x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Summit is stepping stone for climbers

Group of four friends hope reaching top of Oman's highest mountain will lead to further hiking adventures in the region.

Binod Shankar climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania last month.
Binod Shankar climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania last month.

DUBAI //Four friends will today attempt to scale Oman's highest peakin a trek they hope will mark the launch of an adventure hiking group that undertakes regular excursions in the region.

The group were scheduled to set out for Al Ain yesterday evening, cross the border to Oman and spend the night at Jebel Shams Resort before starting their early morning trek.

At more than 3,000 metres above sea level, the peak is the highest in the Al Hajar range in the north-east of Oman, approximately 240km from Muscat.

The 9km ascent from the base camp to the summit of Jebel Shams, or Sun Mountain, will take between eight and nine hours, while descent will take four hours.

"We are looking at starting a hiking group because when we researched the place, I could not find the right tour guide and that's how the idea formed," said Binod Shankar, the managing director of a financial training institute in Dubai. "We will concentrate on local and overseas adventure hikes."

Mr Shankar last month successfully climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, 5,985 metres above sea level. He has also completed four half-marathons, and the Dubai Marathon last January.

"I like the idea of climbing and Oman is the place to trek in the Middle East," he said. "It's all rock, so the terrain is different from Mt Kilimanjaro, and almost always vertical."

Mr Shankar has taken advice from others who have been to Jebel Shams, including Nabil Habbouche, an Australian who made it to the top of the mountain on his second attempt in October last year.

"When you know what to expect it's always safer, and you are more prepared for the weather and environment. I would also recommend going with someone who has been there before and is more experienced," said Mr Habbouche, who works in the construction industry.

"Part of my advice to Binod was to allow two days for the climb, otherwise it would be extremely difficult."

Mr Shankar will be prepared with provisions like canned food, energy bars, plenty of water and camping gear. Temperatures are expected to be 30°Celsius during the day and 20°C at night, he said.

Accompanying Mr Shankar on the climb are Satish Surath, Prasanth Sadhvani and Sachin D'Souza.

For Mr Surath, who works in IT, this will be his second trip to Jebel Shams. He previously hiked a shorter trail of 4km.

"The track is well marked and offers some of the best views," he said.

Mr Surath said he was involved in the planning to form an adventure hiking group.

"This is something me and Binod are looking into very closely. We believe there is a demand for it because currently the primary source of information is through word of mouth," he said.