TOPO Hiking

Mibam in Umq Bir, Wadi Tiwi, Oman

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The idea: do the whole of Wadi Tiwi, climbing up from Mibam to Umq Bir via the ledges before swimming down Tiwi! There is indeed a Bedouin path that attacks the wall from the bottom of Tiwi to follow a system of vertiginous ledges some 250m above the canyon before plunging a little before Umq Bir in a series of abseils that lead to the village. Announced as taking 4 hours by Ghaleb, our Bedouin guide, who finally admitted to taking 2 hours (!), it took us 4 times as long to finish in the middle of the night, with a finale of night abseils by headlamp. The route had been equipped with bolts by the Raid Gauloises organization in 1992, and there are also knotted ropes and a few chains on the most vertical passages, in such poor condition that we prefer not to use them too much. Progress is therefore slow, with fixed ropes used on the most vertical or exposed passages, whereas Ghaleb totally blew us away by traversing the whole thing unprotected, in his white dishdasha, barefoot and with the LED of his Nokia between his teeth, to de-escalate the final walls at incredible speed at night, without using the abseiling ropes! To sum up, a fabulous, historic trail, but very very exposed and rather complicated to find for a 1st time. To be redone with a smaller team and limited climbing equipment to make faster progress. The route should take 5 or 6 hours to complete.

Technical summary

Type ✦ Bedouin trail

Location ✦ Mibam, Umq Bir

Region ✦ Wadi Tiwi, Hajar Oriental

Country ✦ Oman

Length ✦ 6kms (?)

Elevation gain ✦ 350m

Difficulty ✦ D / V / Scrambling

Duration ✦ 6h, 8h + ?

Interest ✦ ★★★

Access to the place

From the E17 that runs from Quriyat to Sur, exit at Tiwi. Go through the village and at the exit, take the road that leads to the Tiwi wadi, which will pass under the freeway bridge into the gorges. Then follow the narrow road, very steep in places, through the villages and gradually uphill to the last village of Mibam, after 30′ from the bridge. Park at the far end, as you enter the village.

Map & topo

The Bedouin trek route (in sky blue) is indicative! The yellow one represents the descent of Wadi Tiwi.

Itinerary description

Hiking to the start 1h30

Continue through the village of Mibam. Exit through a gate, follow the path and at a fountain, climb steeply to the right to look for the upper path, which is easier to follow than going through the palm grove, which is very confusing (unless you have a local guide with you). On the upper path, follow the cairns to reach a very large cavity under a wall on the right.


Continue without descending into the wadi bed. The path remains on the right-hand side and, after a bend, finally descends into the bed of Wadi Tiwi, which is already much more deeply incised. From here, walk up the boulders to a pool that is difficult to cross or swim in. Finally, keeping an eye on the left, a large sloping dihedral rises upwards with a series of ropes and chains, marking the starting point of the trek.

Course

Long, difficult and very exposed! Bring 60m of rope, helmet, harness, descenders, quickdraws and friends. For the abseils, which are not equipped, you'll also need quick links, rope to connect the points and possibly a bumper and 1 or 2 emergency pitons. To save time, the idea is to climb and pass the most exposed passages in alpine roped parties of 2. However, some passages are very exposed and absolutely not equipped.


Part 1: Climbing the dihedral (180m)

This is simply a climb in IV+/V, with no particular difficulty, but only a few damaged ropes dangling along the way... to be climbed with a rope party, using the bolts in place for protection. After a start on the expo slab, there's about 180m of fairly easy climbing, going straight up then turning right at the end (follow the bolts). We finish on a small ledge.


Part 2: Access to the main ledge

The next part is vertiginous. Follow the bolts to cross a flat rock face with 200m of empty space on the right. The passages are logical, but very, very daring. It's hard to believe you're going to make it! After about 150m of traversing, you come out on a large flat area. From here, climb diagonally upwards to reach the Bedouin steps, and after several more exposed passages and a fairly steep climb, you finally reach the main ledge overlooking the Wadi Tiwi.


Part 3: the ledge, a balcony over Wadi Tiwi

This time, the trail follows a system of rocky edges that form beautiful ledges, easy to follow despite a few exposed passages to get from one to the other. You also have to get past the entrances to the side wadis, which come up from the left, so you have to take a long detour to get to the opposite side and continue along the ledge. In particular, there's a very exposed passage on one of the last wadis to be crossed, with no possible protection. At the very end of this walk, which offers fantastic views of the Tiwi gorges and sometimes a glimpse of the pools 250m below, you come to a cul de sac. Here begins the abseiling to Umq Bir.


Part 4: abseiling

The Bedouin descend barefoot, shoes in hand, facing the wall, with the help in places of half-broken ropes and existing chains. So you have to equip or re-equip with the means at hand. This section was completed and opened at night.


R1 (50m ) - Connectable points between a bolt and a piton with a good piece of rope. 50m vertical, then after touching the ground, continue down the rocky gully to the edge of a second wall.


R2 (60m ) - Connectable points between 2 bolts. Don't descend vertically, but follow the series of chains that descend to the left (looking down), placing points of deviation. You end up on a mini ledge. Continue by going lower (not expo) and then following the route.


R3 (15m ) - 2 points connectable with a piece of rope. Vertical abseil to the bottom of another waterfall.


R4 (40m ) - 2 connectable points here too. Go straight down beside the chain in a magnificent white gully. At the bottom, cross to the right with the chain and rope in place (good condition) and exit onto a small ledge. Descend a further 3m with chain and rope to reach another small ledge leading to the final abseil.


R5 (25m) - a single point. At the bottom, cross the slab and follow the ledges to exit onto a large flat area.

Back

There's still about 30′ to go to Umq Bir. Follow the track that curves around to the left and heads towards the village's palm grove. For the return journey: either spend the night in the village to descend the Tiwi wadi the next day and do the full Tiwi, or take a 4×4 to return to Mibam in a good 3 hours via the plateau (very nice track!).

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