Ras Al Khaimah, with its towering canyons and cloud-peircing mountain peeks feels a little out of place compared to the stereotypical view of the United Arab Emirates. Dazzling skyscrapers, mind-blowing super cards and endless sand dunes, are all expected, but visitors generally don’t generally associate the UAE with such a natural, rugged beauty.
Those that don’t know are missing out.
Opened at the end of 2016, the Middle East’s first commercial via ferrata offers adventure-seekers a chance to enjoy the crisp, fresh mountain air whilst testing out their nerve traversing Jebel Jais, the highest mountain in the UAE (and part of the Hajjar mountain range).
What is a Via Ferrata?
We’re far from mountaineering experts, so we’ll pass you over to the real pros to answer this question…
A via ferrata (Italian for “iron road”) is a protected climbing route found in the Alps and certain other locations. The essence of a modern via ferrata is a steel cable which runs along the route and is periodically (every 1 to 10 metres (3.3 to 32.8 ft) fixed to the rock. Using a via ferrata kit, climbers can secure themselves to the cable. The cable can also be used as aid to climbing, and additional climbing aids, such as iron rungs (stemples), pegs, carved steps and even ladders and zip lines are often provided.
Want our take on a via ferrata? Boundless fun!
What Can I Expect from my Day on the Via?
Upon arriving at the meeting point we were greeted by three instructors, all with beaming smiles, and a group of equally adventurous travellers. After a quick (but more than adequate) safety briefing, we were kitted up, had a practice and were on our way.
This particular via ferrata is made up of three key routes along with three ziplines. All three ziplines are completed regardless of the course you select (on at 50m, another at 60m and the longest, a massive 300m) but the overall level of difficulty comes down to the track you undertake.
The ledge walk is the easiest of the routes (though still presents plenty of challenge and excitement) and what the vast majority of people start off on. Once you’ve earned your stripes, you’re able to return and have a crack at the middle path (which includes a vertical overhang to pull yourself up over) or the far track, with its 120m vertical ladder line.
We were more than happy to start off on the ledge walk and found it the perfect balance between fun and adrenaline. There were some pretty major rocks to climb up and over but physically it was definitely manageable which is more than I’d probably be able to say about the middle path (which is considered the most challenging).
We spent the next three hours snaking our way up and over boulders whilst hugging the cliff face. Secured by a harness and two carabiners every step of the way, our safety was never in doubt but as with all heights, making your way over them (and jumping off on the ziplines) is a mind-over-matter challenge, more difficult for some than for others.
I’m not phased by heights but Nathan’s not such a fan (as you’d have known, had you seen him on the ledge before the final zipline!) but with the patience and support of our three fantastic guides, he saw everything through, having a great time in the process.
There’s no doubt that parts of this course will be challenging for some. Even if it does push you out of your comfort zone, go with it – there’s no better feeling than proving to yourself that you’re capable of more than you first thought.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon
We’d heard great things about Ras Al Khaimah before our visit to the region but with the addition of the via ferrata, it has become an absolute must-see in the UAE. Adventure, gorgeous mountainous views and a blast of fresh air, the via has literally been the best thing we’ve done here in the UAE (and we’ve lived here for almost two years).
If you’re paying a visit to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, be sure to get out of the city and hit the mountains!
Love adventure? Pin this for your next trip to the United Arab Emirates!