Warning: the following words and images will allow you to vicariously see the world with the eyes of Sultan. Read at your own risk. The name Sultan has many meanings, but derives from the peak Sultan Mountain in Silverton, CO!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Jabal Al-Shams - Sultanate of Oman

I rented a Honda Civic in Dubai and decided to make the 450 kilometer drive south to Jebal Al-Shams. Jabal Al-Shams is the highest point in the Arabian peninsula that stands 3,000 meters high, just under 10,000 feet. To my surprise, this mountain has canyons as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona!

In the states you wouldn't find it odd to see a dog in the back of a pick up truck. In Oman, its not odd to see a camel in the back of a pick up truck.

I made it to the base of the mountain a few hours before the sun was setting. This gave me enough time to scope out the area before making my summit attempt the following morning. I knew I would need to maximize all the daylight available to accomplish this.

I drove farther south to the town of Nizwah where I stayed in the Nizwah Hotel for 19 Riyals ($50). I made it to the shops of Nizwah that evening and got a feel for the town. The next morning I awoke at 5am for the start of my climb.

I made it to the trail head just as the sun was coming up. I knew that is started the hike in the heat of the sun at the lower elevation it would get really hot.

The trail was well marked at the start. The elevation there according to my altimeter was 2,800 feet. You can actually drive to the elevation of 6,000 feet if you have an SUV. The Honda Civic didn't cut it. I also still needed it to drive back to Dubai, and didn't want to risk it.

The start of the hike goes thru one of two ruins you see on the trail. After approximately one mile the trail takes a sharp right turn into a valley, and this is where I got lost. After noticing that the blaze was missing, I quickly retraced my steps and found the trail. This is where the climbing starts. There are few trees and the blaze is painted onto rocks. The conditions were very dry, dusty, and rocky. A mountain goat appeared and followed it up until I entered a small village at 6,000 feet. I met Abu Hamad, a bedouin who had 13 children that were amazed I hiked up from the base. They all had SUV's and wondered why anyone would hike up by foot. The father asked Hamad to show me the trail. Although his Arabic was a strong Oman bedouin accent, I understood him. I told Hamad that I would be returning the same way and that I would be out of water. He promised to have water waiting for me on my return.

The trail conditions were very good, and well maintained. I kept hiking. At this point the trail descends approximately 1,300 feet. I didn't realize I would descend this much, this was unchartered territory for me, and I was going off of a simple map I purchased in a book store.

At this point the view of the canyon is amazing. It is vast!

I entered the village of Alsab where the second ruins are found. The old structures are built out of stone and mud.

As I hiked further towards the summit I realized that I was falling behind schedule with my 1pm turn around. I made the decision to turn around as I knew if I kept going I would be hiking down in the dark, and then attempting to drive back to Dubai in the middle of the night which is an adventure in itself! Camels on unlit roads are deathtraps.

I began to retrace my steps back towards Hamads home. His father and brothers greeted me with cold water and fresh Omani dates. What a treat. They were prepared to cook me a meal, but I let them know that time was on our side. I began hiking down back to the car and made it down the mountain 30 min before the sun set.

I later found out that the Oman government has a military base at the summit of Al-Shams and would not give access to the true summit.

This was an amazing place that few know exists. I will be back.

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