“Don’t worry, it’ll be a piece of cake,” says Ali, senior climbing instructor at Alila Jabal Akhdar, a luxury hotel in Oman’s mountains.
We’re getting set to ascend the hotel’s via ferrata, the Middle East’s highest protected climbing path.
It starts at the foot of the mountainside property, which is located 2,000 metres above sea level in Oman’s Al Hajar mountain range, before snaking down a cliff, through a cave, and over a sharp vertical rock face before ending with a wire bridge dangling twenty metres above the valley.
Despite the guarantees, I’m beginning to have second thoughts.
Ali, on the other hand, is in his element. He, like many of the other trip guides at the guesthouse, was born and reared in one of Jabal Akhdar’s many farming villages.
The Alila Jabal Akhdar is positioned atop the Green Mountain of Jebel Akhdar.
thanks to Alila Jabal Akhdar
The Green Mountain, as it is known in English, is Oman’s highest point, and despite its primarily rocky desert topography, the cool weather and adequate annual rainfall allow it to support a thriving agricultural business.
As the ancient aflaj irrigation system transports water from one level to the next, terraced farms cascade down the mountainside loaded with pomegranate, walnut, and juniper trees.
Alila Jabal Akhdar can be found in this environment.
The hotel is in perfect harmony with its surroundings, from the native limestone used in its architecture to the fresh ingredients used in its flawlessly presented cuisine to the warm Omani hospitality of its staff.
Guests may take in the breathtaking mountain views while floating in the hotel’s infinity pool or from the privacy of their own private balconies. Given the steep ascent ahead, both solutions appear especially enticing.
Clip on, clip off, and then repeat. That’s what a via ferrata climb is all about.
They were originally employed during World War I to help Italian troops to transport supplies across the Alps.
They’re now a favourite among adventurers and thrill seekers all around the world. I start the climb gingerly, fastening and re-clipping my harness carabiners to the safety rail with great concentration.
Across the suspended wire bridge
thanks to Alila Jabal Akhdar
Soon enough, I find my stride and begin to focus less on the numerous ways I may damage myself and more on the breathtaking sights afforded by the unusual vantage point.
The rocky landscape was peppered with elderly juniper trees that swayed slightly in the winter wind. The mountains, in all their peaceful splendour, stand tall.
We reach a vertical rock face halfway through, interspersed with a series of cleverly placed metal steps that run all the way up and around a large jutting boulder before vanishing into the mouth of a cave.
It’s a slow and steady ascent, with my grasp on the safety line tightening with each step.
I’m becoming more exposed by the day. I’m nearly hugging the mountainside by the time I get around the boulder’s bend.
I breathe a sigh of relief as I enter the mountain cave at the top and take a few moments to refuel.
The huge valley below appeared attractive when framed by the cave’s opening. But there was no time for extended musings on nature’s splendour; the final and most awaited stage of the voyage beckoned: the suspended wire bridge.