Looking for a new climbing destination? Wadi Rum in Jordan offers sandstone galore and camel transport to the start of the route!
The Alps, the Dolomites and good old Stanage all have enough climbing on them to keep you going for the rest of your life - but what are your options if you fancy a change?
Well, if Stanage is your playground then you don’t get much more different than the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan, where you could be sweating in your t-shirt in February, the average means of transport is a camel, and there’s no grit within sight. Which doesn’t mean there isn’t loads of great rock …
Here’s a quick guide to scrambling and climbing there. Warning – this article contains pictures of an enticing nature, that might make you want to go on holiday:-)
Why Wadi Rum?
Well, the photos give the best answer, but basically, the Wadi Rum is a desert with great mounds of sandstone rising out of it. You can scramble up many of them - this isn’t just a destination for the climbers - or you can gear up with every nut and cam you’ve got, and prepare to take on some huge sandstone cracks – not to be under-rated.
Two great pluses: you can soak up the sunshine in Wadi Rum while everyone’s still shivering back home (although bear in mind that snow on the tops is possible if you jump the gun). Spring and autumn are probably the best times to visit.
Also, Wadi Rum is still relatively new on the scene, so lots of routes haven’t been climbed many times before. If you’re in pioneering spirit but not about to set your own routes just yet, this comes pretty close at times.
1. Gentle scrambling
Be warned that even routes described by the guide books as 'a good introduction to scrambling' aren't exactly a stroll in the park. That said, there is some stunning scrambling to be done at the lower grades. One of our favourites was Rakabat canyon, which is straightforward, but has its moments of exposure. The pay-off is that you wind deeper and deeper into a seemingly impassable canyon - and then pop out into the desert on the far side.
2. Hard scrambling
Anyone with a fetish for photogenic rock arches should make a beeline for Jbel Burdah. The first couple of hours of scrambling are straightforward and take you up to the kind of rock arch you don't expect to see outside Utah. Once you've spent a while posing on top of it - it's actually wider and less precarious than it looks - then you can continue on a difficult scramble to the summit, for one of the best views in Rum. We pitched one section and, if you aren't feeling confident, you might want to protect a couple more. It's well worth it though.
Two disclaimers: sandstone isn't renowned for stability so that crucial handhold you're looking for might no longer be there. Secondly, the routes in Rum can be very long for a day out, so take your head torch and turn back early. Sorry to sound like your mum but we saw some lonely-looking headlights trying to ab pitch after pitch in the dark:-(
Having said that, there are enough possibilities here to re-inspire the most jaded climber. We enjoyed Goldfinger (F5+) with a long but well-protected crack on the crux pitch.
- Take plenty of water
- Canyons and dry rock don't go together after a rain storm. Noah, on the other hand, might feel at home in a flash flood.
- Shake out your shoes before you put them on – scorpions like the taste of your toes more than you like the taste of scorpions
- Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen
- Did we mention the water yet?
- Jordan: Walks, Climbs, Caves, Treks, Scrambles, by Di Taylor and Tony Howard
- Treks and Climbs in Wadi Rum, by Tony Howard
Note that we normally walk faster than guidebooks suggest, but we’re positively sluggish compared to Tony Howard, who’s obviously a bit of a mountain goat, so factor in more time than you need for each route.
Jordan isn't the cheapest of destinations to get to. Royal Jordanian or BMI will both fly you to Amman, but you need to start saving your pocket money early.
Once you’re there, camels are the cheapest transport to the start of a route – and induce the best facial expressions - but jeeps are quicker. The choice is yours.
The campsite in Wadi Rum has good facilities, beer at prices that make London look cheap, and you can walk in to some of the routes on the biggest peak in the area – Jbel Rum.
Convinced yet? If not, take one more look at those pictures …