Jebel Birda: scrambling & climbing
With the exception of Jebel Rum, Jebel Birda is the most challenging peak on the Wadi Rum Trail. The Jebel Birda massif is traversed west to east, with its high, northerly summit scaled on the way. With Jebel Birda's rock bridge one of Wadi Rum's most popular tourist attractions this whole area can get busy and the Wadi Rum Trail follows a lesser-known, more direct ascent line through a quieter part of the mountain. Hikers begin from a sandy basin on the western side of the massif, ascending short scrambling steps to the bottom of a steeply-angled crag bissected by a long crack. The crux of the route, this crack is climbed straight up, all the way to the end. A sense of exposure grows throughout, but holds are good, always giving a sense of security. A winding, easy scramble leads onwards to a gully below the rock bridge, where steep, exposed ledges are scrambled on the left side to the bridge itself. Whilst the bridge can be crossed and a climbing route followed direct to the summit, hikers on the Wadi Rum Trail backtrack a little over 100m to an open, shrub-dotted basin. A small watercourse rises to the south here, up which succession of low rocky steps and terraces can be scrambled to the crest of Jebel Birda's north ridge, which is followed to the summit. Getting down Jebel Birda is a more serious undertaking, with its south ridge descended towards a saddle, where a gully leads down to sandy plains on its eastern side; the descent is steep, especially in its first section, with plenty of loose rock, at least one exposed down-scramble and an exposed traverse. Rujoom mark the way but care must be taken to follow these correctly to avoid going off-course onto high, dangerous crags. Helmets are recommended on this descent, in case any parties are moving above.
Rock bridge: tourist route
Most tourists follow an old Bedouin route to the rock bridge, beginning about 300m north of the way taken by the Wadi Rum Trail. Winding through the cracks, basins and domes of Jebel Birda's north ridge, this route is considerably longer than the Wadi Rum Trail's main ascent line, involving short scrambling sections and the traverse of an exposed ledge. It allows the longer, more exposed crack scramble on the first section of the Wadi Rum Trail's to be avoided and for hikers who do not want to traverse Jebel Birda's summit, or descend its south ridge, the tourist route can serve as an alternative way down from the bridge, with a walking route taken around the northern side of the mountain afterwards.
Anchors & protection
Whilst some hikers will feel confident completing Jebel Birda without using ropes, others will need protection. The long crack scramble at the beginning of the westerly ascent route is bolted and bolts are also in place on the exposed scramble up the ledges below the bridge. On the descent of the south ridge from Jebel Birda's summit there are no bolts; if required, natural anchors must be assembled to protect short, exposed or loose down-scrambles. There is one exposed traverse which is hard to protect and which some parties may choose to avoid entirely by making a short abseil to its side. An outline of the equipment needed to protect the route outlined above in full is given below.
Jebel Birda: climbing route
Climbers can ascend to Jebel Birda's summit direct from the rock bridge with one pitch of exposed grade three climbing. The bridge is crossed and the wall on its southern side climbed by traversing right, then up and left to easier ground on Jebel Birda's north ridge, whose crest can be scrambled more easily to the summit. This climb is not integrated into the main route of the Wadi Rum Trail, which backtracks a short way to align with an easier scrambling route. Those who want to attempt it must use experienced Bedouin climbing guides. Make sure they willl be ready at Jebel Birda on the morning on which the ascent is due to be made, which is typically the third day of a hike on the Wadi Rum Trail.
JEBEL BIRDA CHECKLIST
Equipment below is suitable only for the routes outlined here on Jebel Birda. Different routes might require extra items. Whilst some will feel confident scrambling Jebel Birda without protection others may require protection. The equipment below will ensure a party has everything required to safeguard the route start to finish, if it is needed. Check if any of this equipment will be available with your Bedouin operator before your trip.
1. CLIMBING HARNESS: Every hiker should have their own harness. It is good for clipping quickly into ropes & it may be required for one short abseil on the south ridge.
2. BELAY DEVICE: Or other suitable descending device for a possible abseil on the way down e.g. figure of eight.
3. 6x SCREW CARABINERS. 1 for personal use if descending with a belay plate. 5 extra between the party.
4. 1 x 50m ROPE: One rope will be required on Jebel Birda & 50m is sufficient to cover every section.
5. 5 x SLINGS: 3 x 240cm, 2 x 120cm for making natural anchors from boulders on the south ridge.
6. CLIMBING NUTS: Assortment of differently-sized climbing nuts for making extra anchors if necessary.
7. HELMET: Optional, but recommended. Loose rock on the south ridge is hazardous, especially with people above.
Other Bedouin climbs
Wadi Rum's mountains are crisscrossed by many classic Bedouin climbs, all of which give superb adventures off the main course of the Wadi Rum Trail. Of all the ways to discover the mountains of Wadi Rum, Bedouin routes represent for many - including climbers used to ascending an entirely different kind of route - the very best of all. Bedouin climbs go to the high parts of Jebel Rum from every side, along with parts of the Jebel Um Ashreen massif and the summits of Jebel Khazali and Jebel Barra, amongst others. Exploring these routes with Bedouin guides helps keep them in use and some of the best as recommended by Wadi Rum's Bedouin climbers is outlined in 10 Classic Bedouin Climbs.