Friday, April 30, 2010

Rock Climbing "Cat Wall" in Riyadh

There are three adventures that I'll include about "Cat Wall".

It all started at the Sweet Heart Ball, at the American Embassy. The table I was at was only half full, so once the place started to fill up, two American guys asked if they could join us. Travis and AJ were about my age worked for the Red Crescent (the Red Cross of the Middle East). They told me they had only been in Saudi Arabia for about two weeks. After a short time I learned that these guys, like me, were all about getting out there and seeing what there was to do around here. One of the things that came up was rock climbing.

After a quick search of the internet, I discovered there was a climbable rock wall quite near the embassy, but that after the attacks in 2001-2004 the police would chase you away, as it is on the wall to the diplomatic quarter. A few weeks later AJ and I went out to find this wall. There was a police officer parked in the parking lot, after a few waves and smiles as we unloaded our climbing gear, it seemed like he wouldn't chase us away. From the parking lot to the wall was about a 700 meter walk. The wall proved better than expected, with two established sport routes and a few trad routes. A few hours of climbing showed me how out of shape I had become, as my arms were dead.

Part 2:

The next few times we went were much like the first. Wave and smile to the cop, who always seemed to be parked in the corner of the parking lot nearest the climbing wall. One day however, there was no cop when we showed up. While we were setting up our gear, one arrived. They got out of their vehicle and started walking around ours. We assumes this was a bad sign, but kept setting up our gear. A short time later three more police cars showed up, and two police started the 700 meter walk towards us. As they got closer it became obvious they were carrying MP5 sub Machine guns. We took this as a clue to slowly make our way to meet them with our hands in plain sight. Being that I speak no Arabic and the police spoke almost as much English, AJ did the talking in his limited Arabic. The conversation basically went as follows; "What are you doing", "We're climbing, we have no weapons", "Our Capitan wants to talk to you, stay here". So we wait a little while, making small talk with the guards until the Captain and one other officer arrive. The Captain speaks pretty good English and we make small talk with him for a while. After about 15 minutes of talking he tells us to have a good day and leaves. Then we start climbing.

Part 3:

With some borrowed equipment and a YouTube education, it is time to start bolting our own route. It is an exciting moment when you first load a bolt that you have put in yourself. It makes you realize the faith you are putting in those who have put in the other bolts you are using. It makes you hope they didn't just learn how to do it one day based on some YouTube videos. Our first bolts held strong. Phase two will start soon, cleaning the wall. There is no shortage of flake that will need to be removed.

You can find "Cat wall" at these corrdinates +24° 40' 5.52", +46° 36' 38.88".