Wadi Rum, Jordan

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.

View from my sleeping bag.

View that greeted me when I sat up in my sleeping bag.

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

We have been approached to put together a climbing trip to country in the Middle East. For security purposes this will be a vague announcement and even this shouldn’t be posted online. Those who have asked us to come would like to have qualified guides be part of the trip. Please email …..
Thus launched many texts, emails and phone calls… When correspondence grew silent I sent another text inquiring “is the ME trip still on?” which garnered the reply “from 1 to 10 how committed are you?” with my answer being “about a 9”.  With that a conference call was scheduled which resulted in Shannon from Wyoming and myself agreeing to co-lead the trip.  One huge bonus was that Shannon had spent many years in the Middle East and spoke fluent Arabic!
(picture intermission)
Juniper tree at base of climb in Barrah Siq (canyon)

Juniper tree at base of climb in Barrah Siq (canyon)

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!)

Mr. Lizard dead and dried waiting for me to wander along and snap this picture

Mr. Lizard dead and dried waiting for me to wander along and snap this picture

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?

With 10 hours to kill in SeaTac why not do yoga? Eric strikes a pose.

With 10 hours to kill in SeaTac why not do yoga? Eric strikes a pose.

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.

Trying on new shoes!

Trying on new shoes!

Sterling gave a few free and a few at huge discount!

Sterling gave a few free and a few at huge discount!

Gear donated by very generous people and companies!

Gear donated by very generous people and companies!

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.

Jeremy and Hakim enjoying the posh desert transport!

Jeremy and Hakim enjoying the posh desert transport!

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First time climbing on Wadi Rum sandstone after months of planning and dreaming. Shannon, Eric and Salamh

Shannon, all smiles cleaning the anchor.

Shannon, all smiles cleaning the anchor.

One of the routes had a 2nd pitch extension that Hakim suggested I lead. Hakim on the 2nd pitch.

One of the routes had a 2nd pitch extension that Hakim suggested I lead. Hakim on the 2nd pitch.

Jeremy replacing 2nd pitch anchor tat. (he generously gave me the booty prize, an old "Bonaiti Cassin" biner)

Jeremy replacing 2nd pitch anchor tat. (he generously gave me the booty prize, an old “Bonaiti Cassin” biner)

The tat removed off the 2nd pitch anchor. Norm Rasmussen picture credit

The tat removed off the 2nd pitch anchor. -Norm Rasmussen photo credit

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. 🙂

Salamh climbing with Norm attentively belaying.

Salamh climbing with Norm attentively belaying.

Salamh going for the clip way above his last placement!

Salamh going for the clip!

Norm clipping the anchor.

Norm clipping the anchor.

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Jeremy cranking!

Jeremy cranking!

Abu Rahn observing the crazy climbers from a safe distance.

Abu Rahn observing the crazy climbers from a safe distance.

Hakim and Matt in deep discussion...

Hakim and Matt in deep discussion…

Day 3 – Started out (without) a bang!

Found where the truck tires disturbed the sand. Not your average deer round.

Found where the truck tires disturbed the sand. Not your average deer round.

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1/3 of the group worked on leading, cleaning the anchor and rigging rappels….

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while 2 parties climbed on the cliff opposite side of the valley….(if you look carefully you see them experiencing desert alpine rock climbing Kristi/Shannon and Eric/Norm)….

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….and myself and Jeremy put a rope on a single pitch trad line – Jeremy did an awesome job onsight leading it!

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Jeremy mid-crux…

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Jeremy at the anchor which consisted of a single drilled piton. (40 meter pitch)

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Me on a fixed line coaching one of the Bedouins on trad leading…

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Me and my shadow looking on…

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Hakim looking over the shoulder – coaching trad leading

Typical to ride on top in the desert.

Typical desert transport.

View from a climb

View from a climb…

Typical climbing day lunch. The Bedouin hospitality. Awesome!

Climbing day lunch break – Bedouin hospitality is awesome!

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.

Kristi on the descent from their desert "alpine" rock climb. photo credit - Shannon Davis

Kristi on the descent from their desert “alpine” rock climb. photo credit – Shannon Davis

Not your standard walk-off! Eric thinking thin. Photo credit- Norm Rasmussen

Not your standard walk-off! Eric thinking thin. Photo credit- Norm Rasmussen

The ankle twist victim receiving treatment. photo credit - Eric Askrin

Our “twisted sister” receiving treatment. photo credit – Eric Askrin

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;

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Matt overseeing passing knots on descent which is a great skill to gain proficiency.

Happily completed the knot passing drill.

Happily completed the knot passing drill.

Attentive belayers are always appreciated!

Attentive belayers are always appreciated!

Sport leading at Mosa Slab. The underlying rock strata is granite and this happens to be very good while the majority is choss.

Sport leading at Mosa Slab. The underlying rock strata is granite and this happens to be very good while the majority is choss.

The youngest climber of the group was Rahd. He's built to climb!

The youngest climber of the group was Rahd. He’s built to climb!

Kristi leading a trad line at Mosa Slabs.

Kristi leading a trad line at Mosa Slabs.

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.

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"Goldfinger" roughly top of pitch 2

“Goldfinger” roughly top of pitch 2

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Hakim mid pitch on the sweet "Goldfinger" finger crack!

Hakim mid pitch on the sweet “Goldfinger” finger crack!

Look closely and you'll see a team on top - 2 teams climbed this tower.

Look closely and you’ll see a team on top – 2 teams climbed this tower.

Top of "Goldfinger" high above Wadi Rum. Beautiful!

Top of “Goldfinger” high above Wadi Rum. Beautiful!

Rappel station on "Goldfinger"

Rappel station on “Goldfinger”

The first rap off of "Goldfinger"

The first rap off of “Goldfinger”

"Goldfinger" directly above Eric.

“Goldfinger” above and to the left of Eric.

The Nabatean ruins on the approach and deproach of "Goldfinger"

The Nabatean ruins on the approach and deproach of “Goldfinger”

Day 6 – Half the team did multi-pitch climbing and our half did the following…

Ali pulling the truck off a gear anchor....

Ali pulling the truck off a gear anchor….

Ali pulling the truck with a bit of resistance aka Jeremy.

Ali pulling the truck with a bit of resistance aka Jeremy.

Day 7 – Multi-pitch day and Kristi, Salamh got to climb “Merlin’s Wand” a classic climb that is amazing!

Kristi on "Merlin's Wand"

Kristi on “Merlin’s Wand”

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Salamh on "Merlin's Wand"

Salamh on “Merlin’s Wand”

Sweet "summit" shot!

Sweet “summit” shot!

The top of "Merlin's Wand" super cool feature!

The top of “Merlin’s Wand” super cool feature!

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.

Following the "Bedouin Trail".

Following the “Bedouin Trail”.

Hiking the "Bedouin Trail"

Hiking the “Bedouin Trail”

Abu Rahd is pointing at the name of his friend who had passed away 17 years prior. His name is carved into the "Bedouin Trail".

Abu Rahd is pointing at the name of his friend who had passed away 17 years prior. His name is carved into the “Bedouin Trail”.

The crew hiking the "Bedouin Trail".

The crew hiking the “Bedouin Trail”.

Overlooking the desert...

Norm and Matt overlooking the desert…

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Summit tea and beyond the rest of the team is on the summit of “Kuagha-Zali”

Evening shots –

To put this experience into words is like attempting to capture the wind in a cardboard box...

To put this experience into words is like attempting to capture the wind in a cardboard box…

Campfire mask...

Campfire mask…

Our camp

Our camp

Desert nights around the campfire - camping Bedouin style was a great experience!

Desert nights around the campfire – camping Bedouin style was a great experience!

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.

Photo credit - Matt from the U.K.

Photo credit – Matt from the U.K.

Jeremy on top of "Rainbow Corner" FA Shannon Davis 5.8

Jeremy on top of “Rainbow Corner” FA Shannon Davis 5.8

Day 10 – Rainy day rest day we spent in Aqaba – shopping and delicious Turkish coffee!

Coffee shop in Aqaba

Coffee shop in Aqaba.  Oh, you weren’t aware that Norm is a cyclops?…

Turkish coffee. Mmmm!

Turkish coffee. Mmmm!

Cool coffee shop....

Cool coffee shop….

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Food, minus bits of sand.

Day 11 – Petra! It is one of the seven wonders of the world and it is wonderful!  You should just go…

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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.

All the gear Kristi had remaining after her awesome onsight lead!

All the gear Kristi had remaining after her awesome onsight lead!

Ali rapping off

Ali rapping off

Kristi chilling with the Bedouin friends.

Kristi chilling with the Bedouin friends.

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”.

Marwan

Marwan

Al, Matt and Norm

Al, Matt and Norm

Day 14 – Chilled in Aqaba

Sunset over the Red Sea

Sunset over the Red Sea

Day 15 – Departure for home-sweet-home!

Sunset over Aaron's tomb Petra, Jordan.

Sunset over Aaron’s tomb Petra, Jordan.

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!

~Peace