This area is made up of 4 distinct sub-areas. From L-R and in order of arrival along the wadi road: Storm, Lightning Bay, Thunder Gorge, and Holey Cave. The main area is Thunder Gorge (GPS Grid ref: N254658.6 E0560345.1), which is close to a small attractive house, often flying an emirati flag. Thunder is bigger than its outliers, and has more variety.
I developed the Thunder area expressly for student climbing (specifically Lower Tier –entrance R and L walls), then developed harder routes too. Al Shaheen occasionally use this gorge in descent, abseiling down the line of Fly Trap. Most routes are shaded all day - Sept to May, while even those sun affected will only be so for a short part of the day. The nearby house is owned and frequently occupied by a local family, who are simple, quiet, muslims. Please dress and behave accordingly, and be aware your voice carries due to the amphitheatre effect. The final descent is an easily learned (though at first-sight seemingly exposed) scramble down the middle of the very solid water-affected rock.
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
2 star routes = of importance compared to other routes of the same grade in the wider general area
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'.
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!!
Parking for Storm (3 routes, facing the road [W]) is 1.5km beyond the white telecoms tower. Lightning Bay (3 routes and a closed project is hidden from the road [N facing]), is 1.7km from the same telecoms tower. Thunder (18 routes, 7 closed projects, is mostly hidden from the road [W to NE facing]), is 1.9 km beyond the white telecoms tower. Holey Cave (3 routes facing the road), is 2.3km beyond the tower. The routes, except for Lightning Bay, are found on several tiers, described from L-R as you approach from their respective parking spots. None of these areas require more than 4 minutes easy walk from the side of the road to access routes.
Wadi 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...
Do 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.
BTW firewood can be bought at the Shamil garage on your journey in.
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1.5km past the white telecoms tower is a recessed upper wall with an attractively clean, solid crack on its R side. Visible from the road this route is called Smaug’s Jewels, and has two access routes below; to the L = Storm, to the R = Thieving Bastards.
Storm 28mtrs Grade Severe F/A Ralph Heath / Matt Farr Dec 15th 2011
Climb the off-width crack till it ends on a half-way ledge. Step R to another crack that continues to the top. Bolt anchor
Project: The Central Scrutinizer 27mtr F/A project Ralph Heath 2013
5mtrs R of Storm a series of flakes, pockets and a final crack allows great face climbing. Will need lots of cleaning. Bolt anchor
Thieving Bastards 26mtr Grade HS4b F/A Ralph Heath (unseconded) Nov 3rd 10
Start 15mtr R of Storm at a hanging, awkward, offwidth crack into a capped niche. Continue up the crack directly to the bolt anchor. A lightning storm ended our session so rapidly nobody seconded.
Fig. 1 Lightning Storm area from the roadside parking, with Storm (L), and Thieving Bastards below Smaug’s Jewels (R)
Smaug’s Jewels** 16mtr Grade VS4c F/A Ralph Heath/Matt Farr Dec 15th 2011
The upper tier can be reached by either of the previous routes. This delightful, entertaining crack gets even better, and harder, as you progress! Gear anchor on top.
1) about 10min: contour 20mtr (on climber’s L), along the lip to a short, rounded runnel and gain a down-ramp to the bay at the bottom of the climb. Carefully find the bolt anchor for Storm and abseil to ground.
2) about 12min: as for option 1) along the down-ramp to the bay at the top of Thieving Bastards. Continue walking across this boulder-strewn bay keeping 5mtr above the bolt anchor of Thieving Bastards, to a walkway. Proceed for about 50mtr (passing a shallow drainage just after halfway - at which point go up 5mtr to the next level up). Walk the final 20mtr to an abrupt drop, at the end of the walkway. Descend 3 or 4 ‘steps’ heading gradually L-wards (climbers’), round a corner, till facing the main wall of another area: Lightning Bay. Now descend the gully out of this on the L (at first), then on the R near the bottom. Go all the way to the wadi floor before heading back to your gear.
3) about 15 min: head up towards the trees on the R via the shallow gully. A feint path is there. Arrive at the drainage above Lightning Bay. Descend into, then across the drainage. Find the narrow gap on the far side of the drainage (about 10mtrs above the lip of the falls). Past this narrow gap there is a short descent to a horizontal 2ft wide ledge. Continue L on this ledge for only 8mtr (even though the ledge is good beyond this), to a rising traverse with a narrow passage past another, unseen, gap at 8mtr. About another 10mtrs brings you to a corner. Stay L for 5mtr, then abruptly R past a cairn, continuing down via several steps and zig-zags dropping to the wadi floor. Looks steep but is 99% walking only.
Located 1.7km from the white telecom tower (thus 0.2km further than Storm), only a hint of the hidden area is seen from the road. A 2 minute walk reveals a nicely sheltered, shaded area with a few sterling routes.
R.I.P.*** 22mtrs Grade E2 5b F/A Ralph Heath (unseconded due to darkness)Dec 15th 2011
This outstanding route remains unseen until you are in the Bay itself. It is a spectacular fingers/hands/off-width exercise in the L of the bay. It is approx. 5mtr overhanging to the halfway point. It begins as a right-leaning fingers / hand crack. This crack then steepens soaring past a cruxy bulge that relents to a vertical off-width crack. Chain anchor. The first 3mtr are fragile but its worth it.
A dead drill bit is ceremoniously laid to rest at the anchor, having delivered many hrs of service. Please pay your respects… Belayed by Matt Farr. Walking L from the anchor takes you (via the 100mtr ledge walk) to the Lightning Storm’s upper area, and Smaug’s Jewels.
Fig. 2 From the parking Lightning Bay is sensed but not seen
Project Name Here Lieth… 20mtrs F/A project Ralph Heath 2013
1mtr L of the start of Dust to Dust, a steep L trending crack leads to a pair of difficult, energetic, overhanging bulges, gaining a stupendous stance. Once done, finish the wonderful crack along the R hand side of the poised pillar. Be delicate: the pillar lies on only 2” of sloping rock (itself looking less than permanent). Bolt anchors are L above.
Dust to Dust 18mtrs Grade Severe F/A Ralph Heath (roped solo) Feb/7th/2011
The easy corner chimney is gained via a short steeper section. Bolt anchor on L.
Fig. 3 Lightning Bay routes (with descents in blue)
Ashes To Ashes** 17mtrs Grade Severe F/A Ralph Heath/Tim Oates Feb/4th /2011
The widening, left-leaning crack, on the R of the bowl. From halfway up it’s very awkward and entertaining. A crack above the top takes small cams and nuts for a gear anchor. Descent: Use the chain anchor of Dust to Dust – have the second remain on belay until safely attached on the chains.
Parking is 1.9km from the white tower. Though
mostly unseen from the parking, this gorge has quite a few
routes, has much potential for new routes, and is being further developed several tiers up the gorge.
Fig. 4 Thunder Crag from the best vantage
point from the road
Fig. 5 Thunder Gorge main area (showing descents in blue)
Lower Tier - Marx Brothers wall – use caution in ascending these 4 routes as they have exfoliated in varying degrees and could easily fit into the 'Not Recommended' list.
Harpo 12mtrs Grade VS 4a F/A Ralph Heath / David Joy Oct 24th 2010
15mtrs L of the main waterfall landing zone, is a broken loose corner ramp. Start 10mtrs L of this in a small bay 2mtr L of a little wall. After about 3mtrs a bulge forces you out R – very bold due to dubious gear: it is critical to have a No. 1 nut for your first piece of gear (thin crack high on L), and place it well. I also had a blue No. 14 Wild Country nut between nubbins and the edge of the R-facing feature - again the placement was appalling - surprisingly solid but I doubt if it would have held, so I equalised the two pieces and hoped. Solid gear doesn’t appear for a few moves after. Finish up corner. Bolt anchors
Zeppo 12mtrs Grade V. Diff. F/A Ralph Heath / David Joy Oct 24th 2010
Standing next to the little wall, climb the short face to a L trending crack, which takes you to a R-facing flake to the top. Gear is found in the crack R of the flake. Bolt anchors
Groucho 12mtrs Grade HS 4b F/A Ralph Heath / David Joy Oct 24th 2010
Start in a recess 2mtrs R of the little wall. After small ledge at 2mtrs, carefully protect a steep face move past an obvious but dubious protrusion at arms’ length. Once past protrusion, protection is better. Bolt anchor
Chico 11mtrs Grade Severe F/A Ralph Heath / David Joy Oct 24th 2010
Start 1mtr r of Groucho, up a L trending crack leading to a niche at mid height. Akwardly go vertical from here on. Bigger gear (up to Camalot 4) is better, especially from the niche upwards. Finish on, then above pillar/boulder. Bolt anchors
Do not use the big offwidth line (with a large boulder capping it) as it is loose and will kill you.
Project Name Groove Armada 13mtrs F/A Project Ralph Heath 2013
3mtrs R of the deadly off-width a distinct groove leads to the top. Follow the obvious steep overlap of rock that forms a shallow R facing corner, up to bolt anchor
Project Name Jawline 13mtrs F/A project Ralph Heath 2013
A bouldery start using pockets and crack (not from on top of the adjacent huge fallen block gains a seam, leading through tough moves to the horizontal break. From here follow the L slanting line of overlap straight to and through the “eye”, and bolt anchor above.
Project Name Headlong 13mtrs F/A project Ralph Heath 2013
Again, start on the ground and pick your way through the overhanging pockets & sidepulls onto the crux slopers on top of the bulge. Strenuously gain the horizontal break and roof lip. Crank past this, and more delicately through ground above, into a niche, to a short crimpy wall. Bolt anchors.
Fig. 6 Lower Tier waterfall landing zone routes
Waterfall Landing Zone
Slippy Sloppy** 14mtr Grade VS 4c F/A Phil De Berger/Ralph Heath Mar 5th 2011
3mtr R of Headlong is a roof 3mtr up (at the L of the main waterfall zone). Bypass the roof on its’ R and gain a crack in slippy rock. Above the water-worn ramp, trend L, protect the horizontal crack, and delicately gain the thread above via a high L hand, and R hand in the seam to the R. Gymnastically gain the obvious hueco, then place a No. 1 and 3 camalot in two pockets on your R. A suspect No. 2 nut also goes in a crack on your L. Easily climb to a bolt anchor.
Ye Gads 9mtrs Grade HS F/A Ralph Heath soloed 25/10/2010
Across the waterfall landing zone and just R of the large rock scar, and L of the edge of the roof, take a bold direct line to the edge of the roof. Surmount this, following the groove slightly R, to the final short wall above. Boulders anchors.
A-Ha** 10mtrs Grade V. Diff. F/A Ralph Heath soloed 25/10/2010
5mtr R of Ye Gads, and nearly in the corner, climb the crack to a chain anchor.
Ha-Ha 10mtrs Grade Severe F/A Ralph Heath soloed 25/10/2010
Start in a shallow gravel depression. Follow the line of least resistance up towards a solidly jammed torso-sized chockstone. Surmount on R. Rope or sling around a boulder for anchor.
Breaking Through** 14mtrs Grade E1 5b F/A Ralph Heath/Lawrie Brand Nov 15th 2010
Approx. 10mtrs R of Ha-Ha (about 20mtr R of the main waterfall area) a face leads to a thin crack at half height, which then passes two bulges in succession. Three very small cams enable fiddly protection on the first half. In the 2nd recess there is a No. 2 camalot placement, but of course it’s also your hold. When escaping the top bulge, on tip toes, work your R hand all the way to the stronger top of the flake, before pulling on it, to avoid breaking this wonderful flake. Once at the ledge, go to the next level up to make a belay in two cracks. Top roping with a bottom belay (TRBB) not recommended due to the sharp rock at the top.
Descent: walk L into the main bowl and down via main waterfall area.
Fig. 7 Ralph Heath on the 1st ascent of Breaking Through
Upper Tier - Left Side
From the lower tier, scramble up the main waterfall landing zone onto the big upper tier platform. To the L in a bay is a majestic crack skirting the L of two large roofs approx. 20mtrs up.
Project Name The Adventures of Gregary Peccary 28mtrs F/A project Ralph Heath 2013
Possibly THE line of the crag! Follow the crack on the L side of the roofs. The rock quality improves as you ascend: solid at the technical bit. Continue to a ledge above the roof. A camalot 5 or 6 helps protect the off-width section. Bolt anchor
Run Away 28mtrs Grade HVS 4b F/A Ralph Heath / David Joy 24th/Oct/2010
Not recommended. Underneath the middle of the roof is a R trending crack that leads to a ledge. A further step R leads to a hanging niche (in grey rock) and chimney above, and beyond the large roof on its R. Loose rock until the ledge¸ finds wonderful rock but an extended section in a chimney without gear.
Scrambled** 25mtrs Grade V. Diff F/A Ralph Heath / Matt Farr 8th Dec 2011
Despite being a scramble, this route is sometimes a little run out. Exit on the L of an alcove with a R-facing steep ramp, after 3mtrs, to a ledge. Pass blocky ground to take an easy unprotected corner. Enjoy a ridge-like feature, then a chimney-type feature to the top. Gear Anchor just below the walkway ledge. Walk to Fly Trap’s chain for descent.
Stealing from the Night** 25mtrs Grade HS 4c F/A Ralph Heath / Ben Stillman 17th/Nov/2011
A few mtrs to the R, at the lowest point in the corner, romp up easy water worn cracks forming a shallow corner on the L (often w/ sparse spider web - easily cleaned). At a chimney the grey turns to brown (2mtrs of less than perfect rock) then returns to better grey rock. Gain a ledge under the prominent roof & striking crack on its L. A couple of large cams make this finale less airy, but this final section is a wonderful gem, solid, clean and technical. Descend via Fly Trap’s chain
Original Route w/ the Birthday Boy finish** 26mtr Grade Severe F/A Ralph Heath/Matt Farr 8th/Dec/2011
Start up the same crack shared by Stealing from the Night and Original Route. Waltz to the start of the brown rock. Extend gear then step back down to make the R traverse of Original Route but rather than finish up its R wall, head L of the corner crack, up to a prominent crack, another ledge, and a final crack. Bolt anchor high on L
Original Route*** 25mtr Grade Severe F/A Ralph Heath solo Mar 2009
Spurb route. Below, and slightly L of the start of Demolition Woman and Fly Trap, is the lowest part of the bay. An easy crack ascends grey rock. Where brown rock is met place some gear, step back down, traverse R onto, and cross, a big ledge. At the R of the corner, a solid crack goes steeply to a bolt anchor just over the lip, which is the crux.
Fig. 8 Upper Tier waterfall area: (described L to R) Run Away (upper L), Scrambled Fun, Stealing from the Night, Original Route (w/the Birthday Boy finish), Original Route, Demolition Woman, Fly Trap (Far R) with abseil marked in blue.
Demolition Woman* 21mtrs Grade Severe F/A Ralph Heath / Celine Adrianssens Jan 2nd 2011
5mtr L of the start of Fly Trap is a corner next to the main drainage. The corner starts with 2 finger cracks but at the next ledge continues as one. After 12mtrs a big ledge requires a 3mtr walk, to where the water-worn rock is superbly solid and a steep crack on the R takes you out to the top, via a tricky exit. Bolt anchors on L. Descent via abseil on Fly Trap
Fly Trap** 22 mtrs Grade VS4c F/A Ralph Heath/Tim Oates/Owen Pearce Oct 26th 2010
Above the back of the bay is a ledge approx. 5 mtrs up. Start beside the small puddle-collecting hole in the ledge floor. A cruxy boulder start gains a short, wide fissure, with a crack in it. This leads onto a ledge at 7mtrs. Make a rising traverse R, then back L when appropriate, up to the continuation crack. This final section is a delightful crack. Chain anchors (line used as abseil by Al Shaheen students descending the gorge).
Fig. 9 Celine Adrienssens enjoying getting past the crux on Fly Trap
Looking at the headwall (immediately to the R of Fly Trap), a hanging curving crack attracts the eye on its’ R. Meanwhile, at ground level, large boulders are at the back of the platform, below this headwall – especially to the R. There are 3 obvious steep, smooth, grey-rock, bulgy 12mtr cracks.
Project name 12mtrs F/A project Ralph Heath 2011
Project name 12mtrs F/A project Ralph Heath 2011
Project name 12mtrs F/A project Ralph Heath 2011
3 mtrs to the R of this grey water-worn rock formation is one more crack starting at ground level, with a R sidewall not so grey, and further R the rock becomes yellow broken terrain.
Dead Mouse* 15mtrs Grade HVS 4c F/A Ralph Heath / Matt Farr Dec 8th 2011
Layback past the 1st break to the more obvious 2nd on the sidewall. Step L, past the arête, onto the front-facing ledge. A small nut protects this face, to gain another break. The final bulge, has a devious commiting crux - ensure you have multiple pieces in that final horizontal crack. Bolt anchor
Park 2.3km past the white telecoms tower, and therefore 300mtr past the house by Thunder Crag.
A stand-alone face presents an attractive looking crack, slightly R of centre. To its’ L is a small drainage cutting through the bands of rock, with 2 trees within. 100mtrs L of the upper of these two trees, is an almost hidden cave with a totally hidden, superb corner-to-roof crack on its’ L: Chicken Child.
Fig. 10 (L) showing the 3 routes of Holey Cave area, and (below R) Fig. 11 showing the line of The French Connection
The French Connection 20mtrs Grade HVS 4c F/A Ralph Heath / Simon Cahill Dec 4th 2012
Sadly no stars for this pleasant looking line, which is lucky not to be in the 'Not Recommended' list, it isn't only because I really enjoyed climbing it but didn't test any of the gear with a fall. Now, if someone did fall... Straightforward crack line follows some dubious rock past bulges. Bolt anchor.
From the top of “The French Connection”, contour into the gully and descend. If the other two routes are to be done (recommended) walk up towards the 2nd tree. Just before reaching this tree there is a ramp on the L that allows you access to the base of Huckaloogie and Chicken Child, 100mtrs on.
From the car, if you don’t wish to do the un-starred The French Connection, head straight to the gully that separates the two areas.
Huckaloogie** 20mtrs Grade E3 5c F/A Ralph Heath/Aiden Laffey Dec 5th 2012
Continue towards the cave until about 20mtr short of it. A R-leaning crack starts awkwardly to gain a good rest. A number 2 camalot fits below the dubious flake of rock, and an extended purple Metolius cam (really small), fits in the middle pocket of the roof. Do not place anything in the dubious flake. Make an off-balance move onto a ledge on the R. Gain a few more metres before negotiating the crux – a very protectable bulge that’s awkward to climb past. Strenuous moves gain a ledge, & a move R to the final off-width. Chain anchor is up & behind this on the back wall. Descend down the adjacent groove on R.
Fig. 12 Huckaloogie
Chicken Child*** 14mtrs Grade E1 5b F/A Ralph Heath / Aiden Laffey Dec 5th 2012
To the L of the cave is a thin, relentless corner crack with a capping roof-escape on the L. It is a brilliant route: highly technical and takes small gear. If you can make it to the roof, you’ll love the jugs and the dramatic move around the corner. You gotta try it, it’s that good. Don’t protect the bulge just beneath the roof – it won’t hold a fall, and your hands need it – besides, there’s awesome gear up in the solid roof crack. Chain anchor
Fig. 13 Bob Thomas preparing for an ascent of Chicken Child