JEBEL MISHT

Posted on: July 1, 2006


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.

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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

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