We then had a failure or two followed by the climb of the appropriately named Haj in a remote area of Wadi Rum, about an hour’s drive from our camp and within 5 kilometers of the Saudi border. The moderate line (~10 pitch, 5+) was recommended by Khaled and indeed it did not disappoint. The lower half follows a series of steep flakes and cracks, including some narrow chimneys. You then reach a large ledge system and climb the headwall slab above via a long diagonal crack system finally exiting via thin face climbing pitch. Another pitch or two on hollow rock (moderate difficulty) is required to top out on the ridge. The climbing was good but the real highlights of the day were the stunning red desert scenery below and the absolute solitude. The descent from the top of the formation includes some scrambling and a handful of short rappels. We probably got off route briefly and had some memorable down climbing of large sandstone “mushrooms” (think of a snow cornice but – you know – made of sandstone). We got down just in time for Khaled to pick us up.
I should mention here that with the exception of our last two nights, we had The Milky Way camp all to ourselves. On one of those two nights, a French couple stayed in the camp and we had dinner together. It turned out that the husband works for the French Foreign Service in Ankara – “number 2 Frenchman in Turkey.” We enjoyed hearing their stories of traveling in Turkey and it really stoked our fires for checking out some nice looking Turkish multi-pitch limestone. Our second evening with company included two women (Swiss and Iranian) who worked for the Red Cross in Nairobi. They were tacking on a quick weekend of Wadi Rum sightseeing between a conference in Amman and a work trip to Eritrea…yeah, a little more interesting than cubicle jobs. We talked travel late into the night. We knew that compared to many, we are just beginner wankers when it comes to travel – although our recent Mali trip was sort of an ace. We were transfixed listening to their tales of Western Cape, Indonesia, and Iran. The list keeps growing…
On our final day, we went for a long drive through the desert with Khaled and his family. We admired the scenery, played some football with Zaid and Hamad, and enjoyed a picnic including more freshly baked Bedouin bread. Later that evening, we said good-bye to our friends took a cab back to Amman for our 2am flight home. We’ll be back.
Monday morning back in Portland – a jetlag induced 3am wake up and a quick milk run to a Plaid Pantry five blocks from home. The usual set of characters hanging out in the parking lot. All I could think was “this shit is sketchy – I’m gonna get mugged”.
Go back to Wadi Rum Quickie.