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Uprising in Jordan’s Valley of the Moon

Caroline George and Sarah Garlick eye the next pitch of Uprising, a 700-foot 5.11b they established with Adam George in late February. The trio nearly canceled their trip because of political instability in the region. [Photo] Jim Surette

In the weeks leading up to their climbing trip to Jordan, Sarah Garlick and Caroline and Adam George followed the political upheaval in the Middle East closely. Despite the spreading unrest in the surrounding areas, the climbers decided to go through with their trip to Wadi Rum, “The Valley of the Moon.” On February 22 and 23, the trio established Uprising, a 700-foot trad route with difficulties that peaked at 5.11b.

The climbing potential in Jordan, especially in Wadi Rum, was first discovered by foreigners in 1984. Tony Howard and Di Taylor then published several guides, introducing the region to the rest of the world. Since then, many climbers have been drawn to the area’s “mushroom-like” sandstone formations, helping eco-tourism become one of the leading sources of income for the local Zalabia Bedouin.

One hour south of Wadi Rum, and less than an hour from the border of Saudi Arabia, the climb seemed truly in the middle of nowhere. George asked a local contact about possible new lines in the area and was directed to the location. From the base of the wall, which was littered with bullets left by locals attempting to etch their names in the wall with firearms, the line looked like a mixture of beautiful patina and chossy sandstone, George said. Garlick, geologist and author of Flakes, Jugs & Splitters, had done some research prior to the adventure, and read that Jordan’s sandstone has no matrix, making it quite unreliable.

Landscape near Wadi Rum, Jordan. [Photo] Jim Surette

The two women traded leads throughout the climb. The leader hauled two ropes–one for the follower, and one for photographer Jim Surette to jug up. The second climber also trailed a rope for the fourth team member Adam George, who hand-drilled bolted anchors. The first pitch of the climb was not difficult and consisted of hand cracks that lead into to a network of chimneys, George said. The second pitch was “the business”–crumbling, sandy rock that finished with an awkward chimney up to a ledge. The climbers aided this section on their first attempt, but they imagined that it would go free. It was here that the first attempt ended.

Adam led the way back to the highpoint on the second attempt, freeing the crux. Caroline George took over on the third pitch, which had both solid rock and the worst quality rock of the entire route. George made her way through this 60-meter segment, bypassing what seemed to be a decent alcove for an anchor because the rock broke away at the very touch. Garlick spent the next rope length traversing a crack that funneled into a bottleneck with rock crumbling underneath her hands and feet all the while. The final pitch was characterized by “wide climbing,” from chimney to off-fists. “The sun was setting down and I climbed in the beautiful golden light of the day,” George said. They rappelled down from the route in darkness, grateful then for the fixed anchors placed by Adam George, and were on the ground by 8:30 p.m.

The name Uprising is in reference to the current political situation in the Middle East, George explained. “We debated whether to stick with our plan of going, and I am glad we did go in the end.”

Sources: Caroline George, Jim Surette, Kirsten Kinhead,,,

Adam George hand-drills an anchor on Uprising (5.11b, 700′), Wadi Rum, Jordan. [Photo] Jim Surette