Upper Buttress Route
At nearly 1000m Black Dog is the longest route in the UAE and the first route up the Ghalilah Headwall, the cliffs at the back of Wadi Ghalilah. However the route consists of two buttresses divided by 350m of scrambling, so Antoine Fabre's Barun Wall
in another part of the wadi is the longest continuous route.
Initially the route was climbed in two stages. It took us most of a day to climb the lower buttress and do the scrambling, so we were relieved to find a long walking traverse led to Stairway to Heaven, a walking route from the wadi to the plateau above that follows ancient, exposed stone staircases built by Shihu tribesmen. So we retreated down Stairway and I later used this to approach the upper buttress. Although there is a road near where the route finishes on the plateau, this is in Oman so it was necessary to go back down Stairway to Heaven into Wadi Ghalilah.
However, I didn't feel the route was complete until I had climbed it in a continuous push. My first attempt at this ended in a sudden rainstorm on the first pitch of the upper buttress. This was annoying, but as it hardly ever rains in the UAE it was amazing to see the waterfalls cascading down the cliffs. So, I finally returned with a fourth partner, Pete Myers. We bivied at the bottom of the route and were climbing at first light. Benefitting from my previous experience on the route, we were able to climb the whole route in eight and a half hours, which gave us just enough time to go down Stairway and get back to the car that evening.
We were very pleased with the route. The rock is very good on the first buttress, the scrambling is solid and enjoyable, and the upper buttress is in a great position.
From Dubai, drive to Ras Al Khaimah in one hour. Continue north towards Khasab for 25km. Turn off at the Wadi Ghalilah sign after the Union Cement factory. Drive to the end of the track beyond the Shady Circus climbing area (see guidebook for details). Walk up the wadi following the Stairway to Heaven track on the right hand side. The start of the route is staight ahead where Stairway goes up the big scree slope/boulderfield on the left (one hour from parking).
The first continuous ascent by Pete Thompson and Pete Myers on 5-2-2011.
Initially the route was climbed in two stages:
Lower Buttress 255m HVS 27-11-10 Pete Thompson, Luke Hefferman
55m 4c Start up cracks up the middle of the buttress behind the stone wall enclosures.
25m Easily upwards.
55m 5a Up a thin crack up past roofs. Continue more easily.
25m 4c Climb the lay back crack to a big ledge.
30m 5a Climb a crack diagonally leftwards.
30m 4c Traverse right for 8m and follow the crack to a pedestal. Belay on the left.
20m 4b Climb the unprotected slab.
50m Scramble up to a small buttress. Start 20m right of the ridge crest.
15m 5a Climb the smooth off-width crack.
300m Pleasant scrambling up the ridge crest.
Upper Buttress 360m VS 24-12-10 Pete Thompson, Mat Etheridge (AL)
50m 4c Start at the crest of the ridge. Climb up to the yellow rock beneath overhangs. Traverse left for 6m and continue upwards.
55m 4b Continue upwards.
120m Easily upwards trending left.
55m 4b Traverse left 10m and trend left to join the gully next to a crack in the left wall. Move up to a ledge.
55m 5a Climb a chimney and corner crack 3m right of the gully. Continue more easily.
25m 4b Continue directly to the top.
Descent: Go left across the gully and the hillside. Descend to the village and the top of Stairway to Heaven.
Equipment: 60m double half ropes are best which allow long pitches and abseils in the event of retreat. They also minimise rope drag when clipping lots of gear. Take a trad rack of wires, long runners and plenty of cams up to Camalot 4.
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. The route faces west and is in the shade during the morning. There isn't much rain, but thunderstorms in the winter can bring flash floods in the wadis.
There are no campsites, but camping is allowed just about anywhere outside inhabited areas. There are snakes and scorpions, but the incidence of bites is small.
There is an excellent bivi site on the terraces just below the route.
UAE Rock Climbing by Toby Foord-Kelsey (2009) is a well-prepared, selective guidebook to climbing in the UAE and Oman.
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