WADI RUM: TEN CLASSIC ROCK CLIMBS
Wadi Rum has grown into one of the great rock climbing destinations of the Middle East in recent decades. Many hundreds of rock climbs of different kinds & difficulty levels are found across its mountains today, some of which may deserve to be recognised amongst the finest sandstone climbs in the world. What follows is a an outline of ten classic rock climbs in Wadi Rum, chosen by Tony Howard; a founder of the Wadi Rum Trail, who began the first modern climbing exploration in Wadi Rum with a small team of climbers in the 1980s. Every one of these routes counts as a serious, technical rock climb, whose difficulty level significantly exceeds any of the climbing encountered on the Wadi Rum Trail & all of which will require a higher of experience, climbing skill, know-how and sometimes, extra equipment. Descriptions of these routes along with climbing topos can be found in Tony Howard's classic guidebook 'Treks and Climbs in Wadi Rum, Jordan'. French mountain guide Wilf Colonna will also be releasing a guidebook to Wadi Rum soon, in which these and others may be described.
1. GOLDFINGER - A superb crack climb, Goldfinger scales the central lower tower of Jebel Rum's east face. It involves four pitches of climbing up to grade 5+, all of which can be well protected & its approach also allows other well-known climbs, such as Inferno, to be accessed too. Ascending one of Jebel Rum’s most famous big walls, surrounded by dramatic rock scenery, with great views across the village to Jebel Um Ashreen, Goldfinger is a classic that gives an excellent introduction to climbing in Wadi Rum at this grade. First ascended by Wilf Colonna & Gilles Claye in 1986.
2. INFERNO - An excellent, exposed climb on Jebel Rum's east face, Inferno involves three to five pitches of technical crack climbing, with a crux graded 6b. After three pitches of always-interesting climbing up a variety of cracks, a good ledge is reached from which a descent can be made with two abseils. Alternatively, a continuation crack that will prove near irresistable to some, can be followed for two more pitches at grades 5+/6a to the next good abseil point. Climbers can continue on a lengthier ‘Extreme’ route from here called Towering Inferno. This ends on a high balcony where it joins another route known as the Inshallah Factor that continues to the summit of East Dome: a prominent top of Jebel Rum's East Face. An excellent descent route from the East Dome is a Bedouin climbing route that runs through an open cave once termed the Eye of Allah by foreign climbers, but whose name may be changed soon, perhaps to the Eye of Rum, for religious reasons. Inferno was first ascended by Tony Howard, Wilf Colonna & Di Taylor in 1986.
3. MERLIN'S WAND - Often referred to simply as Merlin by climbers in Wadi Rum today, this is a beautiful, straight crack climb up the lower northern crags of Jebel Abu Judayda, slicing skywards through the dramatic, shadowy depths of a winding gorge known as Siq Barra or the Barra Canyon. The crack extends 150m, involving five vertical pitches of sustained climbing upto grade 6a+ & involving four abseils on the way back down. First climbed by Tony Howard & Wilf Colonna in 1986, Merlin's Wand counts as one of Wadi Rum's most popular rock climbs today. Two other crack climbs are close by, including Honte A Vous on the left and, on the right, Fesse Tival.
4. THE BEAUTY - Following a superb line next to a towering finger of rock on the west face of Jebel Um Ejil, The Beauty is another one of Wadi Rum's stand-out classics, fully-deserving of its honorary name. Ascending cracks, corners & a chimney, it involves six pitches of delightful climbing up to grade 6a. Once the technical climbing has been completed, it is possible to continue upwards more easily, topping out on Jebel Um Ejil's summit; one of many high points in a much bigger massif known as Jebel Um Ashreen. Abseils are made from in-situ bolts on the way down. The approach to The Beauty is made via the chasm of Um Ejil or the Raqaba Canyon, through which the first section of the Wadi Rum Trail passes. The same approach can be followed back to Wadi Rum at the end of the climb or, once down the scree below the climb, climbers can go a short way north in the canyon to abseil into the deeper Kharaza Canyon, which leads out west to Wadi Rum. The first ascent was made by Wilf Colonna & Alan Baker in 1985.
5. THE HAJJ - Meaning The Pilgrimage after the annual Islamic Hajj to Mecca, this route certainly has the feel of a grand old climbing journey about it. One of the more remote climbs in Wadi Rum, it ascends the southern face of Jebel Suweibit Gharbia, which overlooks the vast, sweeping sands of Wadi Saabit, near Jordan's southern border with Saudi Arabia. It begins up an obvious crack in a steep black wall, before scaling an irresistible diagonal crack in a slabby headwall & a finishing with a delicate pitch to easier summit rocks. It involves nine pitches of climbing up to grade 5+, with an easy descent if the correct way down to the east is found. The Wadi Rum Trail runs close to The Hajj after passing the high peak Jebel Um Adami - a few kilometres away to the south east - & any climbing parties can consider stopping for a day to make the ascent. The route was first climbed by Tony Howard, Mick Shaw & Di Taylor in 1995. A subsequent ascent by Tony & Di was filmed at the request of the BBC and it rapidly became one of Wadi Rum's classics.
6 STAR OF ABU JUDAYDA - Jebel Abu Judayda is a sharp summit rising in the dramatic desert landscapes east of Jebel Um Ashreen. It is divided from the high peaks of Jebel Barra by the deep, dramatic gorge of Siq Barra or the Barra Canyon & it is here - just a short way from the bottom of Merlin's Wand - that another one of Wadi Rum's classic climbs, the Star of Abu Judayda, begins. With long, sustained pitches of grades 5, 5+, 6a & 6b climbing up corners, slabs, chimneys & finger-cracks, this is an eight pitch route up the west face of Jebel Abu Judayda that can be well-protected throughout. Multiple abseils are made from drilled anchors at the end. First ascended by Yves Duverney & JP Monnet in 1986, the Star of Abu Judayda has become another one of Wadi Rum's most popular climbs today.
7. LIONHEART - A group of pinnacles known as the Towers of Abu Eina rise at the southern end of Jebel Rum & Lionheart is a route that involves steep, sustained climbing all the way to their high summit domes. It takes a direct line up four corners, before passing an overhanging jamming crack to finish over a superb, steep slab & involves eight pitches of climbing, with grades upto 6b. Lionheart was first climbed by father & son team Rowland & Mark Edwards in 1987 & it has grown today into one of Wadi Rum's most popular climbs at its grade.
8. PILLAR OF WISDOM - A high, domed top on Jebel Rum's east face, which towers up above the springs of Ein Shelalli, is scaled by the route Pillar of Wisdom. It rises 350m on good rock, giving open, continuously-enjoyable climbing, with an exposed & delicate, but bolt-protected grade 6b crux on the final pitch (ranked as grade 6a if the bolts are used as holds, rather than just protection). The domed top climbers arrive at is one of several in an area of Jebel Rum known as 'Hammad's Domes', in honour of a Bedouin climber called Hammad Hamdan, who pioneered several routes in this area. There is no known direct climbing route to the top of Jebel Rum from here. Instead, climbers descend to the north, where an old Bedouin climbing route known as Hammad’s Way - originally pioneered as an ascent route on Jebel Rum's east face by Hammad Hamdan - can be abseiled down. Hammad's Way is a heavily-used descent route on the east face of Jebel Rum, followed by the last section of the main Wadi Rum Trail. Pillar of Wisdom was first climbed by Wilf Colonna, Tony Howard & Di Taylor in 1986 & it counts as another classic of the region today.
9. MUEZZIN - One of Wadi Rum's many impressive big wall routes, Muezzin begins by ascending an almost impossible-looking pillar on the east face of Jebel Nassrani, in the southern parts of the Jebel Um Ashreen massif. It involves seriously exposed, committing climbing on mostly good, but occasionally dubious rock, all the way to the top of Jebel Nassrani's north peak. The route begins in the sweeping red dunes of Wadi Um Ashreen & involves pitches with grades of 6a & 6a+. This route is visible from the Wadi Rum Trail after it exits Um Ejil to cross Wadi Um Ashreen. First climbed by Albert Precht, Wolfgang Haupolter & S Inhoger in 1990, it stands as a Wadi Rum classic today.
10. ORANGE SUNSHINE - Along with The Hajj, Orange Sunshine is the only route in this list outside the climbing heartlands of Jebel Rum, Jebel Um Ashreen & the Barra Canyon. Still popular today, it follows grooves, cracks & corners through huge slabs of smooth sandstone on the eastern face of Jebel Birda, offering around 300m of climbing, over 10 pitches, with grades up to 5a. Several different variations can be done on either side of the main route & an easy scramble leads from it’s top to Jebel Birda's northern summit. Climbers can descend Jebel Birda's north ridge finishing with a short abseil to the well-known natural rock bridge which can be crossed to the other side & integrated into a full descent of Jebel Birda's east face. The Wadi Rum Trail passes Jebel Birda & any climbers could consider stopping here an extra day. First climbed by Mick Shaw, Tony Howard, Di Taylor, Wilf Colonna & Alan Baker in 1985 & still popular today.