by SWETHA MEDHAVA
They say fear is a product of thoughts created by yourself, they’re not real. I, on the other hand, have always been fearful of heights, so I decided to test my fears by hiking and climbing the third highest peak in the Arabian Peninsula: the magnificent mountains of Jabal Shams.
I can’t call myself athletic but I certainly enjoy the glory of emulating one, so when I decided to answer the beckoning of the mountains, it had to be aided by the most professional and skilled organisation. One, that supports my sense of self-preservation and understands my unique needs and abilities, given the mammoth psychological and physical challenge I was about to embark on. I couldn’t have found a better adventure house than Twenty3 Extreme, and their humble and skilled instructor, Abdulhamid Sulaiyam Al Shabnooti, did more than guide me to the summit and burst the dopamine meter.
To begin my journey, I was fixed into my gear, sporting a sass the size of the mountains themselves. Gloves and helmet, check. Harness, check. Running shoes pretending to be hiking boots, check and check. We started the trek from Jabal Shams Resort and hiked through the staggering Balcony Walk, with awe-inspiring views of the Al Nakhr Canyon. It took us almost two hours to complete the walk and all that time I was overwhelmed, thinking that this place holds more than 65 million years of geology in its making, it truly is a stunning natural phenomena in the fossils cemented onto the sedimentary rocks, in the various bands of limestone and the beautiful, distinctive landscape shaped by millions of years of erosion by wind and water. For professional scientists, Hamid being no less with his passionate rendition of in-depth knowledge, this could truly serve as a geological utopia.
The route also offers other interesting stops along the way such as the abandoned village of Al Sab, where you can see remains of old stone houses visited by friendly mountain goats chancing for edible offerings. We were also met with sparse greenery in the form of olive trees. Finally, we made it to the intimidating vertical climbing route, Via Ferrata, a series of fixed wire cables and metal rungs, and that’s when the rest of Will Smith’s dialogue popped into my head “…Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real.” I had never climbed before in my life, not even a jungle gym. However, walking all the way back was not an option, so with my shaky legs and hands, I started climbing, making sure not to catch a glimpse of the looming canyon. Slowly, focusing on the techniques being instructed, I trudged the sides like a nauseous lizard, sticking my feet into cracks, pulling on the metal cable, hoisting myself with momentum one crevice at a time, all the while listening to Hamid’s voice like a guiding beacon.
What is worth mentioning is that Hamid seldom physically supported me, instead showed me the path and made sure I found a way to climb it myself because he had no doubt I could. After almost three hours, stoic patience and guidance from Hamid, I made it to the top. I can never explain how that moment felt, one would have to be there and do it to feel it. A sense of euphoria took over me and the adrenaline rush was at an unprecedented level.
This was definitely the best morning I had ever had, despite the binding fear. The adventure addict in me is certainly returning to experience a spoil of other thrills with Twenty3 Extreme and their decidedly professional instructors. I look most forward to trekking Oman’s rugged terrain amidst a boulevard of mountains and canyoning beautiful wadis with a dash of abseiling and caving. To end with, I realised climbing a mountain taught me a thing or two: my fears and life in some terms are like a mountain, it’s hard to climb but the view from the top is worth it.
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