TOPO Canyoning

Wadi Aqabat El Biyout, Sayq Plateau

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Aqabat El Biyout
From large-scale canyon to adventure playground! From the small village of Aqabat El Biyout on the Sayq plateau, the fairly wide, open wadi winds its way down with a series of large waterfalls to reach the lower part of the El Hijri wadi, which is more steep-sided and watery. The final abseil to reach El Hijri is very impressive, with 120m of vertical waterfalls, even overhanging for the last 50 or 60 metres. Opened and equipped by Khaled Abdul Malak, we took advantage of our visit to complete the equipment, double most of the points and, above all, place an intermediate belay for the final 120m. The canyon remains difficult, long and very challenging, not to mention that the exit to the lower El Hijri is not at all easy. Taken by the night, we bivouacked at the foot of the great waterfall. Incredible atmosphere, under a glittering celestial vault and, fortunately, ideal temperature.

Technical summary

Type ✦ Torrential canyon
Location ✦ Aqabat El Biyout, Sayq Plateau
Region ✦ Jebel Akhdar, Western Hajar
Country ✦ Oman
Difficulty ✦ v5-a2-V
Max abseiling ✦ 60m
Duration ✦ 12h to 14h (2 days)
Interest ✦ ★★★

Access to the place

To get to the starting point at the village of Aqabat El Biyout, head back towards Nizwa and take route 23. Turn towards Birka AL Mouz and jebel Al Akhdar. There's a checkpoint (4×4 compulsory and driver's papers checked). Drive up and, just before Sayq, turn right towards Hotel Alila. Further on, take the track on the left before a building, then further down, leave the track on the left towards Sly Sahra to continue straight on for another 5 km and go back down to Aqabat. Park in the large central space. Allow 1h30 from Al Fara' to Aqabat El Biyout.

The junction between the start on the Plateau and the finish at the bottom of Tanuf, a little before the village of Al Fara', where wadi Hijri joins wadi Qasheh to form wadi Tanuf. To drop off the 1st car at the bottom, take the road from Bahla to Nizwa and turn towards Wadi Tanuf and climb up to the ruins. Immediately afterwards, turn left onto the track entering Wadi Tanuf. Go past the dam, then cross the wadi bed at the bottom to follow the relatively good gravel track to the obvious junction between the 2 wadis (currently it's the end of the track which has been broken up by the latest floods).

Map & topo

Itinerary description

Hiking to the start 5'

Go through the village to find a small wadi just behind it, surrounded by houses. Descend it to the left (west) and you'll soon reach the 1st abseil, almost inside the village. You can now see the entire route below you.

Course 6h à 8h

This is a fairly open canyon, with a few constrictions at the waterfalls or in the final section before the big waterfall. The itinerary is obvious: just follow the bed of the wadi, finding the best passages between the boulders. There are 11 abseils to be climbed, several of them 60m long. The equipment in place is good when it hasn't disappeared... so don't forget to bring your own rappelling gear.

Abseil 1 (65m, 2 bolts or 25m, 2 bolts + 40m, 1 bolt)

Very impressive for beginners. Bring spare bolts and a sling to connect the points that may have disappeared (on a large rock in the middle of the waterfall). If the abseil is cut in 2, watch out for rubbing on the abrasive edges, as the intermediate belay (1 point) is offset to the left.) You can do this with a dynamic 2x60m, relying on your elasticity. Afterwards, walk down in the torrent bed to the next waterfall.
Rappel 2 (20m, 1 bolt)

This abseil can be avoided by unclimbing on the left-hand side without too much difficulty. Otherwise, it's an easy abseil with an incline. Continue with a passage of boulders to negotiate.
Abseil 3 (40m, 2 bolts)

We arrive at a large, wide cirque. The bottom seems to be over 40m, but it's just right for a dynamic 40m (if not, you can exit 20m from the ground on the right by moving off). Continue further down to pass through a narrower corridor with magnificent folded walls of horizontal strata.
Rappels 4, 5 and 6 in sequence (25m, 1 bolt, 20m, 1 bolt and 30m, 2 bolts)

To access abseil 4, cross over to the right at the top and then descend to find the easy, sloping abseil 4. Just after, rappel 5 takes you through a hole to the lower landing. Then abseil 6 goes to the ground. Continue down through the boulders and wadi bed.
Abseils 7, 8 and 9 (not completed)

Lacking bolts to finish equipping the rest, we avoided these 3 abseils, which look splendid (the second above the superb green basin), by crossing to the left on the ledges to join a small secondary wadi which joins the bottom of abseil 9 (1 bolt on the way to pass). The equipment for these 3 abseils has not been checked...

After a few bends and some boulder-walking, the next section leads to the big final waterfall. At the end, the waterfall narrows considerably and there's a passage with huge boulders that's not easy and exposed (1 bolt is needed to cross 5m of exposed rock). At the end, you come to the edge of a huge, wide waterfall 120m above Wadi El Hijri, our return route.
Rappels 10 and 11 (60m, 2 bolts and 60m, 2 bolts)

The belay in the middle is suitable if you have a 2x120m rope. As we don't have one, we set up a belay on the right on the small ledge before the corner with the next wall. Rappel 10 to reach the other side of the tufa with a bolt to avoid the pendulum. The intermediate abseil is 20m lower, suspended in the void and very uncomfortable. The final rappel 11 is around 60m long, with the last 40m on a spider's thread. Arrival on the left edge of the basin. Very impressive!

Back

What a way back! Long, difficult in the aquatic section, but splendid. From the bottom of the big waterfall, head towards the El Hijri wadi, searching for the path through the boulders and small waterfalls. Then follow the wadi along the left bank until you reach the wadi bed. From here, you have to walk in the water, swim around new waterfalls, sometimes with major detours on the left or right. Not an easy route. Then, as the wadi curves back to the east, the water disappears and the final stretch is on flat ground, with less interest. Another 1h30 to 2h to reach the parking lot at the junction with wadi Qasheh.

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