On November 28-29 Gatis Kalnins and I opened a new route (TD+: 6a,
1000m) on the south face of Jebel Misht (2090m) in a lightweight push,
without any bolts or pitons.
We arrived at the base of the enormous south-southeast wall of the Jebel
Misht massif on November 27. At its highest point the elevation change
is close to 900 meters, but the wall stretches for more than four
kilometers horizontally. It’s surprising that such massive rock still
has only dozen routes established. In 1979 a French team climbed the
first and longest route (1400m) at the junction between south and
southeast faces. All other routes have either been variations of French
line or been established on southeast face. Our intent was to climb a
new route on the vast, practically untouched south face. An afternoon
reconnaissance showed two possible lines in a labyrinth of overhangs
that blocked every weakness. We chose a logical gully system that, as
far as we could see, stretched up to two thirds of wall….
Next morning a two-hour approach brought us to the start of the climb,
400 meters higher than our base camp. The first couple of pitches
contained easy but loose rock with series of wide shelves. Then the wall
steepened and our gully began. After two pitches (5b, 5c) the gully
became overhanging and we traversed onto the face. The rock was some
kind of very sharp limestone, and we used a lot of slings to keep our
double ropes away from the wall and to minimize rope drag. But apart
from the risk of abrasive injuries, the climbing in general was
excellent at moderate difficulty.
On Pitch 11 the gully ended in a big gap that separated a huge
forty-meter-high gendarme from the main wall. We hadn’t seen this gap
from the base, and now we had to improvise. First we climbed three hard
pitches (all 6a), our first crux, on an offwidth/crack system to avoid
the overhanging face to our left. After three more pitches of moderate
climbing and scrambling on loose rock, the combination of another
vertical face and nightfall stopped us. We bivied on wide shelf under a
survival blanket not far from the top.
The next morning we entered the second crux: fifty meters of 6a on the
vertical face with complicated route finding, a pitch that took almost
two hours. One more pitch of 5b took us to the base of the overhanging
gendarme that rises over the ridge. After an unsuccessful attempt to
climb out on right side of gendarme, we found a way on the left (5a with
an easy overhanging chimney). One more pitch (6a) and we were on ridge
of Jebel Misht, some 700 meters higher than the start of our route.
We completed the climb during the winter season, which in Arabia means
heat up to 34 degrees C, even in the shade; but the south face is exposed to
the sun. Our water reserves (ten liters) were empty when we reached the
top. We got water at a shepherd’s hut after three more hours of a
demanding descent on northern side of mountain. And there were more than
twenty kilometers left of trekking around the massif to our base camp,
which we reached by dark….
Normunds Lisovskis, Riga, Latvia