I recently did a couple hikes with the UAE Trekkers. Both of the hikes were ones that Bec and I did together and have blogged about so I’ll try to keep it short.
On the evening of Thursday, Dec 8th, I met our driver and a few others at Spinney’s. We set out and picked up a few others in Khalifa City before making our way to Al Ain. The Dubai crew arrived and we crossed the border into Oman on foot. We got on a different bus and made our way to the Wadi Sharm Resort just outside Mahdah.
The next morning, we made a 5:00 am assault on the nearby Jebel Qatar. I’m not sure if I’m in better shape these days or if it was because if was the first hike Bec and I did in the rugged Hajar Mountains, but it seemed much easier this time around. Once again, the views were fantastic and the company of the Trekkers was top notch. We had a chilly dip in the pool back at the resort before crossing the border and heading home.
The next meetup with the Trekkers was the beast known as Jebel Shams, Oman’s tallest peak at 2997m. On Thursday, Jan 19th, I set out for Oman straight after work. It’s a 6 hour drive to the resort on Jebel Shams including the border festivities so I arrived around 9:30pm. I thought to stay up until the others arrived, but instead had my dinner and hit the sack. I left the door to my room open expecting a fellow Trekker to take the other double bed.
With sleep mask and ear plugs in place I didn’t hear anyone come in. I woke to a knock on the door at 4:45 am. It was Amy, founder of the UAE Trekkers. I had 10 minutes to pack up. I wondered who the man in the next bed was and Amy told me it was Yahia, my friend and bus driver from the November Wadi Shabb/Tiwi weekend in November. He was showing no signs of life so I walked out the front door of the villa with my pack. I was greeted by a mob from Bahrain. They had flown in the night before and arrived at the resort around 11:30 pm. They were a couple from England, two US naval officers one of which was with his wife, and two friends from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in Bahrain. The Irish gal, Lesley, seemed to be the ringleader and she rode with me to the nearby trailhead while the others were piled into a Landcruiser.
We set out at 5:00 am with the help of our headtorches. We reached the canyon rim at sunrise but the low-pressure system passing through the Gulf that weekend ensured the typically spectacular views were hidden in a shroud of thick fog. Onwards and upwards as I say and so we did. I could tell that we weren’t keeping the kind of pace needed to summit and return before nightfall but Team Bahrain insisted we not split the group and that everyone would summit. We reached the campsite and caught some lucky unobstructed views to the east. We pressed forward for the 3 h round trip to the summit from there. The summit visibility was 100m at best, hardly comparable to my previous summit.
We started down just before 2:00 pm, we were behind schedule. I led the first group down as the sky started to drop some serious ice pellets on us. With Amy on the radio behind, I knew they would not reach the trailhead by nightfall. I pushed forward on my own and dropped my pack at the Jeep, had a bite, some water, and headed back up the trail. I found the lagging group with Amy around the 6:30 pm sunset. Together, we landmarked/waypoint-marked our way out with some exhausted trekkers. We reached the cars around 8:00pm. After dinner, I burned the bundle of wood I had in front of the villa and played some Canadian tunes for Team Bahrain.
The next morning all of our bones, tendons, and joints creaked (I did mention she’s a beast right?). We met our local guiding company led by Abdulrahman and the rope expert/army advisor Nasir. They drove us to a nearby wadi where we repelled (abseiled for the British) down a 50m cliff. I was voted first to go over the edge and managed to take a good layer off my knee on the first ledge. The cloud blew off and we were rewarded with the first real glimpse of Oman’s Grand Canyon.
There were only 2 ways out of the wadi. Another 150m repel (for which we didn’t have long enough ropes) or the via ferrata (Italian for iron road). I led us up the via ferrata and thought it was great. You are clipped in all the time, but it definitely got the palms sweaty!!!
Back at the resort, I finally got to catch up with my habibi Yahia and loaded up the Jeep to the eyeballs with UAE Trekker gear. I had a road trip to AD and Team Bahrain were off to the Muscat airport.