Explorer Mikael Strandberg

First test, a failed attempt to climb Jebel Shams

The camp on the rim of the escarpment overlooking Wadi Ghul
The camp on the rim of the escarpment overlooking Wadi Ghul

Aaah, great being back in Oman again! Question is, for how long?

Yesterday I spent my first night in a tent since the beginning of January 2007 when I slept high up on a mountain in a snow storm in Grövelsjön, Sweden. Two and a half years is far too long a time! Even though I have have slept more than 2500 nights in a tent throughout my life, I have forgotten how good it was. Fresh air, a sense of total freedom -I just miss this feeling and state of being so much- and just…pure happiness! I had initially difficulties to sleep. I don´t think I slept at all really…I just lay there in the full moon, camped on a very steep escarpment overlooking the Grand Canyon of Oman – Wadi Ghul, enjoying life. First my thoughts drifted of to the Bedu of before, who had a life free of consumerism and obstacles to feel completely free, I wondered if that would be possible today? A slight wind pushed the tent on and off and a bunch of goats went through the rubbish left next to the smoking fire most of the night and I spent my night looking back on the life which had kept me away from sleeping in a tent for such a long time. Sometimes life just takes a different route than wished for but at the end of it, the new, unknown route could well be the better one! In my case, I know it is! Two and a half years ago I had no idea that I once would prepare for an Expedition bigger than the Siberian one. It seemed impossible. But here I am today, in Oman, trying to get ready for the trip through the Arab world. Together with one of my three partners to come, P. Nasr and Salim are working at the airport and in the military and won´t join us until things have been sorted out regarding when to start the Expedition, which still seems way off. Until than P and myself, we will get ready for the Expedition to come. Right now, doing research and training physically.

View over the camp where the trek start, called W 6....
View over the camp where the trek start, called W 6….

Until yesterday we have just walked the beaches of Muscat in the heat of the day to acclimatize since we arrived here 10 days ago. However, both of us, have trained at least 3-4 times a week for the last two years, me at gyms, P a variety of physical training. But, yesterday we decided it was time to test how far we still have to go before we are ready to leave. So we decided to climb Omans highest mountain, Jebel Shams, 3075 meters above sea level (9872 feet).

Before I get into a brief description of the climb, I´d like to say that when it comes to preparing for a big Expedition physically, I have changed my training since I ain´t that young anymore, I have to be careful not over training, e.g getting injuries which never heals, and therefore have to use the first face of the Expedition in itself as preparation physically. I just have to keep my body in good shape, but not more. Or less. Anyway, back to the trek:

We got a late start after a reasonably failed breakfast and left a tourist camp at the start of the hike at around 08.15, with the words from the caretaker that the climb to the top was 3 hours up and three hours down. In total six hours. I didn´t trust his assessment a lot, since he was a mountain Bedu. A sign at the entrance just said 5 hours. One way or both ways? We would find out. It took us 5 hours to get just below the military camp located on the peak itself, just half an hour away, before we decided to return, due to total lack of water. Since I have been away for such a long time from anything even resembling trekking, I did so many mistakes. Not enough water, forgot my knife, utensils to eat with, a compass, altitude meter and watch. It was a rough scramble through sharp rock all the way up, but a spectacular trek due to the amazing scenery overlooking Wadi Ghul. I have enjoyed the scenery over Wadu Ghul before, I have even been inside it, visiting an interesting village of mountain Bedu at its end, but hiking up along all its rim is just amazing! It just has to be done!

Hiking down the trail overlooking Wadi Ghul
Hiking down the trail overlooking Wadi Ghul

The route to the top was marked irregularly with a red, white and yellow flag painted on rocks and at times we had difficulties finding them and that is another thing which happens when you haven´t been doing this for awhile, you kind of loose your sense of direction initially and can´t see the overall picture, so therefore it took some time to get to the top. Or, just below it. We decided to abort the mission in strong heat just after one o´clock, to get down to camp before darkness. Even though the climb up was demanding, going down on sharp rock, through a very dry bush landscape, was demanding in its on way. No water, strong sun and continuously concentrated not to do a mistake by stepping on a loose stone and  fall and brake something vital, took a lot of energy and when arriving back at camp at 16.15 we were really tired. Knees, ankles…..we hike in trainers, since we need to strengthen feet, heels and ankles…heels and thighs where burning as the facial skin. But it was a good first test and as a whole, we are not far off being ready.

A view over Jebel Shams from the road leading up to the start of the trek.
A view over Jebel Shams from the road leading up to the start of the trek.

The hike in itself was one long scramble, but really well worth doing. The only animal life seen was the odd skink or lizard and of course goats and donky´s plus their whistling herders. The people who live here are mountain Bedu. And yes, I did see a pair of ravens….I hope it is a good sign. And it sure was a good Pepsi at the end of it!

And it is really good being back in Oman again, with the great people here and the enormous amount of possibilities for the outdoor life!

I am a very, very privileged human being and enjoy life more than ever!

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