"Not all those who wander are lost"


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



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.


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.


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