Shabroon

In the next week or so, the benefits of climbing the highest peak in the UAE will hopefully pay dividends when some of the Abu Dhabi Alpine Club’s newest advocates reach the summit of Everest.

This rather unexpected left turn came when I received this email from Petter Kragset.

“Hi! Thanks for all the phothos and informations about Emirats highest point. I’m a norwegian and a collecter of the high point in every country in the world. So far I have 72.

“In April me and my friend are going to climb Mt. Everest. Becourse of some airproblems we have to stay 36 hours in Abu Dabi, waiting for our flight to Kathmandu. We arrive in Abu Dhabi 2. April 07.30 and our departure 3.April 14.10. Therefore I want to try to reach the highpoint. Is it possible logistics to do it in one long day?”


Shabroon

Petter Kragset

If I’d been in the Dhabs, I’d have offered to accompany him on this trip and act as a guide but instead I was in Yemen, just before I was going to attempt Arabia’s highest peak (at that time little realising that a phalanx of AK47-wielding Yemeni soldiers meant I’d have done better by replacing my usual alpine gear with a team of mercenaries from Blackwater).

Instead I created a how-to guide from the road atlas I’d used to find the unnamed knoll and then to prove that it was indeed the highest in the Emirates.

By time I was done in Yemen and then back in the Dhabs from a flying visit to Australia and New Zealand immediately after, Petter had been and gone.

I eventually tracked him down in Nepal, where he’d just returned from an acclimatisation trip in the hills, and he told me they’d managed to do the climb, which he’d described in a post of his website, World Wide Vikings, in which he chronicles his bid to climb the highest peak in each nation n earth, as well as in each municipal in Norway.

The post began thus: “Første etappe på turen til Everest ble gjennomført uten det minste problem og klokken 07.00 om morgenen 2.april landet vi i Abu Dhabi. Andre etappe gikk fra Abu Dhabi til Jebel Bil Ays. Reisebyrået hadde lagt inn 36 timers pause i Abu Dhabi.”

It was time to call on the strange new world of global interconnections for specialist help. In this case that meant Norwegians Cathrine Lagerberg, who I’d met when we both climbed Denali last year, and Randi Skaug, a seven summiteer who came climbing in New Zealand and was given my name to contact by a Norwegian guy I’d been with on Aconacagua with in 1999. (Randi and I never actually met, incidentally but she does have a new book just out — if you speak Norwegian)

Shabroon

Petter and Stein were brave enough to head up the road during a working day but their four wheel drive didn’t get any further than the Yaris… er, could have… if, er, I’d gone past the road closed sign)

In return for translating the post, I promised: ‘I’d be eternally grateful, and think what it’d do for your karma (something to think about before you go through the next icefall).”

Cathrine came up with this: “First part of the trip to Everst was conducted without no problems at all and at 7 o’clock in the morning 2 April, we landed in Abu Dhabi. Second part of the trip went from Abu Dhabi to Jebel Bil Ays. The travel agency had planned for a 36 hrs break/rest in Abu Dhabi.

“Stein had booked a room through his good connections at the worlds most luxorious hotel “The Emirate Pallas”, but Petter didn’t like it vary much who wanted to ascent the Emirates highest mountain. At 08.00 o’clock we sat in a 4WD on our way through the desert towards Jebel Bil Ays. First lesson learned; never ask an Arab about toad directions – he doesn’t have a clue. After having ’messed around’ the desert and some beautiful mountains looking, “Grand canyon”-lookalike, the time had become 15.00 og the goat-path we were driving on got so steep that we had to stop.


Shabroon

“Wheels were substituted with shoes and backpack. We started at 800 masl and had about 1100 height meters ahead of us. There was no track, but we had better control now staying orienting than we did while driving the car.

“After we gradually gained elevation, we found a track that became better and better as we got closer to the summit/top and the last 1000 meters we walked on casted (?paved?) road. The explanation was simple; close to the top/summit the ’emirens’ (?) summer palace was located, however it was easily seen that he doesn’t walk there due to the obvious helicopter landing site. He was not at home by the way.


Shabroon

“The top/summit is located at the border to Oman and we did pay a highly unofficial visit to the land of the sultan. In the west the sun was undeniably on the way down and there was quite some distance back to the car and the darkness comes sudden in/over the desert mountains. However we had some luck and the moon kept shining and helping us down the steep side through the rocks/boulder towards the car.


“On the way a rock/boulder loosened over Stein, but he managed to jump aside, but had to pay with a nasty fall and two really beaten legs. Happy to see the car around 21ish, it was left to drive thee 350 km back to Abu Dhabi. This time in darkness, however going back is always easier and at 02.30 we found a hotell room, exhausted adn beaten, yet happy- Petter with his 73 “nations summit” and Stein with his 3rd.”


Shabroon

And from Cathrine came the retort: “Good karma awaits me now!” Which was good because she also mentioned that she’s signed up for Ama Dablam this November.

I in turn used that translation to write a story in my newspaper, The National, explaining how the unnamed highest peak in the UAE had become a staging post for Everest, and included a shameless ADAC plug: “He then made contact with the Abu Dhabi Alpine Club, formed by a group of expatriates who describe themselves on their website as mountaineers ‘earning money in a hot and sandy corner of the planet so we can spend more time in its high and frozen bits’, and obtained detailed directions.”

That produced a modest flurry of hits on the ADAC website, which in turn produced several more people making contact.

So far this site has generally been in the top 10 on Google when searching for predictable strings like “highest peak uae” “highest mountain in emirates” etc, although uber-interlinking sites like Flickr outrank it in Google’s algorthms with erroneous posts claiming Jebel Hafeet is the highest.

I added the top search terms to the bottom of the About page, to boost its rankings further. (I’m not sure what it says when people can type in “lowering yaris uae” and end up here.)

It’s gratifiying to learn that people are reaching accurate information about the highpoint of the UAE, and it’s gratifying that people interested in mountaineering but assume that there are no kindred spirits out there are discovering there actually are.

(And it was a shame it was a little late for new member Pete St Germain, who read the story in the newspaper and wrote: “John, thanks also for doing the legwork on this mystery. Seems like the Sheikh was the only one with the knowledge of the true highest point! I’ve been to both Jabal Hafit and Jabal Yibir thinking the latter was actually the true highpoint until I found your page. Will be visiting soon. Thanks!”)

We’re slowly moving towards a critical mass of people. Please get in touch via email or comments on these pages if you want your name added to the contact list.

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