious break visible in the cornice, so he had to get under it (which is super dangerous as those things are massive and can be unstable), traverse left as far as he could to find a ‘weak’ spot to hack through to the top plateau. It was around 40m effort protected by half a screw somewhere along the way.
When he topped out and disappeared behind the lip I knew my turn was comming. I also knew there will be no proper belay. Just him sitting down and pushing with his feet – a think called bucket seat. Totally legit.
I moved up under the cornice and now had to traverse. No gear ahead of me meant that if the fragile snow under my feet went I was facing a big swing. The fact that Del didn’t see me and was pulling on the rope making me unstable didn’t help either. But that’s how it is.
Luckily I kept my cool and topped out like I should.
We quickly unropped and wanted to get off. As we were packing we noticed our fellow Irish Mountaineering Club members Niall Hed and Aidan Roe topping out adjecent Comb gully (which was our original objective, changed in last minute to the green gully). No cornice on Comb, Niall said, and they quickly descended via no1 gully to the CIC hut. Lucky them.
Winds were still strong but at least the visibility was OK, so finding the descent route wasn’t a problem. The problem was a long walk down to the carpark though. Cold and tired, these 2.5h seemed like forever.
Overall, this 12h car to car day was pretty epic outing. I got the full on Scottish experience. I’m definitely not going back here, until obviously I do. Next year. Hopefuly by then Peter will be able to join us.
I’ll start where we left of yesterday. We left the ferry around 10.30pm and drove for 1.5h to Kilmarnock. Had a hotel booked there for a quick rest, before we hit the road again in the morning. The idea was to make it before morning Glasgow traffic rush and make it to Orchy Bridge around 10am and find some climbing.
In the mean time we got some intel from our trusted base camp adviser, PG on possible crags and routes in that area. Good guide book pictures etc.
We decided on Beinn Udlaigh black wall. Strong enough winds from the beginning… Welcome to Scotland, said Derek…
Steep enough walk, but nothing serious. Took just over an hour to get to the crag.
Guidebook description is accurate. Get to the farm, park outside and go through the farm up the trail. Can’t miss it.
It was pretty wet all along with rain from every direction and wet ground. When we finally arrived and stood there near the base looking at the routes, avalanche came down on either ice screw or quartzvein scoop routes (difficult to say as visibility was very poor, and with all the snow we weren’t 100% sure which one was which.
These are the ones we were planning o doing. After short discussion we decided to turn back… It just wasnt worth risking getting swiped out. Scotland 1. Ireland 0.
We went back then to the car and drove to Fort William (1h or so).
It’s a nice mountain town. Kind of reminds me of Banff or Canmore.
We checked in to the B&B we have booked 3nights at and went do some supplies run.
Food is kind of important. So are ski goggles. Both Del and I picked up a new pair each.
They most definetly will come in handy tomorrow, on a big and windy trail to Ben Nevis. Start at 4am…
Since our trip is coming to an end, and we are flying back tomorrow today was the last day we could attempt a full day adventure.
After the washout yesterday we were thinking all previous night which one to choose.
To add to these problems (of the good kind) with selecting a route, a bad problem returned – Gerard ankle wasn’t in good condition and he opted to sit the day out and perhaps return in glory tomoreow.
We finally decided to do a local mega classic – Espolon Central route on Puig Campana. One of the best known rock features of the Costa Blanca, our route took us 13 pitches via long slender ridge of the massive overlooking the village of Finestrat.
The route is graded HS 4c (although some give it 5+, depending on the choices you make on some pitches), and while technically it is not hard, the difficulty comes from its size (430m of climbing), exposure and the tricky descent. More on that below.
The three of us left the car at the side of the access road and set of around 8.50am. The approach is a scrappy and steep walk up via set of terraces. It’s really easy to loose the path, but it’s not hard to get to the base of the route itself as it’s just massive and clearly seen from any point of the approach.
Once we got to the base, as it seems to be a tradition by now, I quickly racked up and claimed the first, very easy this time pitch.
At that point Peter, who actually climbed this route twice before (he has been in the area multiple times) decided he wanted to free solo some of the pitches (he ended up going rope-less for 10 out of 13 sections).
At this point I should mention that on long routes like that sometimes the nature calls, and there is nothing else one can do than just do it.
Peter and I were crammed on a small ledge, with Seamus following, so I just pulled my pants down and did what had to be done.
Someone once said that in moments like that you have two types of friends – the ones that will turn their head and give you a moment of privacy, and those that will pull their camera out and take a photo. I’ll let you guess which type Peter is.
Anyway, we more less followed the route swapping leades with Seamus and having Peter occasionally join us (although when he did rope up he barely put gear in anyway). I won’t go into pitch by pitch description, you just need to know that there is no drama, but route finding can be tricky at times (as it usually is on long outings).
For gear, we only had 3 small cams and handful of wires, but as I said, route was fairly easy, and we tried to go as fast as we could anyway (which meant running it out often). Forecast had rain after 3pm and it wasn’t uncommon for people to get stranded on the mountain overnight.
Pitch 8 marked lunch, and also was a place that marked point of no return. Abseiling from above it would be very hard.
We were on schedule and moved on for the last 5 pitches, knowing that after we reach the end of the route there is a lengthy and exposed walk off waiting for us.
The upper pitches went surprisingly fast, especially that it got quite cold. We actually all put all of our layers of clothing on, as the cold cloud covered the mountain. Quite a change from tshirt ground level.
The descent is a quite long and sketchy traverse towards a scree gully. It has some fixed wires and many down climbs in M to Vdif variety.
One dodgy step can have serious consequences, so since we weren’t strapped for time (the big cloud that arrived didn’t produce rain), we took our time.
We were by the car around 4.20pm. So car to car in 8 hours for a party of 3 of middle aged man is quiet decent.
I honestly have to say that this is one of the best multipitch routes I’ve done and if not for terrible descent, it be a great for all climbing enthusiasts, but because of that I would only recommend it to the adventure seekers.
Tomorrow we are flying back home, but we will definitely visit one more crag (Most likely a neighboring Sella) for some pre-flight single pitch fun.
Today’s blog will be written by another guest climber, this time Gerard, who definetly was the top performer in todays adventure.
And over to me……. I’d had an enforced rest day on Saturday as I’d twisted my ankle on Friday night, so – while the others battled seagulls and polished limestone on the Penon d’Ifach – had been left at our hostel in Finestrat, clasping a packet of frozen vegetables(an improvised icepack) to my foot. That left me hungry to get back on rock but unsure about how much I could afford to challenge my ankle. Luckily the group vote was for a venue with a short walk-in: the crags clustered around (and under) the hilltop town of Guadalest.
Guadalest is well worth a visit – even for the non-climbers amongst you. It was once a Moorish citadel (the “al-” in the name betrays its Islamic origins) and some of the fortifications still remain. We started the day in the Penya l’Alcala area (the rock wall to the right of the above photo) which contains a range of routes up to 70m in length. Unfortunately the day started in cloud and the drizzle came on as we finished our warm up pitches. We held out for longer than the Spanish climbers but by 11am abandoned the crag to the inquisitive robin and legged it 100m downhill to the local refugio for hot drinks and buns.
The drizzle eventually cleared and we moved on – this time to a smaller crag, Penya Maura, across the road for the refuge. It diverted us for the rest of the day with solid sharp rock and a number of interesting lines. Today didn’t have the sunshine and blue skies we had enjoyed Thursday and Friday but at least the cool air resulted in better friction. We were lucky – our frends in Sella (10 km away) got only one route in before the rain hit there while in Guadelest the rain was never more than weak and intermittent. My ankle held out and my enforced rest meant I was ready for it – my highlights being the the overhanging jugfest that was Jana (luckily I’d been tackling overhangs at the wall all winter) and the varied delights of Garrofer (bridging chimneys followed by a delicate precise finish, both 2 star 6a+ routes. Sadly tomorrow is our last full day here — what will it bring?