With about 600m of climbing, the Barun Wall in Wadi Ghalilah is host to the second longest rock route in the UAE. Peter Thompson's 1000m route Black Dog
on the nearby Ghalilah Headwall is actually the longest route. The Climbing on Barun Wall is however, more continuous
since the climbing on Black Dog
is broken into two sections by 500m of unroped scrambling in the middle.
Barun Wall was first climbed in 2001 by Antoine Fabre and Claude Redard. During Antoine's first attempt at the route with Bill Wheeler, they were forced to retreat from 400m up after Bill's foot was broken by rock fall (Alan Stark 2005). Antoine later returned with Claude Redard and finished the route.
Pitch 9 Corner
The route follows a very distinct line of chimneys and corner systems through many steep sections interrupted by large ledges. The rock quality is very good the whole way through, with the exception of debris piled up on the large ledges and the odd bit of dry mud lining sections of some chimneys. All of the belays are good and the technical cruxes well protected. You will probably chose to run-out sections of climbing to move fast and make the pitches as long as possible.
Like many long routes in Ras Al Khaimah, Barun Wall is alpine in scale and should be treated with respect. Anyone thinking of attempting this route should have a high level of self reliance and experience on other adventure climbs in the UAE. Your safety will depend on your ability to read the rock, move fast and find your own way up and off of the climb. There is no mountain rescue helicopter coming to winch you off half way through.
Exposed Ledge Between pitch 8 and 9
But hey.. if you have to Bivy... you certainly won't freeze to death! :)
From Ras Al Khaimah Drive towards Sham and the Musandam Border. After the round about by the 'Seamans club' take your first right at the sign that says "Wadi Ghalilah"
Drive through the Wadi towards "Stairway to Heaven." Turn right towards the Dam
Drive over the Dam and keep going straight towards the village (not left towards "Shady Circus" and "Stairway")
Drive as far as you can before you get to the village and park somewhere so that you are not blocking the road.
Get out of the Car and walk left up to the big face. That is Barun Wall..
*I am not giving too much detail on how to get there because you should have done other long routes in Wadi Ghalilah and be familiar with the area/descent route before you think about doing Barun Wall.
Check out the UAE Climbing Guide book or the UAE Off-road guide to find out more on how to get to Wadi Ghalilah and other routes in the area.
Allan Stark Guide to Ghalilah (hosted by Red Armada)
UAE off-road guide
Splitter 7th Pitch Tombstone Belay
2 x 60m ropes
1 x large set of nuts (doubles in medium-large range so you have extra to leave)
1 x full set of Cams (size 0 up to 4 inches)
1 x extra 1 inch cam (red BD) and 3 inch cam (blue BD)
some small to medium tri cams
lots of long runners (use your own judgment)
lots of abseil tat
*A hammer and some pitons (large angles work well) are recommended for the descent
This route description is from the second ascent of the Barun Wall in December 2010 by Aiden Laffey and myself. I don't remember exactly how long each pitch is, but I can tell which pitches were full rope lengths.
In the topo it shows where Antoine and Claude went according to the line in the old Alan Stark guide from 2005. We may have done a slightly different variation. A video/slide show of the second ascent can be found on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9PC6QKjlBo
Start in the middle of the wall at the cascade near some trees just right of a large steep section of yellow colored rock.
Climb up the right facing corner on water washed rock for a few meters before the angles eases. Keep following the corner on easy ground until you reach an alcove with steep walls around it.(5.5 or VDiff)
With pitch 1 directly behind you climb straight up a corner on big steps to a large roof about 7m above the belay. At the roof do a pull up to reach better hold and carry on easily up the wide crack until you reach a big ledge with some scree on it. (5.9 or HVS)
Go left toward the cave like chimney that has bushes and vines in it. Climb up and around the stuck chockstone in the chimney and continue up the corner and make a belay just left and out of the fall line of the big chimney. (5.8 or VS)
Climb the Chimney for about 15m until you reach some hanging vines. Go left here and follow the path of least resistance left of the bushes. At the roof try to find the hidden pocket/side pull just above the lip that makes it easier. Keep going straight up to the scree covered ledge. Full 60m pitch (5.10a/b or E1 5a)
Start about 5m right of the 'tombstone belay' and go straight up the solid looking corner with a small roof. A bit reachy but with big holds. Carry on up to the big scree ledge at about 1/3 hight on the cliff. (5.10 a/b or E1 5a)
Pitch 4 Crux
walk up-roped 50 m up to the giant left facing corner on the left side of the big fin jutting out from the rock. Make a belay on the right side of the fin for protection from rock fall.
Climb the left facing corner on big steps for a few meters before it turns into a splitter crack on water washed rock with face holds aplenty. Follow the crack up to the arrete and make a belay on a ledge at the start of the right facing corner. 60m pitch (5.8 or VS 4c)
Climb quickly on easy ground up the corner to a ledge that cuts across the whole cliff. *this is where we went left looking for the original route and decided to keep going straight up. (5.4 or Diff)
Keep going up the right facing corner heading up to an obvious roof with grey rock and a crack above it. Make a semi-hanging belay beneath the roof for protections. (5.7 or Severe 4b)
Pitch 10: Go straight out the roof and up the crack above on well featured rock that is much easier that it looks with good gear and face holds all the way to a large ledge (5.8 or VS 4c)
Walk left along the ledge until your are pretty much in the middle of the wall again with some large flakes making nearly a left facing corner above you. Climb straight up the face using gear sparingly so as to avoid rope drag. At about 35m hight move right away from the dirty yellow colored rock in the steep corner and mantle a small shelf with some loose rock on it instead. Get some good gear in and enjoy easier climbing over some small steps to a belay on a big scree covered ledge. 60m + pitch so the belayer my need to move! (5.8 or HVS 4c)
Walk up to the open book corner that leeds to the summit and find a new place for the belay out of the way from falling rock. Climb up the open book for as long as you can until you find a good place for the belay. At about 30m up the pitch you may need to move out on to the left wall so as to avoid putting gear behind/pulling on a large hanging block. 50-60m. (5.7 or VS 4b)
Go straight up the corner to the top making a belay off of one of the many acacia trees. If you can find a belay closer to the edge that may be better for communication with your partner. (5.6 or Severe 4a)
Summit High Five!
The Walk Off Descent Ridge
After topping out, contour left for a few hundred meters (nearly a kilometer) until you find the descent ridge. From here you will have to make approximately 6 abseils down the ridge with some down climbing and searching for anchors mixed in. After making the last abseil you will have joined up with the terrace that makes up the walk off from the Shady Circus crag. Follow this all the way to the descent gully and back down to the wadi floor. From here walk along the dirt road back to your car if you can't hitch a ride with some one.
Another Warning about the Descent!
The descent from the top of Barun Wall is long
. When walking from the top of the route to the descent ridge it is very important that you do so at the correct level or you will run into a steep drop and have to back track (or worse). If you reach the top of the route in the dark it would be wise to bivy there and look for the descent route in the daylight.
The Descent ridge is a maze of short steep sections and balanced boulders. Don't count on finding the pitons and abseil tat left by myself and Aiden. Bring enough abseil tat to make your own way down. A hammer and pitons are good to have as well, but most importantly....
Scout out the descent before trying the route!
Climb 'Dove from Above' or another route in the area that uses the same descent ridge before you try Barun Wall. The more you know your way around Wadi Ghalilah the faster you will get back to the car. It took us 3.5 hours from the top to get back to the car. It could easily take someone more than twice that time it they were unsure of the route.