Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wadi Rum, Jordan, Part One

by Chris Thomas
Salt Lake City, UT to Amman, Jordan
I thought it was pretty funny, and I guess a little disturbing, when I handed the TSA agent my boarding pass. She looked at the pass, looked at me like I was crazy, then recommended I seriously reconsider my travel destination. "Do you know how dangerous it is to be in the Middle East right now?" she asked. I smiled, took the boarding pass back from her, and kept walking through security.
In the weeks leading up to my trip several friends, family members, and co-workers called and emailed to express dire concern about my visiting the Middle East in such a turbulent time. Although I thanked them for their advice, the ticket had been purchased, my heart was set on going, and despite recent protests in Amman, I truly believed that given some basic precautions and common sense everything would go off without a hitch.

A long non-stop flight from SLC to Paris, a quick layover, another flight to Amman and I was on my way

Wadi Rum is just north of Aqabah

Amman to Wadi Rum

I joined up with my friends at the airport. After a short rest in a crappy hotel in Amman, we made our way south, towards the Red Sea, and into the heart of Wadi Rum
Picturesque mosque in the village of Wadi Rum

Finally, climbing

First on the hit list was a great warm up climb, Beauty, on the Jebel Ishrin formation

Typical Wadi Rum approach - scrambling and slot canyons

Beauty, Jebel Ishrin

Most of the route was casual finger and hand cracks, with a little bit of spicy face climbing thrown in for good measure

The last technical pitch, a steep offwidth, proved to be the crux. Although my partner Andy had insisted that we bring big cams, I assumed the climbing would be easy and I was too stubborn to bring up the offwidth pieces. At the base of this pitch I realized my mistake and paid for it by having to solo the whole pitch with no gear. It was sporty!

On top of Jebel Ishrin. The endless desert in the background stretches to the Saudi Arabian border to the east

Local Bedouins jockeying the camel train

After a couple other short routes on Ishrin, and a long day of sweating it out in the hot sun, we got back in the van for some A/C time and a field trip to the ancient city of Aqabah. Looking out across the Red Sea, we could see into Israel and Egypt

Next up was an incredible route on the Abu Aina tower called Lionheart. This route could easily be called the Astroman of Wadi Rum. Steep, continuous crack climbing up a huge tower on perfect black varnished rock, it was defintiely one of the best routes we did in Jordan

Near the top of the tower, I nearly pitched off from 50 feet above the belay with no gear in. As I reached over head and slotted my finger into a perfect lock, a flourescent green snake poked it's head out of the crack less than an inch from my hand. It looked me in the eye, stuck it's forked tongue out at me, and then slithered off further up the crack. Shaking and cursing at the top of my lungs from both the fear of a snake bite and cratering onto the belay ledge, I gingerly plugged in some gear and finished the pitch, face climbing as far away from the crack as possible. Close call!!!

Typical rap anchor

Making the trek back into the village for some much needed shawarma and infidel juice (beer)

Coming soon: part two. A side trip to Petra, a backcountry trip to Barragh canyon, and lots more climbing

Chris Thomas

1 comment:

LeskaLLC said...

Awesome, share more. The cliffs looking like pretty hard sandstone with even some sharp edges in spots. Sound amazing