Jebel Kawr

  • Jebel Kawr
  • 2730 m
  • Primary factor 1718 m
  • Oman
  • Location: North N23.13851, Eaast 057.01404 (GPS at the summit)
  • Difficulty: YDS class 3
  • Climbed May 17. 2018.


How to get there:
Follow Hwy. 15 from Muscat, signed for Nizwa. Continue past Nizwa on Hwy. 15/21 passing the town of Bahia. Exit right at location N23.01923, E056.9260. Turn right again after 3.2 kilometer. Continue east along the main road about 10 kilometer. The road turns into a dirt road, but of good quality. This road serves a small community near the base of the mountain. However, fork right well before this place in order to get the road that climbs a hill further onwards. This road enters a narrow gorge and climbs steeply (4WD recommended) to a tiny mountain community Nadan. Park at obvious location, N23.06712, E057.03326, elevation about 1250 meter.
Route description:
Note: It is likely that an easier route exists, starting from the village of Sant on the east side of the mountain. I observed two different shepard's camps on the same plateau where the summit is located. Since the route (described here) from the west involves (easy) climbing, the sheep must come from the eastern side.
The route starts out uphill among old dwellings, one must cross a (dry) creek that runs in a pretty deep ravine, then ascend on the far side, passing just left of some village huts that are located on higher ground. Next, head uphill while tending right, crossing a couple of distinct gullies in the process. Higher up, one should navigate through a maze of gullies ending with quite a big one that actually provides a way to reach the main crest. This is not obvious at all and my best advice is to download and carry the GPS track that is available from a coujple of trip reports on Peakbagger.
A key step in this route is to gain a local ridge via a gully, this ridge has a pointed pinnacle just to the climbers right when ascending. Here, one should continue across the small saddle and descend a very narrow passage/gully to reach the bottom of a larger gully. This, in turn, should be followed uphill (left), then subsequently a right fork branch will lead to the final gully.
Once on top of the main crest, the route now (turns left) follows this on much easier terrain. Well before a main breach in the crest, one should keep right and do a slight descent in order to locate a small trail (used by sheep and shepards) that contours along on natural formations staying well below the higher part of the connecting ridge. This trail connects to the other side of the breach in the crest where the trail ascends more steeply to arrive on a flat plateau with several shepards huts.
From here, one still needs to cross a valley, this is perhaps best done quite a bit further up where the vertical loss will be somewhat less. Now, moving more left (towards the higher part of the main crest), the route may cross another location with more shepards (winter) huts. There is a sizeable flat valley floor in this area. From here, one can walk more or less directly towards the summoit, first an ascent from the flat valley, next across easy terrain to the base of the final summit area. There are several variations to the route here and no particular difficulties.
The summit is cluittered with old solar panels, collapsed structures of various kinds.
My wife Heidi and I decided to spend a week at the quite nice Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel in Oman. I would do some mountain hikes, but also spend time relaxing. We got a first rate suite and the hotel surely lived up to expectations.
Oman has 4 ultra prominent mountains, but only two may be climbed to the very summit. One is located on the very tip of the Arabian penisula, actually disconnected from the main Oman territory, it has a military base on top and visitors are not welcome. Another ultra, Jebel Shams, also has a military radar on top and recent reports tell that a new fence has been built around it, thus preventing hikers to get even reasonably close to the true summit. This leaves two ultras without any such issues, to compensate they are both quite remotely located and the climbs require a substantial effort.
I had just finshed a 5 day ski-trip on the Jostedalen glacier (as tour leader with 12 participants). We were lucky with both the weather and the team and completed a quite demanding route called "Loen Rundt". Back home in Bergen around Sunday midnight, then a flight to Muscat, Oman already on Monday. The flight left Europe in the late evening and arrived in Muscat around 0600 in the morning. The captain reported 38 C at that time. We realized that a hotel up in the mountains would be good with respect to temperature.
After about a 3 hour drive, we checked in early. The day was used to explore the hotel as well as our room located on the second floor in a small, separate building. Up here, the temperature would be in the 25 - 30 Celcius range, quite perfect with a very nice pool facility for swimming.
The next morning, I decided to leave after lunch, depend on some night hiking and plan to return in the morning on the folowing day. In this way, I hoped to avoid much of the heat and hike when the air would be more reasonable what regards the temperature.
I knew this would be a long hike at a time of year when it is getting a bit too hot for this kind of activity. Thus, I planned to use the late afternoon and evening as well as the very early morning for most of the hiking.
I left the hotel around 1300 and drove to the trailhead in about 2 hours. It takes a full hour to drive from the hotel to the village of Birkat Al Mouz, located near Hwy. 15.
Preparing for the hike, Í decided to take 3 litre of water, I woould hike in a thin sports shorts and only use a thin wind breaker. I carried an inflatable mat for sleeping as well as a set of (long) wool underwear for keeping warm at night. A fleece jacket completed my gear. I was ready to go at 1530.
The route starts climbing a long slope with rocks scattered everywhere. I was lucky to have the GPS track from Rob Woodall as guidance. Higher up, the route uses a pretty complex set of different, but connecting gullys to reach the crest of the mountain. This is not at all obvious from below. There is a key spot where one descends a narrow gully right next to a well defined pinnacle. Even the GPS track was not very clear here, too many cliffs making the track imprecise and obviously, Rob had searched around for the correct route as well.
I made the crest by 1900, just as the sun was about to set, it would soon be pitch dark (no moon). Pretty good timing as some light is most helpful when climbing around in these gullys.
There is still a very long way to go, but I assumed (wrongly!) that hiking along the top of this mountain crest would be relatively easy. My plan called for several more hours of hiking with the use of a head torch. It was still pretty hot, even above 2000 meter, and I realized that my 3 litre of water would be on the low side. I therefore decided to try reaching the summit before stopping for the day and to save 2 litre of water for the next day. Both goals were challenging. The terrain was far from nice, in fact rather complex, very rocky and with significant ups and downs. At one point, I was back in steepish terrain and even needed to make a few more scrambling (YDS class 3) moves in order to advance.
It turned out to be almost impossible to follow the GPS track in complete detail as even a deviation within its accuracy of a few meter tended to confront me with terrain where decisions based on what I could see from the torch light would prevail.
Progress was generaly quite slow and I was pretty tired when finally arriving at the summit at 0130. I had been hiking in the dark for more than 7 hours. Happy to be there, I looked around on all the junk that were scattered. Next, time to inflate my pad and catch a few hours of rest. I decided to get going at 0430, so 3 hours of rest in total.
I left as soon as light arrived. Totally different and much easier to walk here when one can see the terrain. I quickly descended into a flat valley, where I spotted some animals. Later, I came across a shepards camp, nobody around, I guess this is used in winter. My first sight was actually some empty barrels, looked like people from a distance out. The return hike showed the rugged terrain splitting this main crest into two parts. It was hot and I got thirsty. I had two litre of water and decided to drink one litre on my way back to the gully where the descent would start.
This still took 5 hours, quite a heavy hike. Descending the gully went fine until just after ascending the narroew gully with the spire. Next, I went too far left and descended into the wrong gully. Not very happy, I tried to scramble across to regain my route only to find a second wrong gully blocking my way. This one still looked more possible to descend and after some more unplanned scrambling, I descended this gully a long way and eventually exited right, in the direction of my route of ascent. Seriously delayed by this incident and quite over-heated by the sun at mid-day, I finally arrived back to my car at 1230. I immediately drank a full litre of water, then prepared for my return drive.