Muscat: Oman can now boast of the highest mountain climbing trail in the Middle East.
The Alila Jabal Akhdar resort offers mountaineering aficionados this challenging outdoor activity. Known as via ferrata in mountaineering parlance, the hotel features two mountain paths 2,000 metres above sea level. Climbers first scale the surface of the mountain before travelling across it, suspended solely by two steel cables, one for the hands and the other for the feet.
“You cross these cables and end up travelling across the mountain,” said Angel Al Araimi, Marketing and Communications Manager for Alila Jabal Akhdar. “It’s about two metres long. Guests will have to climb down the surface of the resort mountain and then onto the suspended ropes erected on both sides of the mountain.”
Opened this January, the paths were set up by the resort to provide an adrenaline-inducing activity to those seeking a bit of thrill up in the mountains. Climbers attach themselves to these cables by a metal sling, which serves as a safety device, while an experienced mountaineering guide travels with them the entire time.
“This is a very advanced level of trekking, and climbers are totally dependent on their physical prowess,” said Ali Al Abri, the senior mountaineering guide and via ferrata instructor at the resort.
“It can be quite scary, so we have some requirements as far as fitness levels are concerned or previous experience in mountain climbing.
“While the first trail is relatively easy, the second is more technical and requires you to walk on the slopes of the mountain, holding onto the cables, at a 45 degree angle,” he added.
“This one really pushes you to the limit. We start at 2,000 metres, descend by about 200 metres and then come back to the same altitude.”
The second trek, though, is a lot more exciting,and features venturing into a mountain cave.
“This is very exciting and very challenging,” said Al Abri. “This will really test your nerves and you will be walking across a 20-metre long suspended bridge inside the cave. You can explore inside the cave and then you will be walking from one wall of the cave to the other using that bridge. So you use a different route to come back to the entrance of the cave.
“The advantage with Alila is that you don’t have to drive one or two hours to seek activity or take a long walk to do so,” he continued. “It is right here, so you can just attend to your briefing and put on your harness and attach yourself to the cable.
Al Abri, though, said people looking to test their endurance levels at this altitude must not take the experience lightly.
“It requires fitness and you shouldn’t have any fear of heights, because you don’t want to freeze or panic halfway, as there is no helicopter to rescue you,” he explained while speaking to the Times of Oman. “You have to be prepared physically and mentally for it.
“For these mountain paths, though, the preparation is physical as well as psychological,” he added. “The visitors to our hotel certainly seem to like it, and they say that this is like nothing else they’ve ever done.”