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Exit Surprise, Ras Al Khaimat, Emirates



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Above RAK, the Ghalilah wadi, then to the right the Litibah wadi, which leads to the Shady Circus sector and at the very end to the start of Stairway to Heaven. Despite the heat and humidity, we set off on Exit Surprise, a 3-star route according to the guidebook, which we'd often heard about, with an original finale. The route lies to the right of the Shady Circus's main waterfall. About 200m in pitch, 6 pitches of varying difficulty and length. The route is physical, demanding and challenging, and includes a caving exit (L5) where you have to crawl vertically to extract yourself from the mountain before finishing the route. The route is therefore original, with a beautiful and pleasant 3rd pitch, a super aerial traverse (L4, with 4 pitons in place), 2 difficult chimneys to negotiate (L1 and L5) and 5 to 6 hours of sustained effort.

Sortie de la cheminée, ça passe ?

Technical summary

Access to the place

Continue along the road above RAK towards the border with Oman. Past the gigantic cement works, fork right towards Wadi Ghalilah (signposted). Drive up the wadi, passing small hamlets before turning right towards the dam painted in UAE colors. After the dam, take the track to the left, which runs along the stony bed of the wadi. Further right, park at the Shady Circus, 200m from the track on the right (easy to spot).

Itinerary description

Hiking to the start 5'

It's a quick climb across the wadi bed on sight towards the right-hand side of the waterfall. The start is obvious, with a long crack in a dihedral that climbs to a chimney 20m higher up.


The north-facing route is around 200m long, in 6 pitches (50m, 30m, 30m, 20m, 40m, 30m). Some belays are equipped with pitons, lunulas or friends left on site (R1, R3, R4), and only L4 is equipped with 4 pitons to protect the traverse. Bring 20 long quickdraws and a set of friends, at least doubling from 0.75 to 3. A few micro-friends may also be useful. The route is rated E2, 5b English. The most difficult pitch is L4 in 6b but protected, the most difficult pitch is L1 in trad, very sustained in 6a+ (6b for the conti?).

L1 (50m, 6a+)

A testing, long and difficult pitch. The first 20 meters go up the crack, which is not very straightforward, with rounded holds and slightly shaky feet. Then the chimney is a real challenge: everything is round, and you have to place your friends at the very bottom. A belay "equipped" with friends in place 10m before exiting. Otherwise, finish the pitch up to the opening to set up belay R1.

L2 (30m, V)

Rest and transition pitch. Once out of the chimney, climb diagonally to the right without climbing too much to reach belay R2 (1 piton in place) below the crack that leads to the cellar (obvious) on a ledge.

L3 (30m, 6a)

The most beautiful for me, aerial, magnificent crack, straightforward, beautiful rock. A more difficult step before reaching the cellar, on a finer, more vertical crack. Comfortable R3 belay with straps in the rock.

L4 (20m, 6b)

This is a super-airy and impressive traverse, but in the end it's not so bad. Especially as there are 4 pitons providing excellent protection. Only one step in 6b to pass the ridge, but doable in A0. The belay below the next crack is equipped (2 pitons).

L5 (40m, 6a)

The famous pitch that gives the route its name. Climb the wide crack without too much difficulty and pass an overhang with a physical step (6a, 6a+?), a lunula in place to help. Just after, continue straight on and enter the mountain! This is followed by 15-20m in a very narrow chimney (thorax width in places). It's best not to carry your rucksack, and to have stowed away any gear that sticks out. You really have to crawl when climbing, and it's better to be 1.60m tall than 1.90m... After long, unattractive efforts, we emerge through a barely shoulder-width hole onto a small terrace. Relay to be climbed there.

L6 (30m, 6a or V)

To reach the exit ledge. Normally, you'd go right for an easy climb, but you've gone straight almost over the hole (a little to the right). There's a good 6a pitch at least at the start, then a V+ pitch and then the easy part to finish.


Follow the ridge to the left. Pass over the top of the waterfall and continue along the (very narrow and very exposed in places) ledge before climbing back up a little, retracing a dip and crossing a final ridge (with boulders) to find the exit waterfall, which is easy to unclimb. All that remains is to descend the stony slope on the left (faster) to the track (car in sight).

Map & topo



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