LONG NEW ROUTES IN OMAN

Posted on: March 5, 2007


The vast Jabal Misht (2090m), perhaps Oman's finest 'high mountain' rock climbing venue, seen from the south. The extensive south face and steeper southeast face (seen in profile to the right) are divided by the 900m South (aka French) Pillar. Many routes now climb the steep limestone faces of Misht. Palestine (TD- 5.8, 800m, Hornby-Knott, 2005) and Jerusalem (TD-, 800m, Hornby-Knott, 2007) lie on the far right skyline. [Photo] Paul Knott

Regular Oman activist Geoff Hornby returned to the Western Hajar in January to attempt more new routes on the superbly textured limestone faces of the area. One of the goals was Jabal Misht, at 2090 meters probably the country's finest 'high mountain' rock climbing venue. With him was another UK climber, now resident in New Zealand, Paul Knott, with whom he had put up several new routes in the region during 2005.

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The two opened their account by adding a second route to the north face of Jabal M'Seeb, where in 2005 they had put up the 435m Juggernaut at D-. Black Gold is slightly harder, a 400m D+ with a crux of 5.7.

Following this, they scrambled through a boulder choke to the hidden cirque of Nadan village—one of the few in Oman still inaccessible by road. Here they hoped to put up a new route above the cirque, but were turned back next morning by threatening weather. Instead, they moved to the north side of the massif and scrambled to the left edge of the northeast face of Jabal Asait, where they climbed Nora Batty (TD- 5.7, 335m), named after the bat cave the route prudently circumvents.

British climber and Oman resident John Walsh at work on pitch six of Black Magic (TD-, 510m, Knott-Walsh, 2007) on the north face of Jabal M'Seeb. [Photo] Paul Knott

The weather now appeared more stable, so the two turned to the rather more committing southeast face of Jabal Misht. In 2005 they climbed Palestine (TD- 5.8, 800m), which takes the full length of the southeast pillar via a black band at the base and a groove and amphitheatre on the upper wall. This time they followed a line to the left, producing another very worthwhile route, Jerusalem (TD-, 800m).

Hornby left for the UK but Knott remained and teamed with British resident, John Walsh. The pair added a fine line, Black Magic, up the face right of Black Gold on Jabal M'Seed, which gave 510m of climbing at TD- with a crux of 5.7. The very next day they climbed the face left of Nora Batty, finding several excellent pitches on some of the best limestone Knott climbed during his stay: Sunshine Pillar (D 5.7, 245m). All routes were climbed on sight with natural removable protection.

Knott reports that it was a pleasure to climb long mountain routes without having to deal with 'high mountain' weather and access (boulder chokes, long talus slopes and possible flash floods aside). No other climbers were encountered: the developing scene in Oman seems far more focused on sport routes in various wadis. As always, the people in the mountains were hospitable and the country was found to be very safe. Knott only witnessed excited crowds when Oman reached the semi-final of the Gulf Cup soccer.

Jabal Asait from the Hibshe Road. [Photo] Paul Knott

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