Oman Climbing Developments
Winter 2001 / 2
LIMESTONE EXOTICS in the WESTERN HAJAR MOUNTAINS - OMAN
A review of new route development by Geoff Hornby of Jabals Misht, Kawr and Misfah.
When I first visited this limestone mountain range of Dolomite proportions there were only six existing routes. The last 3 years have seen that list extended to over 40 routes ranging from 400 metres to 1100 metres in length.
Arabia's prime big wall is the 1100 metre South East face of Jabal Misht. This was the venue for 2 routes created by Paul Ramsden - Eastem Promise with Tom Nonis at ED1, and The Empty Quarter at ED2 with Aqil Chaudhry and Paul Eastwood. These two lines climb the groove left of the central pillar and the wall to its left. Geoff Homby and David Wallis then added Intifada at TD Sup up the obvious groove on the right of the face whilst the plum steep line of Icarus was added by Pat LiHlejohn and Steve Sustad. Icarus has climbing of E4 5c and takes the hanging line immediately right of the French Pillar finishing up the left side of the top arete. These four lines are possibly the cream of the current routes in the area. Oswald Oelz and Robi Boesch passed through the area and added a new line that I believe shares much common ground with Eastern Promise, but that will have to be left to future guide book writers to delineate. David Barlow, Peter Bishop and Chaudhry have also climbed the pillar at the right side of the wall but were forced to traverse into Intifada at half height. Riddle in the Sands weighs in atTD and is 850 metres in length.
As a project for some of our young guns, the wall right of Icarus is without doubt the biggest, cleanest sweep of limestone I have seen. The features appear to be discontinuous but a ballsy approach and the highest technical free climbing should make it do-able. Somebody do it before the drillers arrive!!
The extensive South face has seen additional routes from Hornby and Wallis, Snakes and Ladders 750 metres and TD and the first appearance of Albert Precht and Sigi Brochmeyer with Way of the Dwarfs at 800 metres and metres and TD. Albert and Sigi have been themain driving force in new route development in wadi Rum for the last 5 plus years and their attention to Oman will undoubtedly increase the rate of new route development. Precht and Brochmeyer also added another line to the South West Face left of the existing British routes, to give Watergate at 500metres and TD, The Al Jil face of Misht sported one line from Homby and Barlow in Jilted until Precht and co spotted its potential. They have added Doc.Bulle with Oswald Oelz (named in his honour) at 500 metres and TD and Half Moon Comer at 300 metres and D. Whilst this wall does not have the height and position of the other Misht faces, Albert is of the opinion that it has some of the most continuous lines around.
Opposite Misht and as outlying peaks to Jabal Kawr lie the Towers of Sint. The two summits climbed to date are Jabal Asait and Labal Asala. I joined Precht, Brochmeyer, Oelz and Gerhard Hafner in the first ascent of Asaits North Ridge. This towered ridge line is stunning and passed in 16 pitches to E2 5c (getting the Precht grade of TD!!!). Climbing at that grade with Sigi and a single 9mm rope, one sling, six wires and a couple of Friends kept me focused!! Internationale is without doubt a gorgeous outing that needs repeat ascents. The West Face of this peak produced another stunning line for Hornby and Bishop in Snake Charmer at 600 metres and TD whilst Barlow and Chaudhry climbed some hard ground to a halt and rap descent to give Muscat Rap. Oelz and Robi Boesch have since visited and climbed an excellent new line up the left side of the face to give Mystery TD. The East face is far more broken and provided a solo outing for Precht to give Straight Up at D and 500 metres whilst I added a second line to the left at a similar length and grade. Jabal provded the Prech and Brachmeyer led teams with two routes on the North side, North Pillar and Rock Fascination both TD and in the order of about 600 metres plus 500 metres soloing to the summit, whilst the smaller peak to the left provided a number of shorter routes. On the opposite side of the limestone exotic range, the Hornby, Chaudhry, Barlow and Bishop posse added 2 routes to the South East Buttress of Jabal Misfah.
I have been collating and photocopying full details of these and other routes in the Western Hajar for a book of the maps and topos. in return for a contribution to a charity of my choice, I'll cover the photocopying charges.