Published: September 18th 2012September 18th 2012
on the edge
"Mountains are calling and i must go"
“Stairway to heaven” is a dangerous mountain trail which was an old shepherd’s route that links Oman mountain village with Ras al khaimah coast of UAE. Alan stark, author of UAE rock climber’s guide described it as being "a five-star expedition with over 2,000 metres of ascent and descent”. He refers this route is not for the unfit, inexperienced or the fainthearted .The length and difficulty of the hike combined with challenging navigation has led to the necessity for rescue by RAK police on several occasions.
All these googled info made us excited to try out this famous mountain hike. We have started gathering more information from internet, friends, travel books, tour guides. The worst thing for our hike was no one in our team had professional mountaineering experience and we didn’t know the actual route too. However we had all printouts of route maps, photos, route description & blogs of previous climbers.
With all necessary things (hiking boots, plenty of water, food, knotted rope, torch), five of us ( Jijo, Nelson, Anup, Tolka & myself) set off the hike by around 7.30 morning. We headed up in the valley through the wadi bed. Initial 2 hr hike was
Anup n nelson
not exciting through kilometers of muddy n bouldery river bed and a village with few huts and goat farms. Wadi headed straight towards the middle of the intimidating view of cliffs, forming a T-junction at the base. We took rest at a dry white waterfall and started appreciating each other on reaching the first destination.
Then we head towards a massive square stone block, which is a key landmark when you decent the hike. After another 1 hr hike, we lost our way and reached a cliff base where we could see the remains of ancient stone buildings and terraced fields, although mostly long abandoned but some are still used today by the local goat herders. There we could see the bones of died goats which reminded me of wandering souls in mountain.
We took out our packed lunch and rested for some time. By the time, Jijo found the first stairway on the other side of the mountain and called us on our mobile. From this point onwards the route changed dramatically, with series of exposed ledges. One exposed narrow ledge requiring a step to be taken around a sharp corner in the cliff face. It is
not known how old the staircases are; but we have to admire the engineering behind building these staircases on dangerous transverse cliff faces. We read later that these stairs were built by the Shihu tribe who inhabited the area and used the trail to move between the high and low villages of oman and UAE.
We took around 7 hours to reach the top of the cliff. After initial excitement, we started worrying about getting back down. We were tired and I got muscle cramps which made me to rest every 10 mnts. I even started dreaming of reaching the car and lying down in my bed. After punishing my knee and muscles for another 4.5 hours, we reached back to the base by around 7 pm.
My simple advice for all those who want to try this trail, ensure you are fit and capable of up to 12 hours hard mountain walking that will involve some rock climbing. It’s always better to go with someone who knows the route well, take plenty of water, food and electrolyte drinks. Thank almighty god once you reach home safely…
There are more photos below