TOPO Canyoning

Wadi Halfain, Sayq Plateau

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A huge, monumental and unmissable canyon! Opened by Khaled Abdul Malak in 2015, wadi Halfain is probably the most beautiful canyon on the Sayq plateau, a notch above even wadi Qasheh or wadi Aqabat Al Biyout. From Al Manakhir, a small high-altitude village at 1,870m on the Sayq plateau, the wadi opens due east onto a gigantic waterfall almost 250m long, before descending over 1,000m in a concentrated sequence of splendid vertical cascades where the water flows and forms multiple pools of translucent water. Incredible scenery, beautiful geological formations and a final 90m abseil watered directly to the ground to round off the adventure! All abseils are equipped with 1 or 2 bolts, and lunulas in places. It was a long and demanding trip, 14 to 16 hours of descent in 2 days, with a splendid bivouac halfway down, difficult to get out in one day. Thanks to Khaled for this 5-star discovery!

Technical summary

Type ✦ Water canyon
Location ✦ Al Manakhir, Sayq Plateau
Region ✦ Dakhiliyah, Western Hajar
Country ✦ Oman
Difficulty ✦ v4-a3-V
Vertical drop ✦ 1000m
Max abseiling ✦ 50m
Duration ✦ 14h to 16h (2 days)
Interest ✦ ★★★

Access to the place

From the road from Nizwa to Muscat, turn right into Birkat Al Maouz. Pass the village and turn left at the fort to enter the gorge. Further on, a checkpoint (4×4 compulsory) and you start on the road that will take you over 1500m up to reach the Sayq plateau. Before arriving at Sayq, take the road leading off to the right on a descent and left-hand bend. A few kilometers further on, you come to the village of Al Manakhir. Park as far down the road as possible.

Map & topo

Itinerary description

Hiking to the start 1h30

Cross the village and the last houses to find small terraces behind. Follow the path, which joins the bottom of the canyon parallel to the gorge. It climbs up and down a little, then comes to a sort of small pass with an incredible aerial view over the whole wadi to the E15 road, in the distance, heading towards Muscat. Continuing a little further, on the right we see the 250m waterfall (not equipped), the base of which we'll actually reach via an approach path.

Continue on, following the varied signposting (red and mauve arrows, green and red triangles...). At the bottom, after a number of bends, fork right to quickly reach the foot of the large waterfall on a fairly steep Bedouin path. Then descend the opposite side of the scree, improvising in the foliage. It becomes a little more steep and you can see the first pools of water. The 1st abseil is on a small ledge to the right.

Course 10h à 12h

Facing east, Wadi Halfain is very steep in its very vertical central section, often in the shade. Watery all year round, the flow is fairly low (except after the rains) but the swimming pools are full and compulsory. In winter, given the altitude, it's essential to bring a full wetsuit (3mm is sufficient), and at least a shorty in hot weather.

17 abseils to be climbed, some in a row for the big cascades. The belays are equipped, but you'll need to bring plenty of rope (8mm) and emergency quick links.

Abseil 1 (20m, 1 bolt)

Join the slab on the right, then walk to the constriction where you'll find another bolt to descend a few meters into the trickle of water.
Rappels 2, 3, 4 and 5 (130m linked, 40m, 30m, 30m, 30m)

Abseil 2 (2 bolts) is not an easy climb, as it slopes down into a slippery gully and ends up on the left below the wall. Abseil 3 (2 bolts) descends through the vegetation to end up on the back of the orange tufa. Abseil 4 (lunule) obliquely to the left leads to a small platform. Abseil 5 (1 bolt) finishes the cascade down to the ground. Passing to the opposite side, you can then admire the fantastic tufa formation in the shape of a green pyramid, which ends above a pretty bluish pool. Walk for a few minutes to reach a new waterfall.
Rappel 6 (20m, 1 bolt)

You can descend this abseil into the gully to do an abseil 7 which ends up in the water, which we avoided (cold!). Descend towards the tree and then climb back up to reach the right-hand side of the pool. A tricky little traverse allows you to cross without putting your foot in the water! Walk along the bed of the wadi for around 20 minutes to reach the rim of a large, very vertical waterfall that plunges straight down into the watery, very deep part of the canyon.
Abseils 7, 8, 9 and 10 (110m linked, 10m, 20m, 40m, 40m)

Magnificent abseiling overlooking the deep basins and gorges of Halfain. Abseil 7 (2 bolts) just allows you to descend to a lower level. Abseil 8 (2 bolts) stops on a new ledge, then abseil 9 (2 bolts) plunges almost overhanging the cliff and finishes on the cliffside, under a small overhang. Abseil 10 (2 bolts) and you finish on a spider's thread in places at the foot of the large pool, at the bottom of the hole. 50m compulsory swim.
Abseil 11 (20m, 2 bolts)

Right on the heels of this. We pass a small tufa slide overlooking a new basin. Final pendulum and aquatic finish, 30m to swim.
Rappel 12 (30m, 1 bolt)

The same with a water finish and a new basin to swim.
Rappel 13 (30m, 1 bolt)

Very nice waterfall, very vertical to end up in the water again and swim over 50m. We then get out to walk a little, de-escalate a little. We arrive at a stony flat spot, ideal for bivouacking. A wonderful little nook awaits us.
Rappel 14 (30m, 2 bolts)

A few minutes further down, it's the "hole" abseil. You actually have to pass through a hole, without the bags given the narrowness, to reach the next belay, under a huge boulder. A fantastic abseil along a green waterfall. We land on a small ledge, in front of a large swimming pool.
Rappel 15 (10m, 1 bolt)

Immediately afterwards, a short abseil on the left leads to a corridor of shimmering water. Further on, another short swim, then a 3m step up on the left (fixed rope). Continue along the rocky flank and again use a fixed rope (in poor condition!) to pass a narrow 4m jump. It's narrow, and there's still a small basin to swim in or cross to reach the edge of the final abseil.
Abseil 16 and 17 (90m in 2 abseils, 50m then 40m, 1 bolt and lunula then 2 bolts)

Very steep, the abseil follows the waterfall, first passing a cave on the right. Further down, we follow the streamers of trickling water. Around 5m lower, there "s an obvious ledge equipped for the final abseil. About 49m to land in a splendid little bath (after the rains, the basin can be completely filled, with 50m to swim...).

Back

Leave the couloir of the large final waterfall to find a final ledge to climb either to the right with 1 bolt or to the left in a hole (possibly using a piece of rope). You then leave the gorges of the Wadi Halfain and it opens up. Follow the wadi bed. Avoid the chaos by climbing to the left and then descending to the white rocks.

There are still a few small pools scattered around the limestone slab. Further on, you come to an ancient wall that marks the start of an old falaj, perhaps dating back thousands of years. Simply follow it, and after a 2-hour walk and several slight bends, you'll come out on the track to the parking lot.

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