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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Scaling a cliff at Anantara’s Ultimate Jabal Activity Wall in Oman - in pictures

Mo Gannon scales the activity wall at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort

You could spend the whole weekend at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar immersed in the infinity pool that seemingly runs off into a vast mountain valley in Oman. Or you could immerse yourself even deeper into the mountain range by hanging off the sheer cliff face right under the ledge of that infinity pool.

I’m far more likely to go for the pool option, so how do I find myself, with nary a climbing wall in my experience, clinging to this craggy rock at an ear-popping height of 2,000 metres above sea level? Ask the man I’m trying to impress. He’s the extreme sports lover. “This isn’t Disneyland,” he warns me, just before it’s about to get real. And he’s right. While he’s having the time of his life, I am silently praying for mine.

Don’t let the photos he took of our climb fool you. They hide the sounds of my panicked breathing, and the coaxing it took from my climbing partners to move me along what seemed like an endless stretch of mountain.

But if heights are your thing, Anantara’s new Ultimate Jabal Activity Wall showcases the best of what the mountain resort has to offer, running 200 metres along the plunging cliff face that overlooks miles of mountain terraces and ghost villages in the hills.

The method is known as via ferrata, which is Italian for iron route, used to move troops around the Dolomites in the First World War (I remind myself of this while trying to stop hyperventilating: it could always be worse).

A steel cable runs the full length of our climb, to which we clip our waist harnesses, moving ourselves along with our clips like baubles on a bracelet. Our guide instructs us as we climb from ledge to ledge, balancing over a swaying bridge made from a ladder, stretching ourselves to reach iron rungs drilled into the rock and sometimes just gripping the rock itself.

Propelled by adrenalin, I’m helped along only by a desire to reach the end, one terrifying step at a time. Save for a few escape routes, rungs up the rock that seem too steep for my already fatigued arms, there is no way out but through. Each time I think we’ve finished, there’s another cliff face, and another, ending with a zip line. Lest you think that’s the easy part, you clip yourself on to the wire and lower your body off the cliff before letting go and then, after whizzing 35 metres through the air, grasp a rope to pull yourself up the other side.

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Our assistant guide counsels me not to miss the rope or I’ll end up dangling in the middle of the zip line, 30 metres above ground. This is not an option for me, so off I go, hurtling through the air in silent terror. I grab the rope and hear cheering. Can I go home now? No. I have to zip-line back to the final cliff face for the last steep climb up the rock to the resort. It takes everything in me, body and mind, to haul myself up after all that.

We’re welcomed back to horizontal ground by a cheering squad from the hotel, and clap our hands together in the air, comparing our scrapes. It’s only afterwards, when I’m back in the room, that my adrenalin thaws and I burst into sobs of relief. Would I immerse myself in a mountain like that again? I’m not so sure. But I’m proud to say I’m no longer the type who only stays by the infinity pool.

A two-hour Via Ferrata experience at Anantara’s Ultimate Jabal Activity Wall (abal-akhdar.anantara.com), is 50 Omani rials (Dh477) per person or OMR80 for a couple

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