It’s the fifth pitch of the climb. Every move feels like my stomach is going to explode. To bring up my foot makes my stomach rumble and turn. I let out a screaming grunt. I’ve learned how to better manage my ulcerative colitis on the ground - frequent bathroom visits, longer breaks - but not hundreds of feet up.
On July 13th (12 days after leaving California) we actually set foot on rock. By choosing the solid, compact rock over the flaky, exfoliated sections of cliff, we knew we were going to be placing a lot of bolts. Doing this on the lead above 14,000 feet takes some effort. Over the next three weeks, we established two 500-foot routes. Because of the heat, most days we were cooked by 1:30pm. During our stay in the valley, we had four days of heavy rain, a few days of afternoon showers and three days of perfect High Sierra weather.
We left Wadi Rum in a rainstorm (our timing was perfect) and headed north to the Dead Sea. In addition to bobbing in the sea, Donette smearing mud all over herself and being pampered by hotel staff, we also went climbing on a very fun limestone slab not far above the Dead Sea (but still well below sea level; the Dead Sea is about 1,440 feet below sea level [Badwater in Death Valley is 266 feet]). While there, we ran into a group of “youth at risk” that were being taken rock climbing as part of their intervention program. We talked at length with the Jordanian climbing guides about the program and that Donette had done the same work for Outward Bound.
Each day we went climbing. A few days were spent at the big cliff near town (Jebel Rum), but most days were far out in the desert – the real reason to visit Wadi Rum. One day, we went to a classic climb called Desert Rats in the Shade, which is located about 24km south of Wadi Rum village. From the end of the 4WD track, we hiked about 45 minutes up to the route and did some very fine climbing (including a new two-pitch route).