"Not all those who wander are lost"

Archive for January, 2011

Tawayan

We ought not to occupy ourselves with endevoring to prove that there is no danger, but in strengthening ourselves to go on in spite of the danger.

-Mark Rutherford

 

1/21

The plans made Tuesday were set in motion without excessive complication.  Gordon and Matt picked me up and we headed to Tawayan.  We walked down the steep slope from the little dirt road into the wadi.  The crag appeared around the bend.  The top stretched several hundred feet up from the wadi floor, but to date climbs had only been done on the bottom section.  We warmed up on a short climb while more people from the group showed up.  Gordon and Matt worked on their project climb, a 7c (5.12d) called Echo Beach.  I headed over to a great looking long climb called Stone Pussy (6c/5.11b).  It was a fun climb that incorporated a wide variety of climbing styles.  I had doubts whether I would get it cleanly at times, but I managed to onsight it.

(Dustin on the far left on Stone Pussy)

After a break and a few belays I decided to up the ante and went for an onsight on a 7a+/5.12a called Office Clerk.  I began climbing and realized that it was more overhanging than I had realized and the holds weren’t as good as I had hoped.  I made it half way up before falling at the crux which involved a long reach to a crimp off of a bad hold with almost no feet.  On the second try I found a foot hold a waist height that I could use and stuck the crux no problem.  From there it was all about having the energy and stamina to finish it.  I didn’t.  I fell again at the very top, but once again managed it no problem on the second go.  I was disappointed that I hadn’t onsighted it but pleased that I felt like I should have onsighted a 7a+.

(Me on Office Clerk)

While I was sitting around between climbs one of the other members of the group, Solomon, climbing a 6c (downgraded from the original 7a) yelled.  I looked over in time to see him pull off a chossy bit of rock he tried to grab while standing easily at the top of the route before clipping the anchors.  It was the worst possible spot as well.  The top of the climb was run out and the entire climb was not particularly long.  As he rapidly approached the ground his foot hit the rope and pitched him upside down.  He hit the end of the rope and launched his wife belaying him into the air as his head swung only a few feet above the large rocks on the ground.  That’s why you always make sure you’re pulling on solid rock.  After that Toby, who had put up the route, added another bolt before than anchors to reduce the huge fall if anyone else does the same thing.

Once the drama was over I gave in to peer pressure and tried Echo Beach.  I made it almost half way clean before falling at the beginning of the crux sequence (the crux is much more of a sequence than a single move).  I tried several times and managed to get over it, but then couldn’t clip so I just kept taking the fall.  After several tries I gave up and decided I should stick to 7a+ and not skip to 7c.  Clouds rolled in and brought rain with them.  The crag is overhanging so we managed to hang out right at the base of the wall and wait it out.  By wait it out I mean we could still climb on Echo Beach and Office Clerk because they stayed dry.  After a while the rain eased up but the sky still looked ominous.

(Gordon on Echo Beach)

My second attempt on Office Clerk didn’t go much better than the first.  I made it through most of the route despite a finger bleeding profusely and a growing red blotch on the left knee of my pants, but eventually I just didn’t have the power and endurance to finish.  I was disappointed, but I knew if I did it fresh it would go.

We packed up our stuff and continued on toward Dibba.  I was a bit nervous about crossing the border since I only have the tourist visa, but we didn’t have any problem.  My passport just got shoved behind the others and the guard let us through after only seeing them waved in the air anyway.  We drove up through Wadi Khab Al Shamis, past several climbing areas (Damian’s Boulders, Strip Club, the Narrows, etc.).  Eventually the road winding through the wadi departed and turned to switchbacks up the side of the mountain.  We got to the top and bumped our way to the camping area.  Despite our uncertainty about camping there and possibly getting stuck in a flash flood there was another large group there already.  Rain came and went a few times as we lounged around the fire before eventually going to sleep.

1/22

We roused and ate breakfast.  Everyone was talking about the noises in the night:  apparently two loud shots followed by a short burst of automatic fire were heard in the middle of the night.  I didn’t notice them, but apparently they were what woke me up when I went to the bathroom in the night.  The guess was that it was people trying to cross the border or just shots from the military base just over the ridge from our campsite.  We relaxed and watched a herd of goats ransack the other groups campsite.  Once the goats started trying to eat their tents we intervened and drove them off.  I would have been quicker to help, but they left bags of trash sitting around and need to learn not to do that.  Once everyone was packed up we headed back down the wadi to go to Strip Club.  The plan was to meet Sam there and go to the Narrows since neither of us had gone then meet back up with people at Tawayan in the afternoon.  That plan didn’t quite happen.  We got to the parking spot to meet Sam but she was nowhere to be found.  We drove down the wadi to look for her and try to get service but neither was successful.  Everyone headed up the branch of the wadi to Strip Club and I decided to join since Sam would figure out I went up with them.

Matt was the first on the rock and when he was at the top noticed someone sitting on a boulder down by the road.  I headed back a bit and directed Sam up to the crag.  The area was only bolted in summer 2010 and it had been too hot then to get the hardest route so Matt worked on the unclimbed route while the rest of us climbed the “5” and “6a” that were more like 6a(+) (5.10b/c) and 6b(+) (5.10d/5.11a).  I managed to onsight both routes.  After Sam gave the “5” a go and got up the cruxy/bouldery first half we headed off to the Narrows.  Of course, we made it almost all the way down to the cars before I realized that all my stuff was in Gordon’s locked car.  When I had run back up he told me that they decided they were going to the Narrows soon too.

(Dave on the 6b/6b+)

The Narrows is exactly what it sounds like.  The road up through the wadi (the same we took to our campsite) narrowed down to just the width of the road.  Above was a giant slanted roof.  I decided to work my way up in difficulty and got on the 5 to start.  Snake Farm was a bit more of a real 5 than the one at Strip Club and even though it ended with a decent roof it had great holds through it.  Of course, here had been another demonstration of sandbagging and all of the routes were “fives” so for my purposes I’m using what it should be graded.  The next one was Return of the Texan Chicken, a 6a+ (5.10b), that worked its way up slippery slopers to better holds before a big roof.  The roof had great holds and made it a really fun route.  Maddie wanted me to leave the draws in it so without taking my shoes off or taking a break at all I stepped to the side and began the next route.  Donkey Chase (6b+/5/10.d) was quite similar to the previous route only significantly harder and worse holds.  I made it up to the lip of the roof without problem but the last hold was a razor sharp undercling that I could feel cutting into my hands.  I used a knee bar and reach as high as I could around the edge.  The rock up there was the abrasive and painfully sharp rock found all over the UAE, but still had nothing good to offer in the way of a hold.  I fought to stay on the rock and get a good hold as my muscles tried to give out.  Eventually I found enough of a sloper at the top that I tried to pull myself around the lip but my knee was now preventing forward movement.  I moved back down a bit and freed my knee.  Using everything I had I pulled on the painful rock above and managed to get myself over the bulge and to the anchors.  I initialed the face next to the anchors with the blood dripping from my hand.  Exhausted from the back to back climbs, scraped, sore, and with a hurting shoulder I called it a day.  Some of the group headed out while I belayed Sam on texas chicken.

The rest of us headed out the wadi and stopped in town for some food.  The tiny local restaurant had delicious and very cheap vegetarian “egg rolls.” We all ordered some, then all ordered some more.  After the long day of climbing it was just what we needed.  As we headed back through the border I was a little nervous about having a Wonderwall repeat.  Only a little though because every guard or security person always loves Sam and would probably let her anywhere without having any ID.  It wasn’t a problem.  We cruised back to Dubai looking for a gas station.  The gas light had been on for half an hour and there was still no gas station in sight.  I didn’t particularly want to break down on Emirates road since everyone drives 150kph on it and I doubted people would stop (unless I hid in the car while Sam stood on the side of the road looking distressed).  We managed to find a gas station just at the point when I thought we were actually going to run out for sure.

 


Bouldering Wall!

Why not go out on a limb?  Isn’t that where the fruit is?

-Frank Scully

 

1/18

Math I was moved to Wednesday so I had no class!  Honestly don’t even remember what I did during the day, probably spent most of the time trying to do Senior Design.  The real interest of the day was going to the Rech Cave.  A local climber, Gordon, had invited me to come over on Tuesdays because he has friends come over to hang out and climb, but up until now class had been in the way and I could never get a ride.  Sam’s schedule had changed (somehow she’s the one person who I can convince to come get me to do stuff) and Tuesdays worked for her now.  She picked me up and we headed to Ace and Mirdif to since we never made it before.  After getting quicklinks and webbing we headed to Gordon’s.  It was interesting getting there because, despite living in a fairly large villa community, the turn into the community from the highway just looks like you’re driving off into the desert.  After a few hundred feet the pavement returns, but for some reason neither end is marked or paved at all.

We went in and introduced ourselves.  There were a handful of other people there; it was the most climbers I had seen since being in UAE.  And best of all:  Gordon’s climbing wall which spanned three panels wide, a box feature, and a ceiling panel.  Even better the wall was composed of all problems that were just right difficulty for me to work on for a while and eventually get.  Every time I say I want to travel more this is the counter argument.  When I get homesick, it’s homesick for a climbing wall like this, well, that and moms cooking.  I helped Gordon scheme up new panels to add since apparently lots of what’s there was only recently put in.  We contemplated moving light fixtures, covering the ceiling, cool feathers, and just about anything that would increase awesomeness and size of the wall.  Everyone turned out to be really friendly and fun.  We even made plans to go climbing the following weekend (or more made plans for me to join them since they were already planning on going).  We headed out with plans for the weekend still floating through my head.

 

1/19

Islamic Culture class has been a letdown in terms actually learning about the reality of Islam and Arabic culture.  As a result we have rallied some of the local students and arranged for them to teach us what we really wanted from the class to begin with.  The first class was a little crazy because we had three kids teaching us stuff sometimes at once.  Overall it was great though and I was quite impressed with their preparation and eagerness to teach us.  The first thing I learned is how to write my name in Arabic:

ديلان

 

1/20

The start of Dubai Shopping Festival! Oh joy, just what I’ve been waiting for.  We headed to Dubai Festival City (don’t get excited, it’s just another mall) because our free bus was going there and it’s pretty close to where they were shooting off fireworks.  We grabbed some dinner and headed to Dubai Creek Park in a taxi.  Four of the six people ended up wanting to stay a bit longer at the mall so it only ended up being just Nina and me.  We got dropped off and began exploring the park.  I don’t know whether to call it torture or amazing: there were free bounce houses, inflatable slide, and obstacle courses all for free, and all for little kids so I couldn’t play on them.  A parade banged, clashed, drummed, and sang as people dressed up in all kinds of costumes from across the world and some just from someone’s imagination walked by (some of the costumes were a little reminiscent of West Hollywood Halloween).  As soon as the parade passed everyone began to flood toward the creek so we figured fireworks would start soon.  I found a random tower platform that had some kids in it.  We climbed up and sat in the front and waited for the fireworks to start.  We had the best seats in the house.  The fireworks were spectacular.  Every kind of firework I knew as well as many I hadn’t seen before light up the sky.  The show lasted for 25 minutes just for a shopping festival.  The fireworks ended and we headed back to Festival City to try to catch the free bus going to EA.  Traffic was terrible so we began to walk.  As we headed across a parking lot just outside the park I heard a screech and snapped my head up in time to see a car hit a little boy and send him flying through the air.  I was horrified; it was the first time I’ve ever seen someone get hit by a car in real life.  The mom shrieked and a crowd gathered around the boy.  As we walked past the boy looked to be at least mostly alright and I felt a little better that he looked to be about 10 (initially I thought he was about 4 or 5) and there was no blood gushing.  We continued on, crossing over the creek and headed toward the mall.  Of course, as soon as we were away from traffic we couldn’t find a taxi to bring get us there faster.  We made it back at about 9:45.  Unfortunately the bus which used to leave at 10:30 had left at 9:30.  We gave up and flagged down a taxi to get back to EA.

 


World Travels

New experiences are the key to happiness.

-Unknown/me?

 

Alright, it’s official, I need to travel more!  I just got the following ratings.

  • Worldliness:  is a scout
  • Off the beaten track:  occasionally strays off track
  • Roughing it:  likes a bug-free bed and hot showers
  • Danger:  takes a little risk
  • Shrewdness:  Stays alert while traveling

And the map of my travels so far…

 

I’ll admit that I haven’t been to tons of countries, but this thing really needs to account for more than just locations traveled to.  I spent a month in New Zealand living out of a van or tent, I lived in a abandoned van for a month in Moab, and I have camped in the middle of nowhere just about everywhere I’ve been and this has the audacity to say I like bug-free beds and hot showers?  Bring on the bugs!  There’s just nowhere to put if you stay in a Holiday Inn or a ditch (I usually choose the ditch).

I’ll play along with the shenanigans though, I just need to start ticking off places I want to go.  Here are a few on the higher end of the list in no particular order:

  • Patagonia (Chili & Argentina, especially everywhere including Las Torres and Cerro Torre)
  • Mexico (especially El Portrero Chico)
  • Costa Rica
  • Venezuela (especially Mount Roraima
  • Columbia
  • Brazil (especially Agulha do Diabo near Teresopolis)
  • India
  • Spain
  • Greece (especially Meteora & the islands)
  • Italy (especially Italian Alps)
  • Switzerland (uhh, Matterhorn anyone?)
  • Norway (especially Prekestolen)
  • Canada (especially Bugaboos, Squamish, BC, St Johns, and Mount Thor)
  • Pakistan (especially Nameless Tower and the northern mountains)
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Japan
  • Jamaica
  • Cuba
  • South Africa
  • Australia
  • Iceland
  • Finland
  • Scotland
  • Ireland
  • Russia (especially Siberia)
  • Turkey
  • Malaysia
  • Indonesia
  • Philippines
  • Nepal
  • Egypt
  • Morocco

…Remember these are just the ones higher up on my list.

If you can’t tell by the list most of my destinations are based on climbing, but if there’s climbing all over the world why not start with those places?  I have a lot of travelling to do and this doesn’t even account for time in each country!  If I don’t answer my phone for the next 1-50 years you should all know why.

 

More posts about my current adventures in progress and coming soon!


Mall, Meatless, & Moving

A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite.

-Leo Tolstoy

 

1/15

Disaster!  The plan was to climb with Sam Saturday because she was playing in an Ultimate Frisbee tourney Friday, but in her tour to victory she messed up her knee and couldn’t climb.  We made plans to meet up in the evening to go to a vegetarian restaurant (I love having other vegetarians around to eat with) and get some climbing stuff.

In the mean time the Roc crew was planning on heading off to Ibn Battuta Mall on the other side of Dubai so I decided to join.  We did the usual hop skip and a jump and were at the mall.  As we walked up to the front we found a huge balloon tied down.  We debated whether it was an actual hot air balloon or just another mall decoration.  As we approached the entrance we found ourselves in Egypt.  The mall is broken down into different countries (Andalusia, Tunisia, Egypt, Persia, India, and China) and decorated accordingly.  Walking through the mall we found statues and figures in each one as well.  Egypt had an early 25ft sun dial, Persia and the Elephant clock (though not working was cool since we learned about it in Islamic Studies), and China had an enormous ship.  We walked to the China end where there was an outdoor garden with restaurants.  Mike, Maddie, Steve, and I got some amazing food at Lime Tree Cafe.  I had an awesome orzo salad and eventually gave in and went back to get a huge, delicious slice of carrot cake.  Hunger sated we continued exploring the world.  The other three went to get some Yongen Fruz so I headed into GoSport to check what they had for climbing gear.  I was disappointed that their entire stock consisted of one glass cabinet with a few slings, biners, and cams.  I was interested to see some Wild Country Zero series cams.  They had the smallest one which was only rated to a few kN, was so light I could barely tell it was there, and had lobes only a couple mm wide.  Clearly not a piece you want to fall on (it’s only used for aid climbing).  I met back up with everyone and we wandered a bit more before I decided it was time to head out so I could get groceries at Lulus and meet up with Sam.  As I walked out the door I noticed the balloon in front of the exit was now a hundred feet up.  It was no open and taking people up for rides.  It was, of course since this is Dubai, the largest tethered balloon in the world.

The trip to Lulus on the metro was longer than expected and compounded with the impossible to find entrance I got there about when I was supposed to meet with Sam.  I dashed around getting what I could find off my list and was just about done when she got there.  I had only found a fraction of the things I wanted but evenings are just not the time to do any grocery shopping anywhere in Dubai so I called it quits.  We headed off to Bur Dubai to the vegetarian restaurant (the one Andy, Stan, and I made it to after the long search).  Saravana Bhavan (the restaurant) was delicious as expected and of course neither of us had any idea what we were actually buying but it’s all vegetarian so we didn’t care.  On the way back to EA we planned to stop at Ace hardware to get some quicklinks for climbing and Decathlon to get some webbing.  The only problem was our navigation or lack thereof.  Neither of us remembered what road Ace was on, just that it was between Emirates road and Sheikh Zayed road.  We took a guess and ventured off.  Our plan didn’t quite work.  If you’re not familiar with roads in Dubai they are a nightmare.  The great Maine saying “ya cant get theya from he’ya” was taken to heart in the construction of the roads here.  Roads don’t lead where they seem to and never have exits where you want them.  Eventually we ended up in Sharjah, the next emirate up from Dubai and couldn’t seem to find our way back to Emirates road.  At one point we saw a sign saying Dubai.  We followed the indicated direction only to find at the next roundabout another sign saying Dubai pointing back the way we had just come.  Call it a miracle, call it luck, call it my mad skills driving when Sam and I switched (her hurt knee wasn’t fond of driving), but eventually we managed to find our way back to Emirates road.  We had abandoned the attempt at Ace and Decathlon long before so I headed back to EA and said bye to Sam.

 

1/16

My roommate Tido had requested to go back to a single (aka boot me out).  I had talked to RIT people and everything was supposed to be arranged for me to get my new room key and move out between Thursday and Saturday.  That was all well and grand but the only person from EA that knew about it was apparently sick and didn’t tell anyone else about it.  I checked in with the front desk three or four times over the weekend to try to get it sorted but nothing got resolved until Sunday night.  I loaded up my stuff and moved down the hall.  I went from living with Achmed to living with Ahmed.  It was rather uneventful although amusing to see exactly how much stuff I have here.  The real amusing part is that 75% of it is climbing and camping gear.  I had been shoving little things in my pockets to carry them to my new room.  This however turned out to be a terrible idea with superglue.  I pulled a handful of junk out of my pocket and the lid got pulled off in the process.  Thankfully I realized quickly what had happened.  As superglue poured onto my hand I managed to toss everything else on the floor, grab the lid and cap it.  My index finger was covered in glue and I barely managed to remove my middle finger from it before the glue set.  Close call, but it only resulted in some glue on my finger and no fingers glued to phones (caugh caugh).  Moving didn’t take too long and it was relieving because I didn’t start until almost midnight.  My stuff in place I headed to bed.

In the middle of the night I got a phone call.  I answered without looking at the number or thinking about it.  It was some random person looking for Mario.  I told him he had the wrong number and was ready to go to hang up.  He wasn’t.  He insisted it was Mario’s phone and kept asking how I got it.  I was too grogy to think to hang up on him so I kept explain it was my phone.  Then he started threatening to call the police because I stole Mario’s phone.  I was pretty unimpressed.  He clearly didn’t know I had the cheapest possible phone.  I explained one more time and was about to hang up but he beat me to it.  I had talked to him for two and a half minutes, at 3:30AM.  I found out the next morning that Andy had received a call from the same number a minute before but hadn’t answered.  Michelle and I called the number back that afternoon.  The guy said his name was Achmed but wouldn’t give his last name.  Trying to figure out who it was Michelle asked if Bruno (RIT student) was there, the guy asked if she meant Brazilian Bruno.  It was an RIT student.  That was about as much as we found out, but if it didn’t cost to call people I would call the number back all the time and annoy the hell out of them.


SDR & 5.12s

To be tested is good. The challenged life may be the best therapist.

Gail Sheehy

 

1/13

It was a crazy, hectic, week from hell preparing for my System Design Review (SDR).  Andy, Allie, and I spent almost every waking minute trying to prepare.  Thursday came well before it was wanted.  The day started out with a tour of the local desalination plant in Jebel Ali.  It was great to see the largest desal plant in the world, especially since we learned about it in my Renewable Energy Systems class and are doing desal for our Senior Design project.  It was disconcerting to find out that they don’t even remove fish from the water before blasting it with chlorine and killing everything.  There was even a large dead fish floating in the first reservoir.  Unfortunately the actual flash desalination takes place in large chambers that are not visible, but we got to track the entire process and see all of the other processing that goes into creating drinking water from sea water.  To top it off we even got polos, a computer mouse, and fed mini sandwiches at the end that were tasty and vegetarian.  Interesting, informative, and free food: all the components for a good tour.

We headed back to RIT for our last few hours of preparation and our SDR.  We practiced the portion of the presentation we had each decided to present for a few hours until the time came and the real thing got underway.  Dr. Hensel, the head of the ME department was in Dubai for the week and attended our review in person so we were a bit nervous about it.  Other than skype working even more poorly than normal, the whole thing went alright.  Having Dr. Hensel there in person turned out to be very helpful as we could talk with him in person for the first time during our project.

The three of us made it back to EA just in time to grab a bite of food and head out to celebrate with the rest of the gang at Fibber McGees.  We had dinner, chatted, belted out songs we knew when they were played (ok, that was mostly just me and Andy) and had a jolly good time.  Much later than I should have been back since I was climbing in the morning the first group headed back to EA and I joined.

 

1/14

I woke up to my phone ringing.  It was Brian.  He was already at my building to pick me up.  Apparently I forgot to set alarms or just slept through them all.  I grabbed my climbing gear, some water, and some snacks and stuffed them into my backpack and ran out the door.  I was still exhausted, hungry, and dehydrated when we got up to RAK to climb.  The group ended up being Brian, Renata, Ludmil, and me.  I pounded water, ate some of my snacks, and we walked up to the base of DickinaDozer to climb.  I skipped the easiest climb and worked my way up the other four from the 5.10a (Motivate) to the 11.b (Reach for the Sky).  They were a good set of climbs and by the time I had done a couple of them I totally forgot about being hungry or thirsty, I just wanted to climb more.

(Me on Dog Leg Interruption, 5.10b/c)

Brian and Renata headed off while Ludmill and I did the 5.11b so once done we headed around the corner to Zombie Skull where there were some more routes.  There are several easier routes that we had done during xmas break but I had my eye on the prize:  The Space Between.  It’s a F6c+ in the book, but the consensus is that it’s a 7.a+ (5.12a) route that goes up the almost blank side of a giant boulder.  I geared up and started to lead it.  I got as far as the first bolt and kept trying some ungodly hard moves to get higher off a razor sharp two finger pinch.  It wasn’t working.  After a while of trying things I finally gave up and came down.  I was planning on leading and easy trad line that I could use to get to the top of the boulder and set a top rope when a guy showed up.  He introduced himself as Ralph, the guy who had bolted the newer and easier (than 5.12a) routes Renata and Brian were on.  We chatted for a bit and he told me that the bolts on The Space Between were weird and that I actually don’t really follow them but stay to the left more.  Before resorting to the TR I gave it another go.  This time things worked out better.  I stayed to the left and made it past the second bolt.  The holds were tiny and sloped, but I pulled through and made it up the first part.

(Me on the lower part trying to get up to the second bolt)

(Me about to reach the top of the lower section)

The route got a positive grade and I scrambled up the 15 ft to the next section of hard climbing.  I was on the left side of a rounded edge of a slab face with no holds.  I worked my way up and down a couple times trying to find a way to get myself all the way onto the slab.  I managed to find the two smallest crimps and with some tricky footwork and lifting my foot above my waste I found a sequence I thought would work.  The first couple moves worked out but as I had to stand up onto my foot which was on a steep slope and balance using holds that were well blow my waste when I stood up I was precariously positioned.  Before I could reach up to find another hold my foot slipped and I went sliding backwards off the rock.  Back down 15 ft below I was disappointed, but knew it would work if I could balance.  I went back up and tried again, this time I was more unsure of my foot.  I had to bounce a bit to keep sliding it up and reposition it which is never a fun thing to do when one foot is the only thing I had to hold me up.  It worked though.  I stuck the move and finished some slab moves up to the top.  So much for the difficult part at the bottom, this was definitely the crux.

After Ludmil had a go on The Space Between on TR we moved the rope over and I TRed Cyclops Eye (7a in the book, 7b or c by consensus which is 5.12b or d).  I was already tired but managed to haul my way up the decent holds and hard moves to the top with a few stops along the way.  It was no clean run or even a lead, but it sure worked the muscles.

(Throwing up a heel hook to get over the lip of the roof)

(In the eye of the cyclops)

Still not burned out enough I decided to lead Axis of Evil (5.10b) because it was the only bolted route there that I hadn’t done.  It was a good finisher, fun moves, but not terribly hard or requiring lots of energy.

After that we headed back to the car.  Despite the rough start and not having a real meal all day it had been a great day of climbing and I did the most routes I had done in a day in the UAE, including an 11b, 12a, and TRed 12b/d.  Before I didn’t know that I could even do a 5.12, but as I headed back I decided I have a new goal:  climb at least one 5.12 every weekend.


Borders and Boundaries

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

-Miriam Beard

 

1/8 – Wonderwall day 2

We slept in after the previous evening’s epic.  Finally I mustered the energy and rolled out from under my blanket (I still didn’t get my sleeping bag or pad back so I was just using a blanket).  I started a fire using the well earned wood.  I loaded my pot with the largest portion of oatmeal that could fit, cooking the mix of oats, raisins, walnuts, apple, and banana on the open fire.  It was amazing.  Part of that may have been due to my residual hunger, but it was pretty tasty anyway.  We ate, packed up camp, and headed over to where we wanted to climb.  Ironically camping at the crag didn’t get us started any earlier in the morning.

We started on High rise, a moderate 3 pitch sport route.  I climbed to each set of anchors and set up the belay.  Much to my chagrin the more I climbed the more I realized I could have linked two of the pitches if not all 3.  At least the climb got Sam’s average down to 50% epics on multipitch climbs.  The route put us on top of a big ledge.  To the side were two more great looking climbs on the vertical face continuing up.  I choose Zoot Allures (5.11a) because it was harder and looked less confusing.

(Inspecting my route up Zoot Allures)

I set my camera up using my gear to angle it up at the climb, but unfortunately the ledge wasn’t big enough to get the entire route in the frame.  I started off on some not too difficult but pumpy moves on an overhang.  Pulling through that the route continued on a very sparsely featured face with tiny crimps, smaller than half a pad on my finger.  The climbing continued like this 80 feet to the anchors with occasional good holds thrown in.  It was an excellent climb.  If that description somehow didn’t bore you then you might be interested in checking out the full climb here.  We walked off down a chute between the cliff and the huge slab of rock that High Rise was on.  Back at the bottom we decided to head over to the opposite end of the crag to check out a couple different areas that looked to have some good routes: Mordor and Gondor.

On the walk there we spotted a cave at the base of the cliff.  Depending on where you were the dark and light blotches on the wall of it made it look like there was either a large cat, G’mork from Never Ending Story, or some even larger beast.  The final scramble lead to a shelf at the base of a small face with an 8 ft wide roof at the top.  This is what I came to Mordor to climb: the Uruk-Hai Overhang (5.11a).  I gave Sam an anchor so she couldn’t risk stepping back and tumbling down the slope and started the route.  The face was fairly space, but not especially difficult.  The roof was a beast.  There were good holds through the roof, but by the time I tried to pull the lip back onto the vertical I had no energy left in my arms and no love for the razor edges on the hold I was pulling on.  Sadly I didn’t get it clean, but I managed to grab the sharp rock and pull myself up to the chains.  Cleaning my draws off the route while on rappel was quite an adventure too.  Finishing that I decided there was enough daylight to get in one last route so we headed over to Gondor and climbed My Precioussss.  It was another moderate face climb and ended up being a great end to the weekend.  We headed back down to the car and made it there at the perfect time to get as close to dark as possible without having to actually hike down in the dark.

Thoroughly exhausted from the weekend of climbing and unanticipated hiking we headed back toward Buraymi, the UAE, and Dubai.  We only got as far as the first.  We waited our turn in line at the border crossing again, but instead of the slew of questions this time they just said no.  I, of course, was the problem.  I had officially exited the UAE, but never received an entry stamp from Oman and they would not issue a new entry stamp for UAE unless I had entered and exited another country.  We were handed a set of poor directions that didn’t really show anything and told we needed to go 50km back the way we came.  Annoyed that we hadn’t received any instruction on what to do the first time through when we had told them we were only going to Buraymi we headed back through the land of no country to find the mysterious Oman border.  It actually wasn’t hard to find since it was back the way we came.  In fact, we even passed the small turn off that lead to Wonderwall on our way.  We found the building and went in to get our stamps.  I handed him 200dhs and he stamped my entry and my exit at the same time.  We turned back around and headed for Buraymi, again.  Once again, we didn’t get far.  There was a small shack with a guard collecting slips of paper from everyone who had gone through the border.  We had no piece of paper.  Whether it was because we didn’t actually go through the border or because the guy had just forgotten was unknown, but we were beckoned to pull off the side.  Sam explained our lack of the all important paper to the guard and he got on the phone.  It was decided that a couple dumb Americans were not a security or customs threat and we were allowed to continue on.  Our second attempt to re-enter the UAE proved successful, although the wait in line was much less exciting (they have a TV and on the first attempt they were playing something about climbing).  Back on the right side of the fence we headed back to Dubai, two hours after we first got to the border crossing.

 


Epic at Wonderwall

Good memories not good decisions

-Unknown

 

1/7

The weekend epic began with an early start.  I was up by 5:30 with only a couple hours of sleep but with the enthusiasm of looking forward to two days of climbing sleep was far from my thoughts.  Nearing the end of my allowed time in UAE I had to leave the country to get a new passport stamp.  The plan to go back to RAK for the weekend was foiled, but instead a new opportunity arose.  RIT would pay for my passport stamp so I could finally climb in Oman.  Keeping this in mind Sam and I settled on Wonderwall, a large and highly talked about crag just over the border.

We arrived at the border between Al Ain and Buraymi and the confusion began.  We drove through the toll booth style entry.  Nobody inhabited the booths so there was no getting checked and no instructions given.  Sam, familiar with going to Oman, knew we needed to go inside to get our passports stamped.  We found some parking spots and a poorly marked building.  Half a dozen doors spattered the side of the building.  Our first attempt was unsuccessful.  We were told we needed to go farther down the building.  Some border officers noticed the dumb, lost Americans and played a nice game of hot-or-cold with us to direct us to the correct door.  When it was our turn we walked up to the desk.  Explaining our plan to go climbing several times they kept asking if we were only going to Buraymi.  Confused we just said yes and paid our 35dhs a piece and continued on our journey.

We came out though a road cut that revealed a great vista.  The desert ahead spread into a small village and beyond the village was the piece de resistance, Wonderwall: a long stretching wall 150m tall.  We drifted our way through the soft sand to the base of the scree and boulders.  Abandoning the car we trekked up the slope to the base of the first area we planned on climbing: Spaghetti Western.  It was a smooth blank looking slab from farther away, but provided sufficient crimps.  Already having picked out the first climb to be a two pitch sport route, Hang em High.  It was good fun climbing through the whole route.  This was Sam’s second multipitch route and the first one where she didn’t get stuck on top for hours in the dark with no light.

Keeping with the trend we moved to another route where Sam got her second lead climb.

It was still early afternoon so we decided to go to the next section over and do a long moderate 3 pitch trad climb that had been rated highly in the book.  The route, Toothless Fox, proved to be confusing from the start.  I had to search to even find the start and ended up climbing ~40ft before I could place any gear or get onto what I knew was actually the route.  The pitch continued in the same manner, only offering up gear placements ever 40ft until I reached a small round alcove which I could stand in, the belay spot.  The problem with this was there was almost nowhere to place pro, especially the 3 minimum pieces for an anchor.  I moved all around trying to find any good crack but was not rewarded.  Finally I returned to the alcove and began to try to place gear.  Testing my first attempted cam placement I yanked on it, breaking the flakey rock it was on and slammed my elbow against the rock.  I attempted a tricam but only managed to punch the rock again and cut up my knuckles when I tested it.  Eventually I managed to find some tenuous placements: a sling looped through a hole, a solid tricam, a sketchy tricam that popped out of it’s cam position but held as nut, and a scary looking but relatively solid cam placed in the constriction on the outside of a runnel.

Sam climbed up, the anchor help, and I started the second pitch.  It was more of the same:  the description was poor and more confusing more than helpful.  I ended up traversing, per the book, creating absurd rope drag when I got to the long sloping ledge that was the next belay  spot.  Unable to pull the rope through I was forced to sling a bit of rock and down climb to my last (and first of the route) cam.  Searching the ledge there was no protection for an anchor.  The ledge sloped inwards to a large wide crack leaving nothing but a crack twice the size of my largest cam.  I found one large boulder in the crack that I hoped was actually attached.  After moving other rocks around to get to it and testing if I could budge it the rock seemed solid.  I built an anchor of three pieces on the boulder and hoped it would stay.  Sam didn’t really test it, but it remained in place.  The third and last pitch finally provided a growing number of gear placements.  The climbing eased as I neared the top so although I finally had the option to place enough gear, I passed up the opportunity anyway.  My run-out tactics were not without reason though.  Darkness was quickly approaching and we needed every minute possible, dealing with gear would have just slowed me down.  It was only Sam’s second multipitch trad climb and I had told her she wouldn’t have to climb in the dark as she had been forced to do before.  She made it to the top just as it was getting dark.

Descending was a whole new epic.  The book describes a slanting rake that is the only way to the top for hikers but we found no such path.  Sam had her headlamp, but I had been sure we started early enough that I didn’t bring mine.  We found what we believed was the decent path and traversed a zig-zagging ledge.  Thanks to the darkness I could not tell, and therefore could forget easier, that next to me the cliff continued hundreds of feet down to the ground.  Several minutes of this moonlight traverse on the narrow ledge brought us to the end.  The ledge melded back into the cliff and we had no way down.  Still not knowing how high we were I decided not to try to rap off from an outcrop of rock fearing it was too high.  It was a good thing because the next morning I spotted our location 2/3 up the cliff).  We turned around and hiked back to the top.  I was sure that we needed to continue farther along the cliff top to find our decent, or worst case find the rap rings for climbs a ways down Wonderwall.  It looked like an awkward traverse around a bulge to continue along the top so Sam decided she’d had enough uncertainty.  We walked back a bit and descended the scree on the back side of the cliff to walk around.  It soon proved to be a primrose path.  The farther we descended the farther we had to go.  Trying to find the end of the crag I walked over a ridge while Sam kept going down to get off of the scree.  The end of the crag was not over the ridge or over the next one either.  From there I could see the clear cliff line stretching way out in front and to the left.  Unfortunately we had already committed to going this way and neither wanted to hike back up and figure out another way down.  I headed back to catch up with Sam but all I could see was a flickering dot in the distance.  I sped down the remaining scree to catch up, going as fast as I could carrying my rope and rack without having any light.  I got down to the flat, rocky desert but could no longer see any sign of light.  Perfect.  I jogged in the direction of the end of the cliff with my gear rattling like a cowbell on my harness.  I held still for a minute and heard a pleasant sound:  “cling, cling, cling.”  No light but I could still hear the gear on her harness.  I kept jogging, pausing ever few minutes to listen and reorient myself.  I caught up quickly in part thanks to Sam because she stopped, thinking she was being stalked by a goat.  We walked.  We walked.  We, oh yeah, walked more.  Finding some good boards to use for firewood we picked them up and continued on carrying our new weight.  After an eternity we made it to the edge of the small town that had looked so far away from the top of the crag.  Lights shown on something exciting, judging by the yells, happening on the other side of an out of place looking fence with barbed wire.  Semi trucks screamed passed us several times a minute from a nearby mining operation.  We continued walking.  I execrated the cliff and more so our decision.  Trucks sped by.  We (wait for it) walked more.  We continued to trudge around the cliff until time faded and reality blurred.  Our usually great conversation had been replaced by internal musings of taxis, ATVs, camels, horses, buffets, pot lucks, and feasts.  Eventually trudging even took over all other thoughts.  Thankfully Sam was no kvetch and stayed positive despite our weariness.  Still thinking we needed to turn the corner before we would be in front of Wonderwall I was pleasantly surprised when Sam mentioned trying to find a path through the rocks to the dunes in front of the cliff.  I inspected the area: we were almost back to Wonderslab.  Life came rushing back.  A couple more minutes of walking barefoot through the sand and I was treated to the best sight all day: Sam’s car.  It was a glorious sight.  We dumped the gear and laid in the sand, easing aching shoulders and hips that carried rope and gear for our entire epic.  I checked the time to see that it was after 10:00.  We had topped out before 6:00.  Our journey had taken over four hours.  I kicked myself for not insisting we continued around the awkward traverse to find the decent route or some rap rings.  Unfortunately my rope bag and backpack were still up at the base of the climb.  I hiked back up to get my stuff while Sam set up camp.  We at the best tasting cold rice and beans of my life and went to bed without bothering to make a fire with the wood we had just carried for miles.

…to be continued


Climbing Video!

Climbing may be hard, but it’s easier than growing up.

-Ed Sklar

 

I added a climbing video to youtube!  This is from 1/7 at Wonderwall.  I didn’t edit it down to the action sequence so it’s as long as it took me to climb and unfortunately I could get the camera angle to include the overhanging start.  The blog post will come soon but I’m still working on catching up.  My life has been consumed by Senior Design all this year, but I should be able to start catching up now that my review is done.  In the mean time check out my video:

 


Ending the Year in Style

I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads.  Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.

-Rosalia de Castro

 

12/29

I spent the morning cleaning up my room, cleaning my rope and gear, and packing it up to go climbing.  By the time I had finished I felt like I was basically moving out of my room.  I had my backpacking pack filled with my camping stuff (primarily the tent I borrowed from Michelle which took a lot of room) and food, my regular pack filled with climbing gear, my rope bag, and a 5L jug of water.  I got a hold of Brian, a Michigander who’s been living in Dubai for several months who I climbed with at RAK, and we planned to meet at the nearest mall between 4:30-4:45.  I loaded all my stuff into a taxi and headed to the mall.  Unfortunately my driver didn’t really speak English or know where Decathlon (the store where I was to meet Brian) was in the mall.  He dropped me off at the main entrance.  It was still only 4:20 so I figured I would just hang out there so I didn’t have to carry my stuff all through the mall.  After a while I started getting concerned that I still hadn’t heard from Brian.  I tried calling but there was no answer.  By 4:45 I decided to at least walk to the entrance by Decathlon so I asked directions and headed to the NE entrance.  After a while there I decided to go in and check the store only to find out that it was on the opposite side of the mall.  Looking like a fool I tromped back outside and down to the SE entrance.  Please note that every time I walk somewhere I have a big backpack on, my smaller but heavy backpack of climbing gear on the front, a rope bag on one side, and a 5L jug of water in the other hand.  I definitely looked like a vagrant.  Down at the other end of the mall I didn’t have any better luck.  I walked into Decathlon, received some very weird looks, and found out that Brian wasn’t in the store either.  I began to debate calling it quits and getting a cab back to EA since it was after 5:30.  I headed back outside to wait near the parking lot.  Seeing come shopping carts I finally had the idea to get one to carry all my stuff.  An hour late, but still helpful.  Unfortunately it cost a dirham to get and I had no coins.  Instead I waited until an unsuspecting victim exited the mall with a cart and walked to her car.  As she closed her trunk I pounced:  “Would you like me to take that for you?”  “Oh, yes please.”  At last, I didn’t have to haul all my stuff.

A minute later I got a call from Brian saying the grocery store had taken longer than expected and he didn’t bring his phone in, but he was on his way now.  With my cart in tow and ride on the way I headed back into Decathlon and looked at gear until Brian, Renata, and Athina (Renatas adorable 4 year old daughter) arrived.  We headed out at 6.

I spent most of the ride up to RAK being the eagle while Athina was the horse until she fell asleep.  We found our camping spot near the crag and set up camp.  I opened the tent I borrowed from Michelle and gawked at its enormity.  It could easily fit 6 people and when set up I could easily stand in it, and not just in the middle.  We scavenged wood, made a fire, and hung out for a while before heading to bed.

 

12/30

I woke up several times starting  at 6am but seeing that nobody else was up continuously went back to sleep until it was nearly 8.  Everyone slowly roused and packed things up.  They wanted to explore the area so we headed up a bit of a canyon.  Remains of old Bedouin buildings were scattered all over the area.  Just before the wadi ended there was a cluster of huts more intact than the rest.  It was neat to see one that, other than part of the roof, was completely intact.  It emphasized the diminutive design of the buildings.  The doorway was only a small square just off the ground only big enough to fit my shoulders diagonally.

We eventually arrived at Zombie Skull, the area where Brian had heard there were 20 new routes, by late morning.  The problem was that there were only a few new routes.   We climbed them anyway although none were very difficult and I alternated between playing with Athina and climbing. While Brian was on the top of a climb a goat meandered across some ledges a hundred feet above him, as if to say “whacha doing down there?”  People think of monkeys as climbers, but I’ve also seen goats do things that most people cant do.

(Click to enlarge so you can see the goat better)

After a couple routes we headed out and went to another area, Disk World.  It had several longer moderate face climbs.  We did one and I wanted to do the hardest one (not that hard overall), but with the sun getting ready to set we headed back to our camping area.  On the way back to the car Athina found a goat horn and a stick and decided she was a billy goat.

(My weekend buddy/entertainment/just plain adorable)

It had been quite a long time since I got to hang out around a camp fire.  We chatted, schemed, and ate around the fire.  More beginner climbers would be climbing with us in the morning so Brian and I decided to head out before 7 to get a few hours of hard climbing in first.  I had abandoned using a tent for the night and strung up my hammock from the thorn tree nearby.  Unfortunately in doing so I had scraped myself up far more than during the day of climbing.  I crawled into my hammock and began my night of sleeping in two hour increments.

12/31

With much difficulty I roused myself at 6 to climb.  After cooking some oatmeal on the fire I attempted to wake Brian.  No luck.  Looks like the early morning climbs wouldn’t be happening.  I scrambled up the nearest ridge and hiked from one ridge to the next all around the area until I spotted signs of life from the camp far below.

We got another late start and headed to Roadside crag.  Brian and I rope gunned some easy routes for everyone else then had some time to do more challenging routes.  I lead Thug Monkey, the 5.11a I had TRed the last time.  I was happy that I cleanly and calmly managed the moves that felt desperate before.  Brian wanted to try another route before then lead Thug Monkey so we pulled my rope and headed around the bend to Peckers Poke.  It was a great layback crack and the first layback I’ve seen in the UAE.  I cruised through it and TRed the unprotectable but quite fun very thin face to the side of it.  From the top I tossed the rope down and headed around to do the same to the two TRs.  Unfortunately once I did this and hiked around to the bottom Brian informed me that one of the ropes got stuck and we needed to re-climb the route to get it.  While Brian chased the rope I headed back up Thug Monkey since Brian decided he didn’t want to do it after all and I had gear on it still.

Eventually we had collected all our gear and loaded back in the cars to go to Farside Crag.  I started on Devils Slide.  I climbed an easy section 25 ft tall before I could clip the first bolt.  From there I fist jammed through 35ft of a smooth crack with bolted protection until it opened up for 35ft of trad in which I decided to only place 1 piece of gear before I decided it wasn’t worth the time.  It was an interesting and certainly diverse climb.  Last, but not least was Angels way: another tall route, this time all bolted, that varied from chimney to face climbing resulting in some great and interesting climbing.

The sun had set.  It was dark in the wadi (canyon basically) as we cruised down the windy road back into Ras Al-Khaimah.  It was New Years Eve and I still had no idea what I was going to do.  After a quick talk with Andy it didn’t seem like much was going on in Dubai so I decided to head to an unknown party in the desert organized by John, the 65 year old climbing machine who has set most of the routes in RAK.  I was uncertain what it would be like but as we drifted through soft sand lights were visible over the dunes.  We crested the hill and all my doubts about this being boring melted away.  Arriving at 9:00 we were already on the late end of things, at least compared to the hundred or so people who were already gathered around the bonfire and many barbecues.  Someone even brought a pair of huge speakers that we blasting from the back of a truck.  We join in the ruckus, meet people, danced, and had a great time.  My New Years Eves seem to have finally recovered from two bad ones in a row.  Now I just want to continue 2011 the way NYE was: climbing and festivities.


East Coast Exploration

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.

-Jawaharial Nehru

 

12/27

Spent most of the day doing nothing but ended up hungry with no food and it was still too early for the dining hall (more of a catered dinner each night).  It was the perfect opportunity to explore the restaurant in the labor camp.  Stan and I ventured out the gates of EA, past the mosque, and across the dusty dirt soccer “field” to the restaurant.  We walked in and took a seat.  A marker board hanging on the wall listed about 12 options.  Not knowing what anything was and not wanting to get something with meat I attempted to ask what was vegetarian.  It was quite confusing because he barely spoke English and I don’t speak any Hindi or Arabic.  After quite a bit of confusion I managed to order Alu Palak which I was pretty sure wouldn’t have any meat and some roti.  The food arrived in a couple minutes.  The roti was the largest I have seen, about a foot in diameter.  The alu palak was not quite such a large portion (and had no meat), but both were excellent.  After we finished up our food we got our check.  11dhs.  My part was only 4 ($1.08).  Great food.  Amazing price.

After dinner I went to play soccer with Andy, Stan, and Omar.  Unfortunately the field had already been reserved.  We went on anyway and played on the unused side of the field.  A kid of the people who reserved the field came and played with us so we played 2v2 with Andy in goal.  He was pretty good considering he was only about 8 and barefoot.  The only problem was that he was scared of Omar after he blasted a shot that Andy unintentionally saved with his face.

 

12/28

We woke up early to head out on a hike to Wadi Wurayah.  Michelle and her friend Akheel picked Stan, Andy, and I up at 5AM to head to the east coast for a hike.  Unfortunately we missed some turns and took a bit of the long way around so we went all the way up to Ras Al-Khaimah, down to Fujairah, then back up almost to Dibba turning our 1.5 hour trip into a 4 hour trip.  Our plan to arrive before sunrise to see some wildlife was further foiled by the terrible directions we got online.  Not quite knowing where to go we stopped at a parking lot next to a dry dam.  We were pretty sure we weren’t at the wadi but hoped we could hike the last bit to it.  We hiked down to the dry creek bed.

The mud from past floods tiled the ground and curled up where it had cracked apart.  We found feline foot prints dried in the mud and small wild melons all over the cracked floor.  Most of the melons were dried up, but a few were still healthy looking.  I cracked one open with my knife and tried a little piece.  It may not have been bad but it certainly wasn’t ripe.  It was the most bitter thing I have ever tasted.  I washed my mouth out immediately.  That didn’t help.  I ate an apple and drank some more water.  Eventually the bitter taste subsided.  We spotted a small offshoot that looked interesting and began hiking up it.  Exploring and meandering we worked our way up the dry bed a little ways passing a hole or den some kind of cat had dug out.  After a bit we agreed that we needed to figure out where we were going a little bit more if we wanted to actually make it to the wadi.  I volunteered to climb up to the top of the nearby peak and see what I can see; Akheel wanted to come too.  I set off scrambling up the ravine as it turned from a moderate hike to true chossaneering.  To avoid pulling off some loose rock, pitching over backward, and tumbling hundreds of meters to my certain demise I shook, hit, pulled, and kicked every rock before I put any weight on it.  I conquered mountain at last and scrambled up to the carren.  I looked around soaking in the 360 degree vista.

From the top I could see back to Indian ocean and Snoopy Island.  Surveying the cry washes to determine the direction of the wadi I noticed a road, paved and all, heading up one branch.  That was where we needed to go.  Our meager directions had lead us to the dam rather than the waterfall of the wadi.  We headed back down to meet up with everyone and trekked back to the car.  The entire hike I had been noticing the abundance of garbage lodged in every crack of dried mud and every recess in the rock.  I began to grab a couple pieces on our way back and before I knew what was going on Andy had joined with gusto so by the time we got back we had collected so many bottles, pieces of foam, and even 5 gal water jugs we could have filled several full sized trash bags.

We piled back into the car eager to get away from the flies the coated everything (as they seem to do in all of the UAE) and headed back down the paved road to take the road we hadn’t chosen before.  We headed on down the road until the pavement ended again.  This time seemed much more hopeful and after walking only a few hundred meters we spotted the wadi.  A hundred meters below.  Our most recent road had lead us to an overlook where we could see the green reeds, lush plants, and waterfall of the wadi, all covered in spray-paint and litter.  I located a spot where I could make my way down the steep scree to get to the wadi.  Akheel decided to brave to slope but Stan, Andy, and Michelle weren’t so brave and decided to go back to what looked like a better path a little farther back.  As I made it down to the bottom I found a small goat skull and a bright scarf.  I named it Fred.

The wadi was great and terrible.  As I mentioned before, it was covered with litter and spray-paint which was quite sad, but it was still beautiful.  I veritable fountain of life in the middle of the harsh desert.  I climbed around the pool of water and inspected it.  It was crystal clear and looked pretty deep.  I looked up to see the ledges above.  Oh yeah.  I went back and walked into the water.  It was cool and refreshing, even to the point of chilly compared to the toasty desert.  I swam across to the deep pool and dove.  It was plenty deep (around 4m).  I got out and climbed back around, convincing Akheel to jump oh the ledge that was about 3m.  Wanting to get pictures of me jumping I waited for our stragglers to jump.  About 40 minutes after us they finally strolled up.  They had decided to try to drive back and all the way up to the wadi, but eventually ditched the car due to the rocky track and walked a ways in.  Once I had recruited a photographer a walked around up to the top ledge.  I stood and debated my leap.  Trying to determine how high it was I asked around and the common answer seemed to be 25m, but I don’t think it could have been more than 20m.  After a minute of contemplation nerves (related to the depth of the water mostly) got the better of me and I moved to another slightly lower ledge.  With Andy’s waterproof camera around my wrist I leaped from the ledge.  Encouraged by the fact that I didn’t even come close to the bottom I ran back to the top and hurled myself off the tallest ledge.


Orienteering (minus the map and compass)

Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.

Anatole France

 

12/26

I woke up and flipped my computer open as has become my morning habit.  An email from Ian only a minute old asked “you up?” so I opened up Skype.  It was midnight at home and they had just finished playing the new game we go for Christmas.  We chatted again and I said hi to Frankie and Erica.  They departed, Mom and Ian went to bed, I got up.  The time difference is still funny to me.

Unable to find anyone to climb with I resorted to exploring the city some more.  Based on a suggestion from Sam I set out to find a vegetarian restaurant near the textile souk.  The only directions that I remembered were rather simplified and lacked detail:  go behind the Dubai Museum, through the textile souk, there will be a vegetarian restaurant on each side of the road, go to the one on the right.  I set off with Andy, Stan, and Omar in tow.  We got off at the nearest metro stop knowing it would be a bit of a walk.  There was a bit of confusion trying to find the museum, but without any wrong turns and only a bit of second guessing we found it.  The by this time I was kicking myself for not remember the directions better (I knew there was something about turns in there before getting to the textile souk) and for not trying to get them again from Sam earlier.  With just my recollection of the conversation we traversed the streets in search of the souk and the restaurant.  Souks are an interesting thing, I never quite know when something is or isn’t a souk.  They usually have areas around them that are, for all actual purposes, the exact same yet are not considered part of the souk.  This was the case as we wandered through street after street of textiles thinking we were in the souk.  Eventually we got to the end and I knew we had gone to far.  We zig zagged up and down a couple times until we were about ready to find anywhere to get food.  Just as we decided we just wanted food we made it to the water taxi port and the wooden roof of the actual textile souk.  I knew it had to be here.  I walked down the street and to my pleasure there was a large sign saying “Vegetarian.”  We walked in.  The place was nice, but didn’t seem like a place that sees lots of tourists.  The people spoke very limited English.  The menu was extensive and uninformative, only having names with no descriptions.  But the food was great and cheap.  I’m really not even sure what I ate, but we shared food a bit and it was all very good.  I can’t wait to go back and try more.

After dinner we headed out and wandered through the actual textile souk.  Eventually we looped around to take a water taxi across the creek.  We boarded the abra and set off chugging up the creek.  It was a small vessel with a bench in the middle for people to sit facing either side and a small roof overhead, but nothing else besides the small motor and pulley driven rudder.  About 20 other people joined us on the for the trip across the creek, and for only 1dhs who wouldn’t want to take the ride?

The great part about the ride was that it didn’t just bring us to the other side but it brought us up the creek toward our destination.  We found ourselves standing in front of the spice souk.  We headed in to practice our bartering and investigate frankincense and myrrh.  We both wanted to buy more spices but need to investigate prices first so we don’t get taken.  It was entertaining haggling with the shop keepers, but we didn’t stay too long before making the trek back to the metro.  We heard the announcement saying the train had arrived at the platform.  Hurrying to get down the the platform we jumped in the elevator.  It descended to the platform and we all stood, uncertainly as the door didn’t open.  “Over here” a voice chimed in from behind us.  We turned around and notice a second door on the opposite side.  We got out of the elevator and took two steps before the doors shut and the train sped off.  We sat and waited for the next train.