"Not all those who wander are lost"

Wondrous Wall, Not so Wondrous Border

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.




The week was like any other week:  dreaded classes, fun time bouldering, lots of working on senior design.  Then things took an unexpected turn.  Sam emailed me to tell me that she had a fever and didn’t know if she would be able to go to Wonderwall as planned.  Not wanting to lose a weekend of climbing and much less get stuck in the city for the weekend I made back up plans with Gordon to join them at Tawayan in case Sam’s fever didn’t subside.



Fortunately her fever did subside in the night and she insisted she was fine to climb.  Sam, Dayne (her jack russell), and I headed for the border.  Now, dogs aren’t really supposed to cross the border, but friends here do it all the time so they can take their dogs camping so we were trying it.  As we approached the border I put Dayne on the floor in the back, covered him with a sleeping bag, and dumped some treats on the floor.  It worked through the first part.  We parked for a minute while I ran in to get my exit stamp from the UAE.  The next part was more interesting.  We pulled back into the line of cars going through passport control to get into the UAE and Dayne decided he didn’t want to sit on the floor anymore because something was going on.  I had to hold him down by his collar as he wriggled.  We made it past the guy standing in the middle looking for anything illegal without Dayne barking and turned out of the line to head to Oman.

We made it to Wonderwall and hiked up to the cliff.  My goal for the weekend was to try and hopefully onsight or at least redpoint Exile (7b/5.12b).  It’s a stunning climb that goes directly up the tallest, blankest face of the entire cliff.  It’s 55m of tough crimping and tiny feet the entire way that is supposed to have no rests.  To top it off it requires 18 quick draws; I only have 12 including my slings and Sam’s two draws.  I started the route anyway, planning to skip draws whenever I could.  I started the climb in good style skipping the very first bolt.  After clipping the second bolt I pulled out from the initial alcove and onto the face.  From there it all blended together into 53m of crimping, technical moves needing a specific sequence, big reaches hoping to find at least a tiny crimp, pulling hard on razor sharp knife blades (they weren’t truly crimps, they were knife blades), lots of hoping my skin was thick enough to endure the holds, and a good amount of yelling as the holds cut into my fingers.  In short, it was awesome.

At the halfway point where there are chains to rappel from or to stop for Exile Light (7a) I found a much appreciated “rest” where I could hold myself with one arm at a time and my entire foot could fit on the sloping ledge.  It was more of the same after that.  About two thirds of the way up the climb I had a foot hold break off while I was standing on it.  My foot swung out from the wall and my shoulder popped as all my weight was transferred to my right arm.  I managed to hang on to the knife blades digging into my fingers and get my foot onto something.  Shoulder throbbing I continued up.  I had another point near the top when I questioned if I would be able to make it.  I could see holds up above me but couldn’t manage to get up enough to get to any of them.  I tried going up to the right, and to the left, but nothing worked.  Finally I decided to just go for it and pulled as hard as I could on holds that I certainly couldn’t hold on if they could even hold me.  Somehow it worked and I made it to the “better” holds (I use the term very loosely and only in comparison to holding onto a blank face).  It was difficult to stay focused and not get careless as I approached the top, but I made it to the top and let out a triumphant roar.  It was the first time I had ever tried a 7b/5.12b and I had onsighted it.  Grinning ear to ear I rapped down cleaning the route.

I had already completed my primary goal for the weekend so we headed over to another area that had more climbs Sam was interested in called Aladdin’s Lamp.  Sam lead Think Fast, Hippie.  I lead Relentless, a 40m long route that I managed to rap off from with a 70m rope.  I was planning on heading back over to try Border Patrol.  I quickly ditched that idea because it would be a hard route and it has a long approach.  My decision was unnecessary anyway as it was clearly getting dark too quickly to do any more routes.  Before we headed back to the campsite we scavenged for wood, cramming Sam’s car full of (very dirty) wood.  I built a fire and we cooked the usual delicious vegetarian food on the fire.  Once we were done cooking we threw a bunch of wood on the fire for light, some of which was the wood we carried for miles on our epic night walk last time, and began bouldering.

The problems were easy and the lack of a crash pad resulted in a fairly short session.  We hung out around the fire, chatted, and eventually went to sleep.



We woke up a bit after the sun came up.  Searching around the edge of the tent for my watch I felt water.  I looked around and noticed dew that had formed on the outside of the tent.  It hadn’t rained thankfully since we didn’t have the fly on the tent, but even dew at Wonderwall was unexpected.  We had some muesli and headed up to the crag.

(The camp site)

Our first spot of the day was Spaghetti Western since it’s close to the camp spot.  I lead one called Space Cowboy to warm up then Sam was going to try leading some more stuff.  Unfortunately her fever was catching up with her and she didn’t feel well.  She followed the route and decided she wasn’t going to climb much so we hiked back down and headed over to the other side to try some stuff I was interested in.  The first of which was Border Patrol.  The unfortunate part was that to get to it we had to go all the way past it, then hike up a chute that put us on a ledge across the middle of the cliff and hike back over to it.  The even more unfortunate thing was that Dayne was having a hard time and worrying Sam by going close to the edge so I carried him on my rope bag the whole way.  After a much more intense approach than expected we finally made it to Border Patrol.

I rested for a minute and started on the route.  I use the phrase “started on the route” loosely.  I really didn’t start much at all.  It kicked my butt the whole way.  After failing to do any of the first few moves successfully several times and seeing that it only got more difficult I decided it wasn’t worth stranding my gear on the route and down climbed from the second bolt.  Disappointed I got shot down by a 7a I hoped to redeem myself a little bit and make the hike have some point by trying Hot Rats.  It’s another 7a face climb near Border Patrol and I felt like I would have more success on it.  Indeed I did.  I onsighted the first of the two pitches that is supposed to be the hard part.   Funny enough despite the climb being similar to Exile in sharpness, when it got hard at the top when they were replaced by slopers and I was quickly wishing for the knife blades back.   I decided that since Sam wasn’t coming up to clean and I had done the hard pitch I wouldn’t bother with the second pitch.  We headed back off the ledge to do another climb or two.  I wanted to check out a climb called Twisted Reach so I walked up the ledge passes Exile.  The ledge was about 8 feet wide and not a problem walking along in my sandals until I came to a boulder blocking it.  A bolt had been placed with a piece of rope to help you climb up and over it.  I managed it in my sandals.  To actually get to the route required a traverse off the ledge using a fixed hand line.  I got half way out to the climb before I lost a sandal that tumbled down to the ground.  After that I decided it would be better to do it with a harness so I could clip in to the line, not that it mattered, the ordeal of getting Dayne there and keeping him calm was a deal breaker anyway.  I headed back for a different climb and tried another 7a next to Exile called Glucosamine.  It didn’t go quite as smoothly as I hoped.  After climbing two long routes on knife blades the whole time I couldn’t do a third cleanly.

When I was at the top of Glucosamine someone walked up to where the car was and yelled up to us asking if we had a shovel.  They had gotten stuck in the loose gravel on their way to the crag.  I told him we didn’t, but we were done climbing so we’d come try to help.  When we made it down we discovered it was Dustin, a kid who had climbed with us a couple weeks before.  He and a friend got an old Mercedes stuck when they went over a drop and bottomed out the car.  Sam found a tow strap in her car and we hooked them up.  I reved the car, they reved their car, the strap snapped.  With a new figure 8 knot tying the hook we tried again with the same result (but my knot held).  It clearly wasn’t working but a local guy saw us and came out with his hold land cruiser.  He hooked a rope the size of my arm to their car and dragged the car out without any problem.  Then he kept going, toeing them all the way out down the road and out of the loose gravel.  Our part finished we said goodbye to Dustin and headed off.

After last time I had learned by lesson about the border so I went directly to the Oman border post to get my passport stamped.  I may have learned the first time but what I learned this time was that the past is irrelevant.  Despite doing the exact same thing last time, this time they would not stamp my passport because my exit from the UAE was the day before.  I argued that they did it last time.  They didn’t care.  Fuming I gave in and drove all the way back to Buraymi.  Figuring I might as well try my luck I tried to convince the UAE to just give me a new entrance stamp.  They were nice about it, but said they couldn’t do that.  When I explained my situation they just gave me a new exit stamp and sent me off.  I went BACK to the Oman border and got a new entry and exit stamp, then BACK to Buraymi, this time I made it through.  I’ve been at the UAE border post so many times now that I was chatting with some of them and feel like someone should be buying me dinner.  Sam kept Dayne down in the back and we finally made it through the border without any issues.  All together the escapade took over three hours.  On the way back we stopped and got some good Indian food at a random little restaurant.  As usual we were probably the only Caucasians that had been in the place.  After delicious dal and rotti we continued on to Dubai.

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