"Not all those who wander are lost"

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



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.



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.


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.

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