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WADI RUM CLIMBING INFORMATION

For general information on Wadi Rum and the facilities available there, please see the Wadi Rum tourist information page


 

(Photo Walter Neser - see www.wadirum.net)

For your information, the above photo is of the East Face of Jebel Rum just behind the Resthouse and the climbs marked on it are the following (from left to right) : IBM, Towering Inferno, Revienta o Burrita, The Inshallah Factor, Raid mit dem Camel, The Red Sea.

Arrival


The camp behind the Resthouse (photos Preis)
(Compare the left hand photos with the climbs marked above, you can see how close they are!)

Many climbers, encumbered by equipment, like to take taxis directly from Amman or Aqaba to Wadi Rum. If you prefer the local buses, full information is given on the Wadi Rum tourist information page - see "getting there". All buses will take you to the Visitors' Centre, taxis will do the same thing unless given further direction.

If you are coming from Amman and want to go by bus as directly as possible to Wadi Rum, then rather than continuing to Aqaba, you would do better to get down at the Rashidiya Junction as described on the page cited above. You can gain considerable time by doing this, and most transport offering lifts (usually paying, but still cheaper than taxis) have enough room for a considerable amount of baggage.

The new Visitors' Centre has replaced the Rest House (telephone +962-3-201-8867, fax +962-3-201-4240) as the "tourist centre" of Wadi Rum. It is about 6kms from the village. It is here that you are received by officials and where you pay your entrance fee to the Reserve. Climbers will usually want to continue to the village where the Resthouse is still operating.  It provides a restaurant, a camping ground, and toilets and showers. If you have arranged with a guide to organise your climbing activities in Rum, he will wait for you at the Visitors' Centre if you have advised him of your probable arrival time and bring you to the village. Otherwise you have to fend for yourself - you can usually get a lift with somebody.

Climbers traditionally sleep either in the tents on offer at the Resthouse (see thumbnail photos above) or in smaller tents pitched in Wadi S'Bach behind a big spur of rock, but still within reach of toilets and showers. These tents can be rented for a small sum, and are very useful if you want to move your camp out into the desert to be closer to some of the climbing sites. I am thinking particularly of the Barragh Canyon, but there are plenty of other choices. Otherwise the Rest House tents cost 2JD/person/day (which does include bedding and mattresses), but if you are there for several days, they can often be bargained down. If you are planning to be there for weeks rather than days, especially in the winter, you might consider renting a room or a house (for those travelling in groups) in the village. This is best arranged when you arrive and can see what is on offer. I have been trying to discover the approximate prices of these, but the best I can do is "it depends". In fact it depends logically enough on exactly what facilities are offered, and how long you are likely to be staying. Rooms seem to be from 50JD/week and houses from 150-200/JD week. Longer stays can be bargained down, sometimes considerably.

The restaurant in the Resthouse, although complete with bar which is sometimes appreciable, is rather more expensive than the other local ones - supper usually costs 8JD. Try the Wadi Petra (locally known as "Amjid's place") close by - take the first turning on the left and it's about 50 meters/yards down. Here you have supper for half the price, and often less. This is the climbers' hangout, and is popular also with the locals. You can often find useful contacts here.

You can also do your own cooking beside your campsite ; be careful, saucepans seem to be unavailable in Wadi Rum, these and sleeping bags are part of the equipment you will need to bring. It is true that food is generally more expensive in Wadi Rum than in Aqaba, the locals complain about it regularly. But unless you are really pushed for comparatively small sums, please consider buying in Wadi Rum anyway. Not only does this go into the local economy, but it helps to have good relations with the local people. Climbers are popular there, but less so when they bring in everything from the outside.

Wadi Rum Protected Area


The view from the summit of Jebel Rum
(Photo Preis)

Wadi Rum was established as a Nature Reserve (otherwise known as a "protected area") in 1998, and is administered by Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) (http://www.rscn.org.jo). This will undoubtedly involve many changes in the way that people visit the area. Until now, there has been little organisation of tourism here, this is already being taken in hand, and an ambitious Visitors' Centre has been built, some six kms to the north of the Rest House.

A vociferous lobby has managed to gain a number of exceptions for climbers, and it seems probable that they will still be able to base themselves in Rum village and sleep in Wadi S'Bach. The Rest House is still in operation for meals and reception of tourists who get as far as there. The climbing books can still be seen there, and many climbers gather there in the evenings.

No measures whatsoever have been taken to benefit or encourage climbing in any way, in spite of the numerous suggestions made. Indeed the only measure affecting climbing is the official ban on bolts on any of the routes and the complete ban on the use of drills.

Guides for climbing in Wadi Rum

At the moment the only guide offering technical climbing here is the very young Mohammed Hammad. He has climbed with a number of foreign guides, mostly French ones, and has climbed with them in France. His website is at http://www.bedouinguides.com phone 00 962 777 359 856.

If you want to climb any of the "Bedouin Roads" (see lower down) which are the ways to reach the summits of a number of the mountains here, several guides are available. Most of them work with Attayak Aouda at www.rumguides.com and if you want to climb Jebel Rum or Jebel Khazali, among others, you should get in touch with him. Most of these routes can be climbed in hiking boots, but a rope is usually carried. These routes are an enjoyable mixture of scrambling and climbing, and most of them are within the grasp of anyone with some mountain experience. Some of them are harder than others, and several of them involve abseiling.

Equipment

Climbing equipment : For most of the free routes in Wadi Rum you will need two 50m+ (or more) double ropes, a full set of nuts, full set of cams and a pile of tape and cord for threads. This is apart from the usual 14 or so quickdraws, harness, daisy chain, shoes etc. Climbing in Rum can be very hard on your ropes, and you would be better off having a spare set, in case you destroy, damage or wear out a rope or two. Aid Climbing : In addition to the above rack you will need a full set of varying types of pitons, hammer, hooks, daisies, etriers and perhaps a single rope or two for leading, fixing and jumaring etc. Except for perhaps one or two routes, or maybe new routes, you should not need hammocks or portaledges. There are large enough ledges for bivouacs on most of the long routes, take a haul bag and a hauling pulley for these routes, unless you move fast enough to complete them in a day. [This list has been supplied by Walter Neser from his website at http://www.wadirum.net and I thank him for allowing me to use it . This site has been recently updated incidentally, and contains much useful route information]

In fact, if you are climbing with a guide as mentioned above, he will usually provide the necessary equipment. If you are planning to climb on your own, even part-time, then yes, you should bring what you will need. It is fairly easy to arrange for somebody to drive you out to a climbing site and meet you again at whatever time you fix (even though this isn't free!)

No climbing equipment at all can be hired in Wadi Rum. If anything is offered to you either for hire or for sale, you should be very careful about the quality of whatever is proposed, in particular the ropes.

Other equipment : if you are expecting to camp, then a minimum of cooking and camping equipment is necessary, and this includes a good sleeping bag. The main season for climbing in Wadi Rum stretches from October to April, so be prepared for cold nights. (Snow is not unknown in January and February !) You may well be happy in a tee shirt during the day, especially if you come from Northern Europe or its equivalent on another continent, but the temperature drops rapidly as the sun goes down. It is probably easier to hire a tent when you get there, but as said above, you cannot count on finding cooking equipment in Rum Village. If you are with a guide, then again all camping equipment will almost certainly come with the package.

Climbing areas


Merlin's Wand in the Barragh Canyon - "the supercrack of Rum"

Most of the main climbing areas are clustered within easy reach of the Rest House, either on Jebel Rum or on Jebel Um Ishrin. This doesn't mean that they are all within easy walking distance, especially when you are carrying the usual gear. There are plenty of cars available to drive you to the areas, but the price of this service (which varies according to the distance, see lower down) means that it is usually better to set up a camp near a cluster of climbs, and concentrate on them. You might like to look at the map drawn up by the RSCN here, to have a better idea of the distances involved. This map is not without errors, but the climbing areas are very clearly shown on it, outlined in red. The "permitted" camping areas are also shown.

These "permitted" areas, incidentally, are part of the measures proposed, but not yet put into practice by the Nature Reserve authorities, so at the moment you can install a camp just about anywhere you wish. It is not a good idea to do this without informing the authorities of your intentions; this goes along with the "registration" of intended climbs, and can be substituted for it. Obviously, if you are camping somewhere, your intended climbs are nearby - if necessary leave a note pinned to your tent stating where you are climbing that particular day. This might seem laborious, but is in your own interests: to my knowledge, when climbers have been overdue in bad weather the temporary (and unofficial) Rescue Service has gone out to check that there is no problem.

You can see therefore that it is a good idea to take your time in deciding exactly where you would prefer to climb. If you start off with the climbs in the immediate neighbourhood of the Rest House, this gives you time to find your way around, and to receive the readily offered advice from other climbers present as well as from the knowledgeable locals.

The most popular areas at a distance from the Rest House and the village of Rum are the Barragh Canyon and the Burdah areas. Both offer a wealth of climbing routes of all grades, but they are both over thirty minutes driving from Rum (Barragh is nearly an hour), and the prices charged to drive to them are correspondingly higher.

Here are some of the current official prices (for the car), but please note that they will be reduced in any case if a climber uses the same driver several times, and as said above, WRMG is studying them with an eye to reducing them as much as possible. In all cases these prices apply from Rum Village and are one way only :

To Wadi Um Ishrin massifs, including the Rakebat and Hyena Canyons 25JD
To Wadi Rumman for the routes up Jebel Rum from there 25JD
To Jebel Khazali 25JD
To Jebel Burdah area 45JD
To the Barragh Canyon 45JD

Climbing routes


(Photo Walter Neser - see www.wadirum.net)

Routes above are from left to right : Mumkin, Flight of Fancy, Mad Frogs and Englishmen, Inferno, Walk Like an Egyptian, Troubadour, Wall of Lace, Live and Let Die, Gold Finger, Inshallah. Several of these climbs can link with the longer climbs shown at the top of the page.

The traditional problem for climbers in Wadi Rum is the quality of the rock, which is very friable and often tends to crack at the least friction (see "Climbing El Habla"). Undoubtedly this can be tricky especially when you are using bolts or abseils already in place. I am told that the darker the rock the more solid it is, and that it is the lighter rock which is more likely to create problems - but remember that there are exceptions to every rule!

Here are some routes recommended as an introduction to climbing in Wadi Rum. These are French grades, and you will find fuller descriptions in Tony Howard's guide book (details given at the foot of the page). You will also find on the page "El Habla" a table giving the comparisons of rating of climbing difficulties between the French, the British and the UIAA systems.

  • West-East Traverse of Jebel Rum, ascent via Sabbagh’s Route, descent via Hammad’s Route, abseiling into Wadi Shelaali : this involves easy climbing (2/3) through marvellous scenery and with spectacular views across Wadi Rum. It really needs about eight hours, moving pretty fast; if you can take two days for it and sleep on the summit this is a great experience and a wonderful introduction to Wadi Rum. See routes 9 and 4 on the sketchmap of all the Jebel Rum routes and a couple of photos in the page "Photos of Climbs"

  • Jebel Rum East Face. Goldfinger (3/4/5+/5), Mumkin (5+/5/5+/5) and Inferno (5+/6b/5/5/6a): see photo above. These are three short climbs, close to the Rest House. They can each be done easily in half a day, choose the afternoon when they are in the shade.

  • Jebel Rum, The Dark Tower. Black Magic (mainly grade 5 climbing) : 12 marvellous pitches, but the rock is not always trustworthy; it is ideal to get used to Rum sandstone and to test your route finding capabilities. A dissenting opinion has it that this is "not an interesting climb", let me know what you think.

  • Jebel Rum, Hammad’s Domes. The Pillar of Wisdom (throughout grade 4 and 5 climbing, except for the last pitch 6b or 6a A0) : this starts off from the Rest House, and will take a full day. It is a very satisfying climb, but be careful about coming down again; the best way is to abseil by Hammad's route which isn't always easy to find. Don't get caught out by the sunset unless you had previously planned to sleep up there! (See the Photo Gallery "Wadi Rum: cliffs and climbs")

  • Jebel Rum, Rum Doodle (nothing over 5) : in Wadi Shelaali, close to "Lawrence's Spring". An enjoyable climb up the front of two hidden pillars. Much appreciated by climbers.

  • Jebel um Ejil. The Beauty (5+/6a/5/5/5+): a very popular climb, in the famous Rakebat Canyon. Bolts and abseil points are already in place. (There is a photo of this route on the page "Photos of climbs")

  • Jebel Nassrani, Hikers' Road : with good rock and a fantastic view, this climb is highly recommended by Attayak Aouda as being entirely suitable for good medium grade climbers.

  • Jebel Burdah East Face, Orange Sunshine : there are a number of variants to this original route, with names like "Tangerine Dream" or "Marmalade Skies". Good rock, nothing over grade 5. (See photo in the Gallery "Wadi Rum: cliffs and climbs")

  • Jebel Barrah North Face, Hunter's Slabs (grades 1 to 4+ with a variant at 5+) : a good, mostly "scrambling" route on pleasant slabs, no abseiling and no specialised equipment necessary.

  • Jebel Barrah East Face, Ocean Slabs : a popular climb, on the cliff opposite to Merlin's Wand at the northern entrance to the Barrah Canyon. The climb presents no particular difficulties, but the situation is impressive and is very exposed. There are three variants (Le Truand, La Brute and Le Bon) which, as their names suggest, are considerably more difficult (maximum of grade 6B for the first two, 6A for the third).

  • Jebel Sweibit, The Hadj : a great climb, mostly grades 4 and 5 with a stretch at 5+. The only problem with this is the distance, Jebel Sweibit is far to the south and a car to take you here would cost 60JD! (Mind you, the drive is magnificent....) This climb was featured in the BBC documentary and the subsequent video "The Face" which has contributed considerably to its popularity. Attayak Aouda enjoys climbing here and is planning on opening several new routes.

Some classic climbs in the higher grades :

Jebel Rum, Abu Aina Towers. Lionheart (4/6a/6b/6a/6a/6b/6a/4): if you have a penchant for an impressive line and cracks, you will enjoy this "world classic", which offers the full range from finger crack to off-width. The belays are all bolted. Be careful, I have heard that the grading "reflects British understatement".

South Barrah Canyon, Merlin’s Wand/"Supercrack of Rum" (5+/6a/6a+/5+/5) - see photo higher up - and Enervit (7 pitches 5+, 6a and 6b): a lasting climbing and desert experience, especially when combined with a camp in the beautiful Barragh Canyon.

Um Swassa (behind Jebel Qatar). Sous le signe du Scorpion maximum 6c/7a. This is a newish route with some bolts and all the belays in place. Excellent rock, and a challenge for the old hands in Rum.

According to local climbers, the two technically hardest faces in Rum are: Fattamurgana, or the "Black Wall", named after its granite rock, on the eastern side of Jebel Khazali, about 12km south east of Rum village; and Al Jihad (also known as "La Guerre Sainte"), lying on the eastern side of Jebel Um Ishrin, east of Rum village. The route Fattamurgana was opened by Polish climbers and Al Jihad by the French (Arnaud Petit as usual!) These are graded at average 7b! Good luck if you want to try them!

It is interesting (to me anyway) that "La Guerre Sainte" seems in fact to be proving a pretty popular climb! If you are tempted, have a look at Walter's site again (http://www.wadirum.net) - he has a sketch map of the route with some comments.

"Bedouin roads"

The "Bedouin Roads" are some of the glories of climbing in Wadi Rum. They are the traditional ways used by the Bedouin to penetrate the interior and the summits of those sandstone massifs. Many of them are incredibly ancient and certainly date back to Thamudic times, quite possibly before then. Some of them have been "lost" through lack of usage (many of them were only used by certain families) and lie out there waiting to be "discovered" by adventurous mountaineers today - I'm not joking or exaggerating!

They were used by hunters, by gatherers of medical plants or by foragers for the sweet grass still growing on the mountains in the dry summers. They were used by lookouts in times of inter-tribal tensions - and they were used by people just wanting to get away from the others, as they are sometimes used today....

Bedouin Roads often start in deep canyons, and follow tortuous ways through cracks and pool systems, up cascades, dry or not, wander along ledges on the brink of hundred meter dropoffs and thread their way through domes of sandstone. Some of them are marked by the Bedu using them, by cairns, by rock carvings or by a branch thrust into a crack to afford a foothold. They allowed the Bedouin using them to pass from one valley to another or to find their way through a labyrinth of stone.

Most of them afford very serious scrambling to proficient climbers visiting Wadi Rum today, nearly all of whom want at the very least to climb Jebel Rum and if possible some of the other massifs. I do advise all of you, very earnestly, to take a guide with you on these routes, however much advice you might have received! In May 2007 two "expert climbers" were completely lost on Jebel Rum for three days and were rescued by a volunteer Bedouin team who followed their tracks from the summit! When found, they had been without water for 48 hours - not funny at any time, but even less in the temperature of 40C!

Guide books and links

You may be interested in canyoning, in which case please see the web page here on Canyons.

You will find a route book in the Rest House for climbers to comment on existing routes and to report new ones.

Tony Howard’s Treks and Climbs in Wadi Rum, Cicerone Press, is the standard guide to this area; 3rd edition published 1997

The Rough Guide to Jordan is at the moment unquestionably the best general guide book to Jordan and includes a great section on Wadi Rum. This guide book gets better with every edition.

Some websites dealing with climbing in Wadi Rum which provide good general information :

A particularly good one which has just been put online in December 2004 by Gilles Rappeneau (an expert climber who has been visiting Wadi Rum for many years) is http://wadiram.userhome.ch/ where you can find excellent topos of the "bedouin roads" in Wadi Rum and much other useful and interesting information about the area. It is in French, I admit, but besides the detailed descriptions of the routes, there is always a sketch plan and a satellite photo indicating the way to follow. Gilles must have spent hours on this extraordinary site, and it is a precious source of knowledge for visitors to Rum who hope to explore the "bedouin roads" as well as climbing the big cliffs.

Walter Neser's site "The Wadi Rum Rock Page" at http://www.wadirum.net is an excellent site giving a good deal of practical information and topos of climbs

And let nobody forget Tony Howard at  http://nomadstravel.co.uk

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