13 March 2010

We did it! In one day! (Just!) And even included the detour to the higest point of the UAE. Our first attempt turned out difficult enough for most people, so the prospect of adding another 10 hours to the trip didn’t appeal to more than two members of the Alpine club – Shawn and Thomas.
Knowing that we had to start really early to be able to return before darkness, we had already finished breakfast and packed our camping gear by the break of dawn.
Scary creatures greeted us on our way into the wadi, bringing back the old stories about Djinns, potentially dangerous supernatural creatures living in a parallel world…


…actually just some goats wondering what we were up to.
Finding the proper path up the side of the wadi as well as knowing where to find the stairs, allowed for a decent climbing speed, so we managed to arrive at the top of the stairways by 9.00. A quick ascent also meant we stayed in the shade all the way up, so we hardly needed any water up to this point.

top of the stairs

Convinced by some Dutch hikers that “the way down the other side is easy to find”, we thought going up the stairs was the better decision – but this was clearly a mistake, as we found out later. (Coming down a known way is much easier than looking for it when it starts to get dark….)
After a short break we continued past the little settlement, where we had to decline an invite for tea – we still had a long way to go, and therefore continued up the pathless hill on the other side, passing plenty of UAE / Oman border stones.

VillageOman/UAE border

Amazing how people survived in this dry mountain region with little water and food from a few fields and animals!


Although quite steep at times, the hill was actually not too difficult to climb. Every now and then a small bush or large bolder provided a little spot of shade to get some rest and drink water (we carried 5 liters each!), and great views of the wadi helped us through this less exciting part of the hike.

Wadi Litibah

Almost on top of the hill, we followed the little road on the right, which took us right to the highest point of the UAE after about an hour.

UAEs Highest Point

Now it was time to find the way back down. We headed directly to one of the little settlements, back at the cliff edge.


Unfortunately it wasn’t very clear where to find the first set of steps down, so when we reached the first building, we had to continue along the cliff edge for a while, until we found some fields on stone terraces. Next time we’ll save some time by keeping left….

Upper Terraces

A short set of stairs leads down from a crack (a little bit up from the fields) to the boulder field you have to descend to reach the lower terraces.

Way Down

Having reached the second fields down the hill, we spent far too long looking for the path. With time running out and being experienced climbers, we decided to take the risk and just headed into the canyon on the right. We apparently missed some stairs on the way but made it down into the canyon without any serious problems.

Almost right...

With the end of the day getting closer, we rushed down across the next boulder field and back into the canyon, which again turned out to be relatively easy to follow – except for the last large boulder just before the canyon reaches the wadi.
The solution here was to go back a little and take the first opportunity to climb up the side of the canyon, walk past the boulder on the next terrace and climb down again into the wadi.
A quick walk brought us back to the car at dusk.
We found out later that the day before two German hikers got lost on the way down and had spent a horrible night in the mountains – without water, warm clothes or camping equipment. They found the way the next day (not long before we returned to our car), but were totally exhausted….
Overall a great long hike, but we learned that things can easily go wrong if you don’t know the way down or don’t have the energy towards the end of the day. These are real mountains, so be prepared with enough water, food and clothes for a wide range of temperatures!

< Stairways to Heaven    Snake Gorge & Jebel Shams Via Ferrata >


One Response to “Stairways to Heaven Roundtrip”

  1. John kirk said

    Did this route in 2004 and had to stay on the return path for the night. We were a group of nine mostly fit bods but had to go as slow as the slowest hiker. On the way down we ran out of daylight and stayed the night on a farm terrace. fortunately there was some wood there and we had a fire. We had warm clothing with us but in february it was still very cold! finally got back to the cars about 8am and had bacon and eggs and G&T for breakfast! JK.

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