Jordan is a land of beauty and the beauty lies in the hearts of the people while the vast desert landscape and towering sandstone buttresses instill awe! I often thought, if only these cliffs/walls could speak – what amazing tales could be told… Although the silence of the desert spoke and continues speaking to whomever ventures within.
An email newsletter came through and I read through it as per normal – after reading I scanned the margins listing the upcoming events and announcements but this time a caption caught my eye and piqued my interest;
Climbing Trip to a Middle East Country
Participants to pull it off –
We determined that 1 single gal and 1 married guy wasn’t the best “team” to send (duh!) so we needed a minimum of 4 and preferably 6. At first glance that’s easy. Right? Wait-a-minute! Each of these climbers would have to be self funded and be able to commit to spending 2 weeks in the desert! So we set a deadline of December 1st and put together a concise trip detail letter and started knocking-on-doors, which wasn’t necessarily easy since we were asked to “not put it all over the internet”. December approached rapidly and we didn’t have the minimum commitments to launch so we extended the deadline to something like the 10th of December. Let’s just say that the team of 6 came together at the last minute and everyone had their bases covered…some say coincidence…I believe otherwise.
(picture intermission aka squirrel!)
As one would guess plans were made, time flew and the time to fly came. Eric, one of the team members, lives about 1 hour north of me has in-laws near the Seattle airport so I picked him and we made our way to their house. The next morning we were kindly dropped curbside and promptly found out that our flight was cancelled – after some kind help from American Airlines we were rebooked on British Airways set for departure that evening. So what to do with 10 hours in Seattle airport?
After many hours we arrived in Jordan and were greeted by Al with Operation Mercy, the one who invited us. He drove us out through Wadi Rum into the desert to meet up with the rest of the team. It was great to finally meet the other U.S. team members, Climbers Equiping Climbers International (CECI) and the Wadi Rum climbing club (WRCC) members. FiveTen, Evolv, Sterling Ropes and Black Diamond had all been generous in supporting the WRCC and all the donated or discounted gear was laid out.
Day 1: After airport pick-up, meeting the team, Wadi Rum club members and sorting gear we got in a half day of climbing at a bolted crag.
Day 2: On to another sport climbing crag. The primary reason for our trip was to climb and instruct multi-traditional climbing – when bringing a large group together it’s a great strategy to climb “easy” sport aka bolted routes to establish and observe each climbers skill level. We did some morning climbing and taught an alternative (safer) way of cleaning single-pitch anchors then followed with a lunch break. When we came back someone who had not been there for the a.m. session observed, from standing at the base, the alternative cleaning technique and nearly freaked out. After some explanation he realized how the Bedouins where cleaning the anchors was actually safer. 🙂
Day 3 – Started out (without) a bang!
The alpine desert teams were confronted with a rather involved descent (hike-off) and a short distance from the base Shannon twisted her ankle, quite well by the way, and Hakim and few of the Bedouins leapt into action rigging a rappel for her – a short rap brought her to the desert sands and welcomed care.
Day 4 – It would be slightly weird to get together with friends and have a CPR night, instead of an evening of games – so it is with climbing, most climbers spend very little time practicing rescue techniques but if/when the skills are needed the time spent will have great value and potentially life saving. Menu’s manna, knot passing at Mosa (Moses) Slab;
Day 5 – Our first multi-pitch trad day! Hakim divided us up into teams and assigned us routes…Metab and Eric got stuck with me and the three of us got stuck with “Goldfinger” 5.9 – (said tongue-in-cheek) We had an awesome time climbing the route with a tad-bit of exposure induced trepidation from Metab on the “Goldfinger” pitch but it worked quite well with Eric seconding alongside him which enabled Metab to continue safely to the large belay ledge.
Day 6 – Half the team did multi-pitch climbing and our half did the following…
Day 7 – Multi-pitch day and Kristi, Salamh got to climb “Merlin’s Wand” a classic climb that is amazing!
One team had the potential for the dreaded “Factor 2” fall but as the leader was falling past the mid-route anchor the rope crossed over the belayer’s neck. Quite literally his neck definitely reduced the forces below “Factor 2” and potentially saved 3 necks! The lead climber was, however, grateful that the belayer maintained his brake hand on the rope!
Day 8 – Hiked a “Bedouin Trail” (commonly attributed to ancient Ibex hunting routes) to the top of the second highest formation in the area called “Kuagha-Zali”. The experience was fabulous and the summit views breathtaking! Following Abu Rahd, ~47 yrs old, as he negotiated the way barefoot was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Evening shots –
Day 9 – The day was cut short by wind-driven dust followed by rain the evening continuing into day 10. Jeremy and Shannon managed to put up a FA trad line that went at 5.7+ “Rainbow Corner”. While the rest of us climbed nearby sport climbs.
Day 10 – Rainy day rest day we spent in Aqaba – shopping and delicious Turkish coffee!
Day 11 – Petra! It is one of the seven wonders of the world and it is wonderful! You should just go…
Day 12 – Spent at Barrah Siq and Kristi, Ali and I were assigned to a 3 pitch route. Kristi led the first pitch and she rocked it! Ali’s shoulder was sore and I felt whimpy so we bailed from the top of pitch 1. It was a great day just hanging out for our last day of climbing.
Day 13 – Half the team stayed and organized gear while a few others went out and bolted a rappel station for future “teen desert camps”.
Day 14 – Chilled in Aqaba
Day 15 – Departure for home-sweet-home!
Day 16 – Pick up Eric from Seattle airport and drive home.
Holy smokes! If you made it completely through this trip report you deserve a medal!