I'm not sure if the weather has started to cool, or if complete self-denial led me to believe it had, but either way I felt it was time for the first trek of the 2018 winter season, so I put on my almost-pristine boots and headed for the mountains. This route is high up, sticking above 1300m/4250', so the temperature was around 8'C lower than at sea level, reaching around 36 'C, with the "noticeable" wind being "refreshing", so I preached, although not without my critics.
This route was very enjoyable, and not too long, and it had variation and splits up nicely into sections, each quite different. An easy walk in, followed by a ledge/shelf around southern jebel bil ais, a winding path to a historic village inhabited by traditionally dressed locals, native to the area speaking a local language, a stunning little wadi with a precarious narrow and exposed stairway, historic ruins of settlements in the upper wadi and the border track section along the musandam/rak ridge divide.
I have graded it as a Moderate (W-M), and to be clear, almost all of the route is Easy, with just 1 specific spot which is a W-M/W-D at Way point 20 (WP. 20). This is a short narrow exposed section. Currently it is unavoidable as far as I can see.
This route would take different amounts of time depending on how successful hitching lifts is. From the top parking by the zip-line start point, this route is about 4 and a half hours at a moderate to fast pass. From the new zip-line building half way up, add 30 mins extra walk either way. And from the top public parking spot, add another 30 mins extra either way. Max times therefore would be 6 and half hours, up to 8 for slower groups.
This route had 7 small sections. (break times removed)
1. WP 01 - 03 - Road Section - 20 mins - 1.1km - (100m/330' ascent)
2. WP 03 - 10 - Path Section to the High point - 50 mins - 2.4km - (220m/650' ascent)
3. WP 10 - 13 - The Ledge and Drop - 3km - 1 hour - (300m/1000' descent)
4. WP 13 - 17 - Path to the village - 1.6km - 30 mins - (100m/330' descent)
5. WP 17- 21 - Narrow Wadi - 1km - 30 mins - (20 meters ascent)
6. WP 21 - 22 - Upper Wadi and return walk - 1.6km - 50 mins - (250m/800' ascent)
7. WP 22 - 25 - Tracks back to the Top of the Road - 2.7km - 55 mins (150m/500' ascent + 120m/400' descent)
Section 1: Road Section
At the time of writing public cars/bikes can only get up to the parking 100m below this start point, which is 10mins walk (used in Jebel Bil Ais route). So to get higher, it's either walking, riding, or trying to get a lift with the buses flying up and down to take people to the new Zip line and there center (half way up).
More details on that section can be found on this trail: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/jebel-jais-jebel-bil-ays-and-upper-wadi-bih-21000924
If you can't get a lift, it is about 1 hour from bottom parking to the top of the tarmack road (WP. 25).
2. Path Section to the High point
Along side, somewhat intertwined, with the new Jebel Jais road there is a subtle pathway, which is slightly more direct, and a little more interesting than tarmac.
At WP 3 the path leaves the road, however it is hard to see the exact point the two connect, as it's been somewhat damaged with the new road. A small scramble up off the road side onto the path leads into a clearer path thereafter. This path follows up the ridge line overlooking wadi ghalilah, and the villages on the platou below. It more or less follows the electricity poles up the hill for simple navigation.
After connecting up with the road at the Theater/Car park (not-public)/Track area at the top, take the second path again leaving the road. The military check point here does allow people to walk up on the brick road also, which isn't itself too indirect, but is steep.
The path takes some big Zig-Zags, often not being too clear where it turns. Keep the electricity poles near by and you can't go too far wrong. It eventually links back up to the brick road to the palace, and there is a large stone marker making this clear (WP.10).
3. The Ledge and Drop
From here cross over the road, and head in an ESE direction. Don't get pulled to your right and into the wadis, to avoid having to go up and down, and taking an indirect line. Just head as straight as possible to WP.11. The ground here is rocky, but more or less you can move freely as it's a smooth rolling landscape.
Almost which ever direction you go it will result in you reaching the edge of the ledge. A vertical drop of 45m/150' is in front of you, cutting off access to the tracks and villages below. Turn and follow the ledge left, at WP 11. A short while after a white flag sticks out, continue on beyond this to WP 12. This marks an easy scree/rocky shoot down to the track. If it's difficult via left and it's easier yet.
4. Path to the village
Once at the track (WP.13), turn Right, heading a short distance before the track does a 180' turn and heads back in the opposite direction. Leave the track almost immediately after (WP.14) looking out for the path ahead. The path initially isn't clear, but by WP 15, at a small dry river crossing it becomes clear. Follow this along to the village, noting the idyllic camping spot down to your right hand side by the dry streams and trees.
Once at the village, the path disappears through a gate into a private property section. This route went clockwise around the farms, however I would suggest anti-clockwise to as on the side this route takes the buildings link with the fields and goat pens, so (in hindsight) it felt a little bit unnecessary invasive.
You should be able to see the cutting in the ledge that the wadi has cracked open beyond the village to the right hand side. Head towards this, still following a worn path.
5. Narrow Wadi
Initially we headed into the wadi, which provides a large shaded area in the afternoon, and probably throughout most of the day. The rocks rize vertically up around you, much like a mini wadi razor, with smoothed off rocks lining the bottom. It may be possible to go straight up the wadi basin, however just a short distance in there is a 8m step/25', which would require an awkward scramble to the left hand side.
We could see the dry stone steps on the wadi wall to our right so checked that out. We were not disappointed. The route starts at WP. 19. It follows a narrowing ledge around before going through a narrow gap bringing you into the wadi. Coming down from this brings you to the start of the 'tricky' section.
Carefully clamber down the 'steps', you may need to remove large bags and pass them. It is easy, however the exposure hits you hard and fast, going from nothing to a straight drop. Once down the steps, as in the photo with feet in, you have one key step across a corner gap. Use good hand holds, as there are plenty. Immediately after the gap, a very narrow ledge has a dry-stone-extension precariously placed and widening the path. Continue a small distance around the corner and you back.
After another short section in the wadi basin, there is another step looking less smooth and someone layers (slate like). Look to the right hand side of the wadi before the step, and there is dry stoning wedged into a steep but short gully section. Scramble up onto this, before following the path around on another ledge, which now comparatively feels somewhat spacious. At the end of the ledge a stone bridge fills a narrow gap; although a large step is possible and less nerving. This brings you to WP 21.
6. Upper Wadi and Return Walk
The first half of this route is a continuation of the wadi, however the wadi broadens out and is generally easy scrambling over rocks, and mostly walking. Throughout the wadi there are signs of historic dry stone houses, built into the cliff sides. Try to stick to the right hand side of the wadi to avoid having to scramble through larger bolder. There is a path, but it comes and goes.
Towards the top of the wadi you can see the still inhabited village overlooking the older abandoned buildings lower down. Just head straight up to these. Once there continue in the same direction for around 1km until you hit the border track at the top.
7. Tracks Back
An easy final section, although not the most exciting. Follow the border track to the right (North). It is about 1.5km along here to the main brick road, and apart from a few hairpins half way up, it heads directly gradually gaining height.
Once at the brick road, you have the choice to either follow it down (left), or return back down the path described in section 2.
This route then finishes down at the top of the road, by the zip-line, which was worth a quick look at. We were then fortunate enough to get a lift down with the operators who were finishing their day. However to walk from here back to the public parking would be an hours walk.