Tom Bolger and Rob Lamey recently visited Lebanon to check out the sport climbing potential and bolt some impressive new lines. Tom sent us in this report about their bolting adventures in the Middle East.
Lebanon was first mentioned to me by my good friend Rob Lamey. Rob is one of those guys who seems to have been everywhere and heard about every up and coming spot. He showed me pics of immaculate golden walls and snaking tufas and I was instantly impressed! But Lebanon seemed like an exotic yet perhaps slightly risky place to climb, no?
Speaking to Rob it sounded like it was still a little rough around the edges i.e. there are the occasional military check points whilst crossing the country and you get a bit of a grilling when you enter the country as to why you are there and where you are staying.
And where do you fly in to, I asked? "Beirut" he replied, and then I realised where it was. Just the name in itself stirred up thoughts of danger.
So, sitting in Margalef refuge we checked out flights and got the ball rolling for a trip! We teamed up with good mate Liam Lonsdale and that was it flights booked.
Landing in Beirut I was met by Rob and Liam. We jumped in the hire car soared away on the crazy unmarked Lebanese roads, cruising past Mercedes and Ferrari garages, brightly lit casinos and Starbucks cafes I really felt like I was in a major European city.
We winded our way up to Tannourine, the centre of Lebanese climbing which has been developed by R-A-D.org, Will Nazarian is at the front of the development and his motivation for developing new classic routes and helping the local area is insatiable.
The Tannourine climbing is currently divided into 8 different sectors all within walking distance from the village itself. The crags have varying aspects and styles of climbing, from the sunny southernly facing easier climbs of "the Olive Grove" sector to the shady and breezy aspect of the harder routes of "The dripping wall" there is something for everyone.
With the warm sunny weather we focussed on equipping new routes on the dripping wall, on the first day there Rob and I bolted two new 8's. Both routes tackle some amazing tufas and ended in becoming the "Snake Trapper" 8a and "The Real Deal" 8a, both mega classic pitches - 25m long, steep and pumpy moves on immaculate tufas. The shocking thing for me was how little the routes needed cleaning...this place was made to be climbed on!
It was such an amazing experience bolting in a new area - on a few occasions I had to remind myself I wasn't in Spain, the flower-covered terraces on the steep and rocky hillsides, the blossoming olive and almond trees make for a truly stunning backdrop.
After a few more days climbing Rob and I both spotted our own next lines on the dripping wall - slightly less tufa covered lines but with an amazing combination of pockets, edges, slopers and pinches that also luckily stayed dry through the current rain that we faced.
Bolting new lines is really a luck of the draw, you never know what your route is going to come out like...
I swung across from a neighbouring line and checked out the potential holds on the way down. I got more and more excited as the small edges, slopers, pockets and tufas seemed to link together...but only just.
I went up again and started putting in the bolts, feeling the holds and trying to get an idea of how the route would climb and what grade it might be, I instantly knew it was going to be hard, but how hard? Maybe too hard for the trip but an awesome line and sequence of holds so it seemed like it would definitely be worth putting in some time and effort.
I hung the quickdraws, ticked and brushed some holds and pulled on to try the moves, all the moves eventually went but felt hard, the rough box-fresh rock ate its way through my skin. I was psyched, the perfect project and probably the best route I had ever bolted!
Rob's route seemed to work out identically so here we were with two perma-dry awesome projects side by side, we were set for a few days of attempts.
After three days of rain we had made loads of progress but still not sent the climbs, the fear of not doing them started to play on my mind especially when there was so much good new stuff to go and do in limited time!
The wind picked up on the fourth day and all the gang was up at the Dripping Wall, Will was trying his project, a black snaking tufa that Si Rawlinson had bolted a couple of years before, and Rob and I were working away on ours. The conditions were prime, it was one of those do or die moments and luckily we all sent! Rob made the First Ascent of "Kingingit" 8a+ and I made the FA of "Icky Thump" 8c (currently the joint hardest route in Lebanon, but with the amazing potential I'm sure that will rapidly change).
It was one of those perfect days that rarely happen, when everything comes together and you don't punt because of nerves.
Soaking up the final rays of the day with an almaza Lebanese beer in hand, we sat pointing out potential new sectors, overhanging walls, caves and even multipitch potential.
The next day we headed up to one of the crags we had spotted and it didn't let us down, a tufa coated wall with human sized stalactites and an awesome view which we named "The Lookout" with three routes bolted and room for many more, our trip out here just gave us more reasons to return with drill in tow.
A huge thanks to R-A-D.org who supplied us with stainless steel bolts to develop routes with, their development is playing a great part in helping the local economy and creating an awesome new climbing destination.
Tom is sponsored by: Edelrid