Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jordan, Part Three

by Chris Thomas
For part one:  http://mammutathleteteam.blogspot.com/2011/08/wadi-rum-jordan-part-one.html
For part two:  http://mammutathleteteam.blogspot.com/2011/11/jordan-part-two.html

Petra and Wadi Musa were really cool to see, but I was definitely ready to get back to Wadi Rum for some more climbing.  The routes we had done so far could be accessed from a camp in the village.  But to truly experience the wide expanse and desolation of the desert we wanted to get off the beaten path a little more. 

I wandered around the village until I found a local Bedouin who agreed to drive us into Barragh Canyon.  Mohammed was super friendly and a total expert on the area. 

 Loading up the truck with water, food, camping and climbing gear for a couple of days.

It was pretty amazing what this truck could do - we got stuck in deep sand a couple of times, but as soon as our driver slipped it into 4WD we'd creep through it, even up and over tall dunes.

 An incredible overhanging wall estimated to be about 70 meters tall.  Talk about new route potential...

With so many stunning walls and possibilities for routes, we had a hard time deciding on where to camp.  Mohammed patiently waits while we consult the map yet again

 Merlin's Wand, a classic 5.10 watergroove and crack climb.  It's about 6 or 7 pitches long and has some of the best rock we climbed on in Jordan.  We set up camp directly below this incredible feature. 

 Ryan on the first pitch of Merlin's Wand.

A seemingly idyllic camp site - hardly the case!

We split into two teams - Andy and I sharing a rope, and Ryan and Nathan coming up behind us.  The climbing reminded me a lot of Red Rocks - great hand jams and finger locks, but face holds for your feet.  Perfect. The climbing was certainly steep, but with such user-friendly locks and jugs the grade is very moderate.  It didn't take Andy and I long - we topped out in just a couple of hours. 

After rapping back to the base, we still had about 60 minutes of light left.  Not content to waste the opportunity to take another lap on such a classic route, I immediately started back up, solo.  I dragged a rope behind me, planning to rap when I topped out or ran out of light.

After getting the rope stuck while rapping, twice, and having to re-solo pitches to get it back, I got down just after dark.  I watched an amazing sunset while descending, but couldn't help noticing the demonicly dark clouds forming to the east, toward the Saudi border.

Within less than 10 minutes of arriving back on the ground, a light drizzle started.  It quickly developed into a full-on thunderstorm, with rain so heavy we had to yell just to hear each other.  It was pitch black, except for when the intense lightning lit up the canyon so brightly it felt like daylight. 
I was thinking about how lucky I was to have not wasted any more time in getting down - just a few minutes ago I was on the route and would have gotten drenched. 
While pondering how uncomfortable that would have been, an incredible crashing noise quickly got our attention and we ran out of our tents into the storm.  Just a few feet away, the route I had just soloed had become a raging waterfall to rival anything in Yosemite - I surely would have been killed by either drowning or being flushed from the cliff had I been just a couple more minutes late.  The entire upper dome of rock, countless acres, funnled the collected water into the Merlin's Wand water groove.  Within seconds our camp flash flooded, soaking our tents and washing away some of our gear that was still sitting outside.  We grabbed everything we could and ran like hell to higher ground, having to reposition ourselves a couple of times as the lake where our camp had been grew.

We had been joking the whole trip about more people die of drowning in the desert than thirst, but really had no idea how true that statement was.  We, and especially I, were incredibly lucky and this is a lesson that won't quickly be forgotten!

Just as qucikly as the storm came in, we were with left in a stunning starry sky.  Although the waterfalls raged for most of the night, in the morning it was sunny and warm, a very welcomed change.  We treated ourselves to a lazy morning to let things dry out a little, and then went off exploring for more great rock climbs.  Above, you can see me climbing in a red shirt in the lower left corner.

We only had time for a couple of pitches - after the rock dried there were only a few hours before our driver came to pick us up.  We stopped on the way back to the village to chck out some rock art, left by ancient caravaning tribesmen, many of whom were on their way to Mecca.

Next day:  time for one more route.  Andy I climed Catfish Corner, a great 5.11ish finger crack.

 Making our way back north to Amman. 

We stopped along the way to check out Karak, a castle built by Crusaders several hunded years ago, the Dead Sea, Mt. Nebo, and Madaba

Hitting the shisha after a meal of Schawarma.  Not a bad way to finish up the trip!

25 hours of airplane time was all that seperated me from home, my lovely girlfriend, taco carts, and margaritas.  Jordan was great, but it felt really good to be going home too!

Jordan was without a doubt a trip I'll remember for the rest of my life.  Many thanks to Mammut for all of the support!

Thanks for reading,
Chris Thomas

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