OverviewPlainly obvious from the road, this water-worn area of light-grey rock unfortunately covers only a small area. Called Zombie Skull (Grid ref: N 255305.0 / E 050621.4) because of the jutting prow of rock that hangs close to the base of the waterfall area of these cliffs. Seen in either L or R profile, there is a striking resemblance to a zombie’s tissue-rotting head. The water-worn area to its’ L has some solid rock. Inevitably some loose rock might be found on otherwise attractive lines – Night Fright and Hairy Lesbians Against Bush for example – be vigilant. I have given a theme to the names of this area: during his two terms as US President, George "Dubya" Bush, and his administration, made some incredible decisions about the way humans should view each other pre-and post-September 11th 2001. My routes at Zombie Skull bear reference to key people, places, and events during Bush's "management" of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The routes are described from L to R.
I have used a star system to highlight routes that deserve attention for their quality:
1 star routes = of importance compared to other routes of the same grade at the same venue
3 star routes = of importance compared to other routes of the same grade nationally
Therefore any route that I have done the first ascent, and attracts even 1 star, should be an enjoyable route with better rock quality than the average found in the UAE. I hope this assists you in selecting appropriate routes that maximise your enjoyment.
Where routes are unneccessarily dangerous due to poor rock I have written 'Not Recommended'.
Getting ThereZombie Skull is in Wadi Shaha, which is a major wadi within Wadi Baih.
From the Shamil garage (Emarat brand), at the Lamp/Lantern Roundabout in Ras Al Khaimah, continue West (W) along the dual carriageway, over two more roundabouts, past the RAK Hospital, and the Medical Sciences College. After about 4km and a lazy 90 degree bend (N) in the road, you arrive at a mini-roundabout where you go straight on for another 200mtr, till the T junction, where a R turn takes you past the military barracks (on L), and past 3 huge gas storage silos (on R). The next R is sign-posted Wadi Baih. Take this and stay on the main tarmacced road, past the entrances to several other wadis, past several villages, until nearly 20km in, where there is a roundabout (GPS Grid ref: N 254918.6 / E 0560645.2) next to a yellow house with white trim and red tile roof. This, incidentally, is about 3km before the border post for Oman (which is no longer passable for non-Emiratis). At the roundabout turn L (NW). You are now in Wadi Shaha. About 5km along the tarmac, at the worker’s camp on the L, a white telecoms tower makes measuring distances to crags very convenient. Distances are thus from this white tower…zero your odometer!!
There are two parking options...
Option 1: Park as for Dickinadozer Crag, at GPS grid ref: N 255319.0 / E 0560621.0, beside the water culvert. Cross the wadi to a clearing/bay made from bulldozed stones. At the back of this bay there are a couple of cairns. At the cairns enter and go along a narrow gently rising slot in the back wall. Please avoid the cemetery (indicated by orange or grey rock headstones!), immediately beyond the slot, by turning hard R on a goat track (down wadi, away from Dickinadozer crag) and avoiding a thorny branch of a small tree. Clear of the cemetery (50mtr) turn L. You will see the big cliffs of Dickinadozer 90 degrees to your L. They stretch for a few hundred metres until a huge gully divides them from another band of cliffs straight ahead of you, small at first but getting taller to the R, that stretch towards the white telecoms tower. Dogs of War is the L-most route (red line in the photo) at the very L edge of this new band of cliffs. The Waterfall area, about 300mtrs further to the R, is visible w/ lighter grey rock.
Option 2: provides a more direct line to the Waterfall area, and the 5 other routes R of the waterfall area, with no chance of invading the cemetery. Parking is 0.8km before the first option, above, at Grid ref: N 255306.3 / E 0560622.8
This parking is 30mtrs past 3 large trees next to the road, and just after a large residential complex that comes all the way down to the road on the L. The same house has a series of extensive cultivations across the wadi, on the same side as the crag. The walk is under 10 min to routes, past a square house-sized boulder, called "Rubiks'".
Red TapeWadi Shaha is owned and worked by Muslims. Even the imported workforce are sourced from Muslim Pakistan. Every visitor who wishes to climb, hike, or ride a bike does so due to the kindness of the locals. Please respect this! There are climbing areas in the UAE where the locals do not welcome climbers, and are actively hostile to prevent them.
There is a huge amount of governmental-funded landscaping currently going on in this wadi. 5 years ago there was no tarmac road at all. Now it spans nearly 15km and is being lengthened further up the mountain each year. The area at the top of the wadi is thus very busy with heavy construction vehicles and constant changes in the actual landscape of the wadi being carried out.
My routes are all at crags in the mid-section of the wadi and so have not been affected by this landscaping, but this may of course change...
CampingDo not entertain the idea of camping in a wadi if there is the slightest chance that it has been raining at the head of the wadi - people are killed on a fairly regular (albeit infrequent) basis by flash floods.
One of the joys of the local Emirati life is taking their family or friends out to a wadi and camping. So you should be able to find many places that accommodate the size of a car or more - however, it is often just dirt or fine gravel. This is improvised camping at its finest - to be found on an ad-hoc basis almost anywhere in the UAE! Please ensure you choose a place in the wadi where you are not inconveniencing the locals (somewhere where the wadi is wide and braided is where most of the locals camp. For example, between the climbing areas of Thunder and Yellow House there are several access roads down onto 'mezzanine' gravel levels, but avoiding the flood area of the true wadi floor. These make great camping spots.
Incidentally, we have a huge opportunity to educate the locals if we take the time to explain why cause minimal impact in the first place, and why we remove our rubbish/trash. The locals have not yet grasped the idea that their/our environment matters, and our behaviours can improve our environment. Be the change you want to see in the world.
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Routes at Zombie SkullDogs of War 25mtrs Grade E2 5b F/A Ralph Heath/Duncan Darnell Dec 2014
A large perched block, with an incredible fist crack to the top, sits seemingly poised to fall at any moment. It contains a jamming crack past two roofs. An runout 4c slabby approach with occasional gear leads to the base of this superb crack. Start in the seam leading to a detached flake, moving L almost immediately past a bulge to a slanting horizontal with good gear. A metre R finds a good ledge. Now amble up an exposed but easy groove till it gets steeper, when a step L finds a hollow flake. 2mtrs above this is a bomber nut placement allowing you to gain the roof. Work your way into the overhang area and strenuously pull round to a perfect jamming crack above. Use long sling anchors round blocks 10mtrs back and up a ledge. Walk off.
Fig. 3 Ralph Heath trying to secure the key jam to launch from horizontal back to vertical albeit a temporary feet-off hanging position on Dogs of War.
Not Very Difficult 49mtrsGrade Very Difficult F/A Ralph Heath/Pete Thompson Dec 29th 08?
Oh the irony of British grades! Found in the first bay, 30mtrs past (to the R of) the Dogs of War area. Go up a 20mtr apron before rock is met. This route follows the only crack in the upper part of the bay, and exits through a niche in the wall. A perched block rests above L of the exit niche. The descent is a walk off in the unseen bay behind, and skirts back around to the base of Dogs of War.
Spring Clean 50mtrs Grade Difficult F/A Ralph Heath / Joyce GuthrieFeb 21st 09
50mtr further R, around the low-angled buttress, is a small bay, on its R is a crack/gully with a bulge/overhang ¾ of the way up @50mtrs. This bulgy overhang marked our high-point, as it is crumbly and flaky, so the 1st ascent party retreated after the first pitch.
Fig. 4 The ‘Zombie Skull Waterfall’ area L-side routes only. The L-most route is Chemical Ali (3 pitches), the R-most route is Dubya (3 pitches). The Zombie Snot boulder obscures the chimney start to Hairy Lesbians Against Bush, hence a dashed red line. Though Axis of Evil and WMD are both L of Dubya, they are instead shown in the next diagram for clarity.
Chemical Ali** 95mtrs Grade F3+ F/A (bolted on lead - roped-solo) Ralph Heath Apr 10th 10
F/A 1st pitch Ralph Heath (solo) April 4th 09
A wonderful route - the first pitch meanders past all difficulty, whilst the remaining pitches ascend more directly.
1.35mtr F3 Start 20mtr L of the Snot boulder, and 10mtr L of ‘Bombs Over Baghdad’. A 2 move pinch problem gains a ramp heading R. The 1st bolt is head height on this ramp. A step R past a small void is protected by a high second bolt (unseen overhead, till about to make the step). Up the steepening main gully, leads to a traverse R to escape past the arête, protected by a bolt. Bolt anchors
2.30mtr F3 Continue up gully past 2 bolts on L. Then head for a 20cm ledge 5mtr above that 2nd bolt, across gully, where a blind horizontal bolt awaits on the face. You will see the chain anchor of WMD on the R, but head up a crack to a large ledge, and steep move on broken rock. A high bolt protects this move, and the rock gets better rapidly. The next bolt is unseen, just head for the L hand line where one bolt is visible. Bolt anchor 15mtr above.
3.30mtr F3+ Stay on the obvious rib until the more solid face above. Option A: Once on the face stay to the R of widely spaced bolts until penultimate move. Head for a big square block above, with bolt anchors (there’s a visible tree 10mtr above these anchors). Option B: more challenging at F4. Pitch is 32mtr, stay to the L of the same bolts, taking the easy overhangs on the face. A different (chain) anchor is slightly L and 2mtr above the 1st anchor (but 5mtr below the previously mentioned tree). Descent: Abseil (anchors at 1 and double rope intervals). Or walk up the gully past scrambly bits till a simple walk up a ramp on the L leads towards a couple of trees. Walk to the edge to view your vehicles, where a Bedu track strolls R along the edge of the precipice, for 50mtr, then winds itself into a hidden slope behind Spring Clean, and Dogs of War (see diagram 1).
Bombs Over Bagdad** 12mtrs Grade F5b F/A Ralph Heath/Simon Curson Mar 27th 10
Value-packed requiring cunning to do this easily, avoiding all the chossy looking rock. Stay L above 2nd bolt. Bolt anchor
Tikrit 12mtrs Grade HVS 4c F/A Ralph Heath / Lee EllisonMar 17th 10
Between Bombs Over Baghdad and Ridiculous Patriot Act is a small bay. Start on the R (into the hidey-hole feature), then traverse L 1mtr, to attack the crack on the R. Finish boldly to Bombs Over Baghdad’s anchor on your L.
Ridiculous Patriot Act* 11mtrs Grade F5a F/A Ralph Heath/Lee Ellison Mar 17th 10
Start below and stay close to the 1st bolt. Head directly up via some entertaining problems for the grade. Bolt anchor
Blame Rumsfeld **115mtrsGrade Severe F/A Ralph Heath/Simon CursonFeb 10th 11
1st Pitch F/A Ralph Heath / Lee EllisonFeb 23rd 10
A wonderful route-finding mission avoiding difficulties inspite of the terrain. Reminiscent of Colin Kirkus routes. Start 1mtr R of ‘Ridiculous Patriot Act’.
1.25mtr A short pocketed face leads to a recess. A steepening/roof feature at 12mtr requires a step L onto a ramp. Turn back towards the roof, climb its sidewall crack. Gear anchor.
2.50mtr Scramble 15mtr up gully, to a steep 1mtr wide ramp, on the gully’s R, that is very different rock to what’s below. 5mtr further up on R, rock returns to solid. A crack heads off vertically. Ignore that crack by going up/L for 1mtr more, then follow a feint horizontal ledge R, past the crack just mentioned. Place good gear here: blind move around the arête bring a groove & bold moves to a ledge. Stay L, avoiding Chemical Ali’s bolts on R. Continue up seam on L to bolt anchor on top of another ledge.
3.50mtr Head sharply R to a rising traverse, across the water-worn rock, towards an obvious chimney w/ large chock-stone at top (across the drainage). Delve deep into the novelty chimney. Continue to a steep crack (HVS if interested) and dodge L up a R-curving ramp till above the HVS crack. Continue to a slot exit and bolt anchor.
Alternative finish from pitch 2’s belay:
VS 4b* - 40mtr From the belay, take the crack on the L to a prominent chimney on the L. Climb the chimney, and head for a steep crack above (approx 10mtr L of the tree). Continue 10mtrs past the crack – L of R edge. Natural belay in bowl, above the crack.
Extraordinary Rendition* 20mtrs Grade F6a F/A Ralph Heath/Simon CursonMar 28th 10
The 1st two bolts are hidden above the lip of the 1st two huecos (the intended line was escaping the 1st big roof but this proved impossible, so the 1st bolt is somewhat redundant on the resultant easier route. Start next to a ground hugging bramble (under the large sandy roof). Climb the sidewall, step into the hueco and escape R. Continue up & R, along the slab, to a short vertical crack. Be careful of a loose block at your feet. Pull strenuously L, to easier ground then fight past the central section of the final roof to bolt anchors.
An alternative bouldery start out R is being projected to maintain the routes’ integrity. Marked yellow in Diagram 3
Night Fright 25mtrs Grade E1 4c F/A Ralph Heath/Lee EllisonJan 27th 10
To be avoided at all costs! Included so no-one thinks its an unclimbed line!Between the roof of Extraordinary Rendition and the cave-like chimney/off-width of Lesbians Against Bush, a bouldery-move gains a groove and an intermittent crack on a R-facing overlap. Take this all the way to a very delicate move past somehow-hanging blocks to gain the jugs that lead to a R sweep around suspiciously attached rock. Follow the natural groove L, then finish in the gully to Axis of Evil's chain anchor.
Hairy Lesbians Against Bush* 25mtrsGrade E3 5a F/A Ralph Heath/Aiden Laffey Dec 8th 12
A great line but very exposed. Ascend the chimney/off-width directly (Camalot 4, 5 or 6 helps). An undercling flake on the L lip takes a green camalot. A couple mtrs higher, inside the chimney on the R, an absolutely bomber nut 6 can be extended. Now descend 1mtr to exit the chimney on the L wall and utilize occasional dubious gear. Head directly up, the crack on the L and sidepulls on rough rock edges to your R. At last a reassuring hold on the top side of the super-thin crack (visible from the ground) rewards the very brave. Unfortunately while using the hold, you must protect it, with a hidden size 4 nut placement above the crack. Possibly a red or pink tricam would work in the crack itself? Pull up to the R, commandingly, to gain the airy niche stance of Axis of Evil (do not use the inviting but loose block on your L to pull into the niche. Now step L then up the groove 1mtr, and R to Axis of Evils’ chain anchors. Top roped a year before the flashed 1st ascent.
Shaved Lesbians Against Bush* 20mtrs Grade VS 4bF/A R Heath/Joyce Guthrie Feb 21st 09
The crags’ 3rd route. Not in diagram. Ascend chimney/off-width but exit on R, after placing camalot .75 in the undercling flake. Commit to a short bold traverse R past blunt arête & 2nd bolt of Axis of Evil (followed for 5mtr). Do not pull on the small triangular plate at the back of the easy ground. Traverse R to ascend WMD crack, into V notch exit of Dubya. Use Bush Warfare’s bolt anchors.
Fig. 5 Dashed lines show the starts of both ‘Axis of Evil’ (L-most red line) and ‘WMD’ blocked from view by the Zombie Snot boulder, as well as ‘Staring at Goats’, ‘Khyber Pass’, and ‘Helmand Province’ (far R line) blocked from view by the Zombie Skull formation.
Axis of Evil***23mtrs Grade F6aF/A Ralph Heath/Simon Curson Mar 27th 2010
Brilliant route. Start 1mtr R of Lesbians Against Bush chimney with a bouldery start on the steep side wall of the Bush slab. Make a delicate rising traverse L past the 4th bolt, onto a short slab – do not touch the detached block to the L of the 5th bolt, instead find the thin crimp .5mtr above it. From here head up, staying close to 3 more bolts. Ensure rope is to L of flake hold after 5th bolt. Chain anchor.
WMD** 30mtr Grade E1 5a using the bolt F/A R Heath/Simon Curson Mar 27th 10
Original FA (via R-side exit of Dubya’s V-notch to the All Out Bush Warfare ledge) R Heath / John Domoney Feb 27th 09
Excellent though runout. Starting 3mtr R of the chimney of “Lesbians Against Bush”, at the lowest edge of the Bush slab (don’t fall down the Lemming’s Delight), head directly towards the V-notch of Dubya. Keep right of the bolt, and left of the thin seam (dubious gear). From here climb boldly to place awkward protection in the unseen pocket, beside the vertical, R facing overlap. Continue this crux till easier ground rewards the bold. At the notch, do not escape R (as with Dubya), but take the steep vertical finger crack to the L. Protect this plentifully - protection above is scarce. Finish up the slabby groove in sustained exposed situations, passing a key .75 camalot on the R, then a key-but-dubious .3 camalot, in the main groove (almost hidden), just below an unprotectable crux. Immediately past this is a protectable horizontal crack, 6mtr from the chains.
The 1st ascent without using the bolt still awaits… gear to avoid a long ground fall below the Lemming’s Delight = pink tricam (horrible placement), and size 1 red BD hex, and size 5 RP (making 3 dubious placements).
Dubya** 110mtrs Grade VS 4b F/A Ralph Heath/Owen Pearce Feb 15th 11
F/A 1st pitch R Heath / Joyce Guthrie Feb 21st 09
F/A 2nd pitch Ralph Heath / Lawrie Brand Nov 2010
1)30mtrs 4b The first pitch was the second route at the crag. Start up “All-out Bush Warfare” to just below the bush. Cross the slab by heading hard L, beneath the acacia - thin hands but good feet. There is no gear on the slab despite appearances. Reach the security of the obvious crack on L. Proceed up the crack, escaping the V notch on the R. Scrunched positions await the unwary. Take the crack on the L. Natural anchor 10mtr up.
2)30mtrs 4b Gain ledge below the loose looking ground above. The rock is cleaned and only suspect for 3 mtrs, a bolt helps gain the impeccable rock above. Stay on R side of this crack. Then, after 15mtr, stay L of a rib, mixing slab and crack moves. Belay L of overhang (below chimney of Blame Rumsfeld) using gear.
3)50mtrs 4a Step down 1mtr then hard R, delicately past the arête. Continue diagonally R on great rock through the finger crack to a steepening, past a couple of ledges to a pair of thin cracks. Take the L crack, following the natural weakness to a step R, to finish in a niche with fist size horizontal cracks. Natural anchors. Walk off L
All-out Bush Warfare** 22mtrsGrade HS 4a F/A Ralph Heath/Ian Rendell Feb 7th 09
Original F/A to a point beside the bulge (10mtr below ledge & current bolt anchors) Ralph Heath / Pete Thompson Jan 09
This was the 1st route at the crag. To the R of the large detached (Zombie Snot) boulder and immediately L of the Zombie Skull block, is a clean water-washed crack with a hanging Acacia tree just to its L. The 1st ascent negotiated a preposterously painful, overgrown bush that was most unfriendly, if not outright hostile – not dissimilar to the clown that recently ruled the USA for two terms. Follow this delightful crack, on Severe territory, past both the bush, that gives the route its name, and the thorn-shedding tree, to a position almost directly above the Acacia. Now make the only HS moves by boldly scampering to a large ledge, and bolt anchors.
Friendly Fire* 31mtrs Grade S F/A Ralph Heath / Lee Ellison Mar 17th 10
Start up All Out Bush Warfare until the fist-jamming crack on the R wall. Enjoy the short-lived jams into the water-worn ramp above. Wiggle onwards 5mtr R of All Out Bush Warfare, to a short slab with recesses, and eventually 2 cracks to choose from. Directly above on the headwall are sandy coloured roofs. The chain anchor is below these, 15mtr away.
Up Yours, Geneva Convention! 30mtrs Grade HS 4a F/A Ralph Heath (solo) Mar 7th 09
Start up Friendly Fire but rather than heading up the slab, follow close to the back of the Skull, up a drainage for 5mtrs. A crack on the slab now follows to the L of a blocky feature, and up to a chain anchor.
Khyber Pass 27mtr Grade S F/A Ralph Heath (no second)Jan 09
Follow Friendly Fire past the ramp, until an escape R on walking ground leads to the gully separating the Zombie’s Skull from the headwall. Belayed by Andy La Bonte. Bolt anchor over the pass.
Helmand Province 20mtrs Grade V.Diff F/A Ralph Heath (solo) Mar 7th 09
To the R of the Zombie’s Skull a steep gully is found. 2mtrs R of this is another gully, not quite so steep. Ascend this for 10mtrs till an easy traverse L is possible to gain that original, ignored gully. Take this for 10mtr to bolt anchors.
‘The Twin Towers’
The Twin Towers area is punctuated by a central, huge, phallic-shaped pedestal with a recessed bowl above, producing “twin” towers either side. Twin Towers stands above “Rubik’s”, a house-sized boulder.
Fig. 6 The “Twin Towers” area of Zombie Skull, split by the cracks of ‘Battle Log: Day One’, and ‘Battle Log: Day Two’. Left of picture hints at the laid back, water-worn main Zombie Skull area (red line of Helmand Province marks the R-most part of this area) - home of some quality routes. Bottom R of picture shows the top of Rubik’s (a stand-alone house-sized boulder), indicating the huecos used as side-pulls on “Dent” (V0) in yellow.
The Calcite Kid** 26mtrsGrade HVS 4c F/A Ralph Heath/Duncan Darnell Jan 13 12
From the main Zombie Skull area (Helmand Province being the last route on Zombie Skull main wall before it becomes Twin Towers), walk 40mtr R. A prominent beige coloured, L-facing roof (at 20mtr height), and its’ crack is found 10mtr L of the phallic pedestal crack of Battle Log: Day One. Start 4mtr R of the obvious line and traverse L to gain the spacious platform that introduces the crack. Enjoy varied and delightful climbing moves till below the roof. Secure good side runners and avoid gear in the roof’s crack to avoid the mother of all rope drag. Finally as you pass the roof’s corner and head up to the bolt anchor, place a .3 camalot in the roof’s corner lip to prevent a totally jammed rope.
Battle Log: Day One 55mtrs Grade S 4a F/A Pete Thompson/Ralph Heath A/L 1st Jan 09
1.32mtrs 4a. The L-hand crack of the phallic pedestal. Although flaky at the start, the rock improves rapidly as you climb the interesting crack. Next a ledge is reached after a short chimney section (stay out wide). Belay at bolt anchors
2.23mtrs 4a. Enjoy super solid rock after a two-move delicate area to gain the base of the beautiful, solid, steep crack, to another bolt anchor.
Abseil to the ground with two 60mtr ropes, or via the lower bolts with a single 60mtr rope.
Two further pitches do exist in the bowl, on the R of centre (sadly both not recommended).
Battle Log: Day Two 63mtrs Grade HS 4b F/A Ralph Heath/Pete Thompson A/L 2nd Jan 09
The R-hand crack bordering the phallic pedestal - 10mtrs R of Battle Log: Day One – is an equally fun route.
1. 32mtrs 4b. Ascend for 15mtrs to the well protected crux - keep in the crack. Continue up the main crack (don’t err to the L). Once past the stone blockage, belay as soon as possible.
2. 31mtrs 4b. Continue up the easy drainage, without much protection, then steeply up the two well protected cracks. Follow the arcing line L to by-pass the over- hanging rock. Belay on sloping ledge.
Descent: Scramble into bay and down to L to find the 2nd pitch bolt anchors of Battle Log: Day One (55mtr abseil).
Rubik’s Boulder: Grid ref: N255306.3 / E 0560619.2 – Just below the cliff of Zombie Skull, and en-route from parking option 2, this huge square block with a corner chunk missing, is wrongly named “the cube” in the UAE guidebook. Most of the boulder’s problems have very sharp holds. The first known problem on it was “Dent” by Ralph Heath Jan 8th 2009. More difficult problems have been added by Andy La Bonte. Approach from car is 8 min.
Dent 4mtr Grade V0 F/A Ralph Heath Jan 8th 09
On the N face, this problem takes a line R of the centre of the face, and uses the side-pull lip of a large hueco. Top out on the rounded finish, with small holds. Descend on climbers R down the ‘dented’ corner ramp near the NW corner of the boulder.
Fig.8 Rubik’s Boulder (The Cube). The yellow line showing the problem ‘Dent’, blue line showing the descent