Ascent of Jabal Shaib al Banat on 2012-11-21

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Adrian Rayner
Richard and Denise Mclellan
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Jabal Shaib al Banat
    Elevation:6847 ft / 2086 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was the start of a 7 day DIY trip to climb Egypt's two ultra-prominent summits.

Mon 19 Nov: Adrian and I land at Hurghada airport, 5pm. This is at sunset and the views down on the Banat mountain range are superb. We identify our Ultra, Jebel Shayib al Banat: very fine and potentially quite challenging: we've been unable to find out much about it.

We need a tourist visa as we're going outside the resorts. Getting one is easy: we are waylayed immediately we walk into the terminal building and told it will cost 26 English Pounds (as they call them round here) between the two of us. Then cash: there's an ATM, which works, although EGP 200 won't get us far. Then taxi: a guy with a price list: £10, probably over the odds, but ten minutes later we're at Sol y Mar Ivory Suites, a rather anonymous establishment but they're expecting us and it is friendly and comfortable. Settled in by 6pm. Richard and Denise arrive an hour later. We eat dinner in the hotel restaurant then agree terms for a 3 day safari into the desert to climb Shayib: a Toyota Landcruiser with a local driver 500 USD. Richard had asked the hotel by email the week before: the price is finalised on arrival.

Tue 20: Next morning we enjoy the hotel breakfast then our driver Eid meets us at 9 a.m. Checking out we are informed that a fork and two teaspoons are missing! Adrian and I confess that we borrowed them and promise to return them Thursday night when we're back from our trip!
We need food shopping so we drive south a few miles to a resort area sporting a very modern mall with designer outlets, a bank and a Spinners hypermarket. Quite a contrast with the rest of our day: we drive southwest on a paved road then abruptly turn R at about N27.08695 E33.80355, following wheel tracks across the mostly firm sand. The route passes through low rugged mountains and we stop several times to absorb the desert scenery and take photos.

Our first stop is the Bedouin village of Umm Dalfar, Eid's family home. We are shown the bazaar (stones, minerals, herbs and remedies), also a loom. We drink tea and examine the Google Earth prints we've brought with us and discuss route options. They are enthusiastic and assure us that our chosen route is the best (except they suggest a modified starting point) although we're not sure they known much about the ascent: there is no offer of guiding services. They are able to provide gasoline for Richard's MSR stove. We get to ride on a couple of pleasingly good natured camels, then it's back to the Landcruiser to complete our journey to the trailhead, first along the wide Wadi um Eneb then forking R on a narrower track which ends at N26.94487 E33.48997, 815m: here we set up camp.

There is a lowish ridge south from the Shayib massif with a wadi descending either side of it. We drive round to the west side of this ridge, which gives us the closest approach to the summit. We make camp here. Above us is a serrated ridge culminating in a difficult looking fortress of a summit. We get out the GPS and compass. From the bearing it appears that the obvious summit isn't the true summit, which lies behind. We have a late lunch then spend the last two hours of the day making the fairly easy (YDS 2+) ascent of the aforementioned ridge above our camp. The GPS registers exactly 1000m at the higher (N) top (N26.94879 E33.49834). We study the GE prints again, and the bearing from here still indicates that the true summit lies behind and right of the first summit. The route we had already planned back home from GE seems to make sense on the ground (only the lower half is visible, before it disappears behind the serrated ridge). With sunset approaching the lighting is very nice and the views are superb, especially SE to Gebel Amm Anad which we hope to climb on Thursday.

We get down at dusk and spend a leisurely evening having dinner, chatting with Eid, swapping ultra-bagging stories and studying the Egypt map. Eid is good company: his English isn't great but he's keen to tell us about his environment: plants, geography; he's especially enthusiastic about camels! In contrast to us he lives very simply: food bag, gallon of water, matches and ciggies, coat, sleeping rug - that's him!

We're in our sleeping bags by 9, alarms set for 5: I'm in my bivvy bag and enjoy the display of stars in the desert sky.

Wed 21: We mean to leave at first light but are finally away 30 mins later at 06:15. Initially we cross a boulder field (it turns out there is a path from the end of the 4x4 track, which we find on the way back). We get into a shallow ravine and follow it up to the saddle separating yesterday's 1000m summit from the main massif. From here we make a bouldery traverse to an obvious wide bouldery gully which we then ascend, NNE. About halfway up the gully is blocked by boulders forming a 4m wall (N26.96581 E33.49614, 1239m). We climb up the R side which is least difficult, YDS4, glad that Richard brought a half-length rope (also some rock gear; we all brought harnesses). Above here the gully steepens and we need to ascend carefully to avoid knocking loose rocks down onto each other. Just before the top we turn L into a side gully, fairly steep but a little less loose, with some short easy scrambles, YDS 3. This crosses the main (SE) ridge at a saddle (N26.97125 E33.49613, 1656m), which we reach at 11:00. From here we can see our summit, castellated with its steep SE face towards us, split by a couple of gullies which look steep but may be doable. A fairly easy bouldery slope now leads to another col (N26.97514 E33.48957, 1998m) between the summit and the SE ridge, which we reach at midday. It looks like a direct assault from here may be feasible, but it's steep and we have a short rope and limited gear. Such limited information as we have (John Hunt, 1948 five years pre-Everest!) suggests we should go round to the north side. This is accomplished by descending N a short way, climbing up R to the base of the cliffs (various routes, YDS 2+ to 3) then skirt L then keeping R round the base of the cliffs, descending an easy ramp then ascending a broad bouldery gully R (E) which leads to a saddle. The summit lies R (SE) of here, but misled by a GPS waypoint we climb the lower North summit first, by means of an obvious gully, a crawl beneath a chock stone then a steep rocky route with short passages of fairly exposed YDS 3 scrambling. The summit of the lower peak (N26.97744 E33.49002) is an airy granite phallus, with a view across to the obviously higher main peak to the south - worth visiting although it takes valuable time. Richard and I photograph each other on the tiny summit then return to the col where Denise and Adrian are waiting. The main peak is also climbed by a steepish gully, leading SE, bouldery in parts with short passages of YDS 3. At the top are 3 summits to the W(R) and a hardish-looking one to the L(E). The higher summit is farther L: we bypass the first left hand summit immediately to its L, descend some grooves (easy YDS 3) until it's possible to traverse R and ascend yet another gully, YDS 2+. We are now just below the sheer W face of the summit. Continuing R we find 2 possible ways up, one a system of chimneys and cracks at the SW corner, and a slightly harder route just to its L. We climb the second (roped) and descend the first (also roped), after spending about 20 minutes at the summit (cairn, N26.97733 E33.48935) enjoying the situation and the wonderful view of desert peaks separated by sandy wadis. We summit about 13:45 and after a late lunch head down at about 14:30 after spending a few minutes scrambling around on the three southwestern summits. The rock of this mountain is granite, but often of poor quality and quite friable.

Reversing our upward route we are back at the saddle SE of the summit by 15:00, at the top of the descent gully by 15:45 and have downclimbed the tricky obstacle halfway down the gully by 17:00 (sunset). We finish descending the gully in the half light (and half moon) then traverse back to the last saddle and back to camp following our outward GPS track. We get the impression there may be a path all the way from this first saddle to where we are camped although its start wasn't obvious.

Back at camp we cook dinner and are in bed by 22:00, after a great day on a superb peak, very pleased that we successfully summitted despite the fairly complex route and very little prior information.

Next day we attempt the nearby P900m peak, Gebel Amm Anad, before travelling to Sinai to climb Jebel Katarina and Mt Sinai.

Thanks to Richard Mclellan for providing the GPS track - my unit wasn't available for the trip.

Shayib photo album

Richard Mclellan's photo album of our Egypt trip, including additional geographical details
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4354 ft / 1326 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4354 ft / 1326 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6.2 mi / 10 km
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Open Country, Scramble, Rock Climb
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4288 ft / 1306 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 4222 ft / 1286 m; Extra: 66 ft / 20m
    Loss on way in:66 ft / 20 m
    Distance:3.1 mi / 5 km
    Route:From south
    Start Trailhead:South of summit  2625 ft / 800 m
    Time:7 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4288 ft / 1306 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 4222 ft / 1286 m; Extra: 66 ft / 20m
    Gain on way out:66 ft / 20 m
    Distance:3.1 mi / 5 km
    End Trailhead:South of summit  2625 ft / 800 m
    Time:4 Hours 30 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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