Weekend Warm-up: Wadi Rum

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wadi rum

“Every person brings a different vision to the world. And I think the way for people to connect those visions – to understand other people’s visions – is through nature, risk, challenge, unknown.”

It’s this belief that motivates Israeli-American climber Eli Nissan on his adventure into the heart of Jordan’s Wadi Rum.

wadi rum

At Wadi Rum, granite and sandstone formations tower from the desert, dwarfing the austere surroundings. Adventure tourism hasn’t yet discovered this world-class climbers’ playground. A key reason, Nissan learns, is the outdated climbing routes up the formations. Nissan’s expertise and local relationships make implementing modernized routing possible.

On his annual visits to Wadi Rum, Nissan forms a close friendship with Mohammed Hussain, a local Bedouin. Hussain knows the area intimately but fears for the future of the local people, who lead an isolated, simple life on the outskirts of Jordan’s major tourist centres. Nevertheless, Hussain is keen to help reestablish climbing tourism in the area.

wadi rum

Nissan, Hussein and one other Bedouin helper set out to establish a 550m, 14-pitch, 5.13+ route. In 2014, they spent an initial three weeks scouting and clearing the area. For the final season, they enlisted the expertise of big-wall climber Madeline Sorkin.

It took the team three years to create a modern free climb, designed with sustainability in mind: a route too that hopes to bring longevity to Hussain and his community.

About the Author

Alex Chasing Dreams

Alex Myall

A travel journalist born of her own mini adventures into far flung destinations. What began as a passion for guiding others to explore, evolved into journaling, blogging and booking. Find out more at alexchasingdreams.com

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15 Comments on "Weekend Warm-up: Wadi Rum"

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Tony Howard
Guest
Never read such nonsense in all my life. Rum is world famous as a climbers paradise and has been since we discovered it in 1984. World class trad routes abound including the superb and unique Bedouin routes which set the benchmark for clean bold climbing. Rum is absolutely not about bolted routes particularly those near clean trad toutes. We should not be imposing ourselves on the rock. It’s what Reinhold Messner called murdering the impossible. Respect the rock.Keep RumClean. Tony Howard Author of guides to climbing and trekking in in Rum, Jordan, Norway and England, also Troll Wall and Quest… Read more »
Tony Howard
Guest

Just wanted to add if you want to know more about clean climbing ethics check out BMC and UIAA and info on ethics such as To Bolt or Not To Bolt

Mick Ward
Guest

‘It took the team three years to create a modern free climb, designed with sustainability in mind: a route too that
hopes to bring longevity to Hussain and his community.’ You couldn’t make this stuff up! Can’t see a 14-pitch 5.13+ dragging in the crowds. But the Orwellian use of language… My guess is that, if easy stuff’s bolted, the crowds will rush in, trash the place and move on when ‘the next big venue’ comes up. Sustainability!!!???

Nigel Coe
Guest
If Israeli-American climber Eli Nissan is ‘Tel aviv based dj producer & musician considered one of the finest and leading Djs of underground house & techno scene’, then he said ‘I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, that’s how I learn’. I think this sport route is one of his mistakes. It seems strange that an article which spouts on about connecting visions ‘through nature, risk, challenge, unknown’ then lionizes a climb that sullies nature, removes risk and challenge, and makes plain the unknown. A major factor in my visiting Wadi Rum to climb was the scarcity of… Read more »
Ed Douglas
Guest

That is a dismal piece of reporting. Since when is trad climbing ‘outdated’? How can you simply rewrite history? It reads like a press release from Nissan and Hussain. Adventure tourism is already huge in Wadi Rum and the environment is suffering. You want to make it worse?

Joperdu
Guest

Aside from the absolute nonsense of describing trad style climbing as outdated and thinking that a 5.13 is opening up and ‘modernising’
.. what about ethics… what about who decides.. what about local governance?

And this as data pours in on how ‘opening up ‘ areas of natural and cultural beauty is destroying the very essence of that beauty (ref a torrent of reports in World Heritagr sites, National Parks and the travel- habitat imbalance).
How does one man get to decide? And to bolt? On whose say so and with what accountability for the consequences?

Graham Everitt
Guest

Ridiculous assertion that climbs are modernised by bolting them, this is the usual ploy of those wishing to exploit and area for their own financial gain . keep the wilderness wild or it will be the death of adventure … this author wouldn’t know one if it fell on his head

Anders Ourom
Guest

“Adventure tourism hasn’t yet discovered this world-class climbers’ playground. A key reason, Nissan learns, is the outdated climbing routes up the formations. Nissan’s expertise and local relationships make implementing modernized routing possible.” Self-serving drivel.

Andy Say
Guest

Shocking and self-serving. There is no such thing as an ‘outdated’ climb: unfortunately there are climbers unwilling to accept such challenges and who need to sanitise their environment.
Leave the area alone – why does it need to be a “tourist destination’?

Masa Sakano
Guest

I agree with Tony Howard and many others. Ultimately, it is up to the locals. However, Wadi Rum trashed with bolts would lose its attraction to many visiting climbers like myself.

Dave Wynne-Jones
Guest

I agree with the criticism of this so-called modernising which is trying to rewrite history and ignore the vast appeal of adventure trad climbing in Wadi Rum at present. It’s outrageous to suggest that such exploitation based on bolting routes will benefit the area quite the reverse in fact particularly if it takes 3 years to put up a 5.13 climb!!!

Jerry Kobalenko
Editor

Thanks to all of you for your fair comments. We at ExplorersWeb get the picture: We erred in picking this film to share with our readers. We’ll try to do better in future.

Gail Simmons
Guest

Should you not remove this film from the website then?

Andy Hedgecock
Guest

Bolting in such an established trad climbing area is to be abhorred!
Wadi Rum should forever remain bolt free, not reduced to the quick fix of bolt clipping.
If equippers are allowed to bolt and retrobolt routes this will lead to a huge influx of climbing tourists which will totally destroy the special ambiance that this world renound venue has.
Eli bolting this route was disrespectful to the local climbing ethos, please no more.

Concerned Jordanian Climber
Guest
Concerned Jordanian Climber

Who appointed Hussain and Nissan the decision-makers? For 2 people to simply decide to bolt Wadi Rum is ridiculous!