The Sultanate of Oman is well-positioned in the Middle East as an exciting destination for different outdoor adventures. Ranking high in the global security index as one of the safest countries to live in and with a boost from Lonely Planet as a must-visit country for 2022, the easing of travel restrictions will drive traffic to the Sultanate of Oman in the years to come.
Of the many different outdoor activities, abseiling and hiking through the via Ferrata are two that I have postponed trying until this weekend. Given the right support, gears and group to join, it’s one of the most fun and exhilarating experiences one can ever try I regretted prolonging joining this kind of excursion.
As of today, the Sultanate of Oman boasts about half a dozen different locations to do this adventure. From the scenic cliffs of Jabal Al Akhdhar to the intimidating peaks of Jabal Shams, the choice is definitely up to your stamina and strength.
For my first foray, I decided to join the Explore and Challenge Adventure Group spearheaded by Abdullah al Mabsali. Coordinated by a close friend and fellow outdoor adventure enthusiast Rumpa Mitra, we were told that being the shorter version, it will cover a 3 km distance that will be completed in 4 to 6 hours and will be comprised of an easy walk for 15 minutes, 35 metres abseiling and the via Ferrata rated as medium in the difficulty level.
Costing RO 10, the adventure group provided the abseiling kit, set up the ropes and harness to be used and provided coaching as we went through the different phases of the adventure.
Departing Muscat at 5:30 in the morning, we reached Jabal Shams nearly at 9 am and parked a few metres from the viewing deck of the Jabal Shams Balcony point.
The hike took us down a slope leading towards a wadi with a man-made dam collecting rainwater at the opposite end of our destination. The hiking paths are unmarked and lead towards a cliff overlooking one of the best spots in Jabal Shams. A deep pool filled with rainwater was framed perfectly by big rocks and some vegetation at the bottom.
After securing the abseiling ropes, the descent was disarming for first-timers which was half of the group. Abdullah has been managing his Explore and Challenge group for nearly five years and along with the experience came patience. They encouraged everyone not to be intimidated by the height and assured that they are safely guided by the rope. Offering some coaching as to feet placement and overcoming the slight curve on the abseiling section, everyone reached the ground safely.
After abseiling, the view from where we were perched was breathtaking. It faced the section of Jabal Shams’ deep canyons and made for good photos. After a few minutes of rest, we started going back up through the Via Ferrata.
With the iron cables securely nailed to the cliff, it provided the much-needed lifeline to safely navigate the cliffs. Via Ferrata is a global phenomenon that allows many explorers to see some of the best spots all over the world in a different light.
The adventure team offered several insights on how to navigate the iron cables. The Via Ferrata cable set comes with two screw gates attached to the harness. We were told to always make sure that the two screw gates are attached with one under and the other over for safety purposes.
We made slow and steady progress climbing up relying on protruding rocks and a few steel steps nailed into the rocks. After 30 minutes, everyone was back on top of the cliff. For those with acrophobia or fear of heights, this is not an adventure for you. A 13-year-old kid also did so well in doing the different phases of adventures which means that for most adults, it is also something that you can do.
Overall, my first time doing abseiling and via Ferrata was a memorable experience, one that I would highly encourage everyone else of sound mind and fit body to do. Before you jump to more challenging locations however like the Via Ferrata Located at the Balcony Walk near Sab Bani Khamis, test out your endurance first or your capacity to handle pressure dangling on the side of the cliff. The key was always not to panic.
For an introduction to abseiling and via Ferrata, you can reach out to Abdullah through their Instagram @exploreandchallenge.