Climbing in Wadi Rum - recommended progress ladder of routes.
Updated: Feb 18, 2021
For many Israelis, the first time we are meeting a real trad - multi-pitch route is in Wadi Rum, undoubtedly a beautiful place with a real sense of adventure, remoteness and with a high quality mountain climbing. That being said, Wadi Rum is an area that should not be taken lightly because of the following:
Rock type – Sandstone. There are many types of Sandstone, the one is Rum can be in times very solid, dark and smooth and in other times exactly the opposite - fragile, sandy and tending to brake down.
Topography - The topography of the area's ridges are complex, even for walking. It's not huge walls going out of the valley like in Yosemite and it's not one range with canyons as in Red Rocks. The complexity of the different floor levels, small stages, many streams, canyons, and the huge chimney systems can make the mountains feel like a maze sometimes. The approaches & route finding can be hard, long, challenging and demanding.
Climate – Dry, high and hot desert. If you'll just google "Wadi Rum average temperature" and start to read you will see that even in the high climbing season – November to March you will need minimum of 2 Litters a day per person (and brew yourself well enough on the night before), if you have a long approach and will climb most of the day in the sun, take another 2L. The nights during the winter can be very cold and unpleasant so do your best not doing unplanned bivy on the mountain and bring your puffy jacket with you. The temperature difference during the winter can be tricky, comfortable days with very cold nights, be prepared.
Guidebook – The one and only guidebook was published in the mid 90's "Treks & Climbs in Wadi Rum" by the British Tony Howard. The guidebook includes hundreds of routes with different topo drawings which can be confusing and different grading (French, UIAA, British), there was an update to the book at the end of the 90s. Since then many new routes where opened, some earthquakes occurred and changed small parts of the landscape, Pins & bolts were added or taken off. The guidebook has a short description for every route, it doesn't matter the length or difficulty, for part of the routes it’s hard to understand the approach or descent. A new guidebook with detailed topos and descriptions of 100 classic routes should be published in the upcoming future by an Israeli climbing guide – stay tuned.
Rescue – Don't count on it. There is no rescue unit in Wadi Rum or the area. Means you and your partner are there by yourself, there will be no one that will come save your ass if something or someone is in danger. 2 important steps you should do before each climb – 1. Let someone know what route you will climb.
2. Take a cellphone - not all of the Wadis / Walls/ Routes have service but you better have this tiny, important devise with you in any case.
Recommended progress ladder of climbs in Wadi Rum –
Because there are so many different types of routes in Wadi Rum – some are short, easy with easy approach, some short, hard with easy approach, some long, technically easy, with a long approach and so on…I made an "Effort ladder" that involve the known - classic routes and is built with 6 stages, you can use this "effort ladder" as a recommendation how to progress safely in the variety of routes and not to get into unnecessary "epic".
1. Routes that are technically easy, with good protection, easy approach and easy route finding – get to know the climbing style, the rock, and the place.
East face of Jabel Rum, routes as – Walk like Egyptian, Live or let die, Mumkin, Goldfinger.
Jabel Um Ishrin side – La Aperitif, Little Beauty.
2. Routes that are a bit longer, with a bit longer approach (but not much harder technically speaking) - Black Magic, Beauty, Alan And His Perverse Frog, Merlin's Wand.
3. Routes that are technically easy but have a long approach, complex route finding & descending but have to be on your tick list– Eye of Alla, Hamad's Route, El Thalamiya, Hikers Road.
4. Routes that will take you to the next step (only in the technical grade) – Flight of Fancy, Inferno, Desert Rats in the Shade, Star of Abu Jedeida.
5. Routes that combine stages 2, 3 & 4 altogether (technically moderate+, long approach, somewhat complex route finding / descending, occasionally with not the best protection) – Pillar of Wisdom, Lion Heart, Stairway to Heaven (into Aqaba), Black Corner, Soumis, Captain Morgan (not recommended).
6. The next step of routes can be - Rock Fascination, Inshalla Factor, Raid Meet the Camel (up to the top), 55 steps to hell…From here you earned enough experience, your "mountain judgement" is good enough to decide what you can or can't climb.
I hope this short introduction and routes list will help you to take a safer approach when you start your way in this magnificent place.
*The route's list was made out of my own personal experience and judgment, Ido.