"Not all those who wander are lost"

Rocks in RAK

Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness.

-Mark Jenkins



Warning: non-climbers may not understand lots of what I say.  For more info refer the all knowing one: wiki Glossary of Climbing Terms.

I woke up early to head to RAK (Ras Al-Khaimah, an Emirate a bit over an hour north) to climb for the day.  I was ready and waiting to get picked up by 7:15.  Back in bed by 7:30.  Finally I got a call saying they were late and would be to EA in 15 minutes.  I went back to sleep for 10.  I finally dragged myself out of bed again, walked out to the road outside the gate to wait, and promptly went back to sleep leaning against my backpack.

After only a few circles (driving from memory again) we made it to the aptly named Roadside crag.  The rest of the group was already there.  We introduced ourselves and started climbing.  The crag was interesting: mostly trad, a little sport, and anchors that were very hard to find.  Did an easy wide crack to warm up.  While I was at the top searching for the anchors some locals in a small vehicle similar to a wrangler started talking to our group.  After a minute they decided to come inspect.  Somehow five young guys emerged from the vehicle and came over to chat with the group and watch us climb.  Climbing is something that seems to be largely unknown and not fully understood by the Arab community.  Sam even told me about climbing once when locals stopped to see if they were alright.  She told them that they were fine and it was a sport.  Despite that they still thought that there was water at the top or she had lost her goat.  Eventually the guys got bored and left.

After a bit I moved over to a cool looking route called Sheban (5.10a/b).  I didn’t bother mentioning to people that I hadn’t really lead much, or actually any, 5.10 trad.  I also haven’t climbed enough lately so I’m not climbing at the level I was a couple months ago.  It looked like a fun route though and I want to push myself more when climbing trad anyway.  It started easy, moving up a wide crack with lots of holds.  A climb continued up the easy hold: it was not mine.  Mine was supposed to traverse left onto a steep overhanging face.  The problem was the holds looked alright, but I couldnt see anywhere to place gear.  I had only placed one piece of gear 10 feet below which would only swing me into the other face if I fell.  Knowing that I needed another piece I searched to find somewhere that would take another piece.  There really wasn’t anything good.  Thanks to my newest gear purchase (tricams) I was able to place one questionable piece of gear.  I called it good and traversed until I could place another decent piece.  I decided to traverse back to pull my piece before to avoid having tons of rope drag.  So far it seemed to be getting better.  I reached a nice little alcove where I could stand without much effort.  The down side was that I knew were I had to go, but looked it a couple times not knowing if I could do it and knowing I had a 20+ft fall since I couldn’t find anywhere to place gear again.  I managed to shove another tricam (my new favorite gear) in a small crack.  I had some potential for not falling as far if I fell.  The emotional support was enough.  I pulled myself back outside the alcove, threw a hand jam, that I didn’t think would hold me, in the crack and hauled with all my strength.  Just before my hand popped out of the crack I managed to grab another hold.  Hardest part completed I cruised up the rest of the pitch without too much difficulty.  It was a great climb, but other than the one difficult part, was more a mental challenge, trusting my gear and doing hard moves over long exposed falls, than a physical one.

By the time we got ropes down and walked off it was getting time to head to another crag that Brian, the one who had organized this trip, wanted to show us since it’s not in the guide book.  Everyone was ready to move out, but I still wanted to get on a 5.11a that they had tried.  The rope was still on it so I TRed it.  Maybe I should always have people waiting for me when I climb because it worked well.  I blew through the entire route in about a minute.  We headed back to the cars and moved on to the next area.

Along the way Brian stopped to point out a couple areas that also weren’t in the book.  Driving up the canyon I must have been drooling:  there was rock all around, most of it looked solid, and I was fairly certain (and confirmed later) that none of it had ever been climbed.  We made it to our destination, Farside crag.  I picked out a good looking trad route oblivious to any grade on it and gave it a go.  It made for good climbing, with some awkward moves, and piles of dust built up all over the rock.  About half way up I made it to a small ledge.  Above it the rock jutted out a bit making a bit of a roof with a crack in it.  I took a look and started trying it, but couldn’t get good jams and had nowhere to put my feet to allow me to move up so I ended up backing down a few moves to the ledge.  After several exploratory tries I decided that the only way to conquer the move would be through a sacrifice.  I plugged a piece of gear and went for it.  Reaching up as high as I could I jammed my right hand in, grabbed a slightly featured area of rock with my left hand and pulled with all my might as I lifted my leg leg above my stomach to find the only hold.  As I started to pull my right hand began to get cold.  Tingles spread from the back of my hand until the entire thing was cold.  By the time I got my foot on I had no feeling in my hand at all.  Not knowing if my right hand would hold me or just go limp I grabbed something with my left and pulled my right hand out as quickly as I could.  There was nothing.  The tingling and cold were gone.  I just couldnt feel it at all.  I stuck another cam in the rock and concentrated on my hand.  In a minute i regained a little bit of feeling enough to use it somewhat so I kept climbing.  I made it to the top and my hand seemed to be slowly getting back to normal, despite its tingling.  I belayed Sam up the climb with nearly as much excitement as I had on my way up.  Without being able to see her and tell what was going on I heard a scream followed by a crash.  She had pulled a hold off sending it crashing down to the ground.  A few minutes later she pulled her wheaties move again and pulled off an even bigger chunk of cliff.  Somehow through both holds falling she managed to catch herself and made it up through the crux like a champ.

We chatted for a bit after the climb and hit the road for Dubai with a successful and very informative day of climbing under our belts.  The possibilities in RAK are endless.  Tons of rock, very few climbers.  It sounds like the perfect situation for some first assents for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *