Yellow House is a crag in Wadi Shaha in the Hajar mountain range. There is a huge amount of rock (limestone) in the Hajar. Opinion is divided about the quality of the rock and the climbing. Many would say that it is all loose choss, but regular climbers here tend to disagree. Some bits are better than others and recommended routes tend to be well cleaned. Perhaps pictures on this page give an indication of the high quality of some routes.
Wadi Shaha is close to the city of Ras Al Khaimah, in the northern Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. There has been a considerable development of climbing in Wadi Shaha since an asphalt road was partly opened in 2008 which leads up towards a planned mountain resort on Jebel Al Jais. Another factor influencing development is the fact that the nearby border with Oman has been closed to foreigners since 2008. Until that time most of the development had taken place in Wadi Bih just on the other side of the border.
Getting ThereFly to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Tourist visas are available to many nationalities on arrival. Drive north towards Ras Al Khaimah, reached in one hour (a 4-wheel drive vehicle is not necessary to visit Wadi Shaha). Head inland towards Wadi Bih (see the guidebook for a detailed description). About 1 km before the Oman border in Wadi Bih turn left at a roundabout into Wadi Shaha. Yellow House is on the east side of the wadi opposite a yellow ochre house, about 7 km from the roundabout. Approach up either of two gullies in about 25 minutes. The open book corner of Al Zawir is most easily identified from the road.
Yellow House is about 1 km wide over 200m high in places, rising up in two main tiers. In fact, there are cliffs all along this side of Wadi Shaha, so for the pioneer it was difficult to know where to start. There was an obvious open book corner at Yellow House (as I named it) and many striking crack lines, so we headed up there. The first pitch of Al Zawir (The Corner) was brilliant, mainly solid and a lot easier than it looked. However, the quality of rock (and the climbing) deteriorated on the next two pitches which led to the top of the crag. We had a similar experience on the next route we climbed to the top of the crag, so it was decided to establish one pitch routes leading to abseil bolts. Due to the size of the crag, it would not have been easy to clean the routes prior to the first ascent, so the routes were led on sight and cleaned afterwards.
There are currently (June 2011) nine routes on the crag. Rather than develop one area systematically, I decided only to climb the routes I thought looked really good. The result is a number of fine mid-grade routes, each about 40-50m long. See the guidebook for details. Consensus has Al Zawir, Captain Flamingo, Ruby in the Dust, M for Murder and Flag Cascade (two pitches) as the best of them. First ascents were by Peter Thompson with a variety of partners. Take a large trad rack including large cams, and UK-style double half ropes which make it easier to protect with plenty of gear and enables an abseil descent from the bolts at the top.
When to Climb
The UAE is very hot and dry with temperatures in the forties during the summer. However, temperatures are pleasant in the winter, best for climbing between November and March. There isn't much rain, but sudden thunderstorms can bring flash floods in the wadis. Yellow House is west-facing, so climbing is best in the morning when it is in the shade.
There are no campsites, but camping is allowed just about anywhere outside inhabited areas. In the mountains, avoid terraces unless they are obviously not in use. There are snakes and scorpions, but the incidence of bites is small.
External LinksUAE Rock Climbing by Toby Foord-Kelsey (2009) is a well-prepared, selective guidebook to climbing in the UAE and Oman.
http://www.redarmadapublishing.com supports the guidebook with a blog, new route updates and an archive of routes not included in the guidebook.
http://www.uaeclimbing.com/forum is a web forum for UAE climbers.