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The largest explored trad cliff is located a few hundred meters behind the small hamlet of Halbun (see picture below). This village has already been mentioned in the Old Testimony of the Bible, almost unbelievable in the light there are practically no buildings older than 30 years left. The cliff has a high front facing the village, but the rock is very brittle and difficult to secure. The cliff was first explored by the Swiss Martin Ilg and Jürg Neidhardt on the 28th January 2008, a miserable and cold day.


Exploration of the Dead Donkey Trail in Jan 2008.







Dead Donkey Trail , 5c+, First ascent by Martin Illg & Jürg Neidhardt 28th of February 2008

Description: From a terrace about 30m above the foot of the SW face of the cliff, the route leads up the sloping ramp at the corner between NW and SW west face. The first few meters are fairly brittle, hence the leader of the first pitch has to take special care not to fall because the bottom belay is of doubtful quality (we used a fat Hex kept in place by a 0.75 camelot). Five meters up a #1 rock can be placed in a brittle fissure. The problem is, a fall with a failure of that nut will most likely send leader and belayer 40m down to the foot of the SW face. After the somewhat hairy start the rock quality improves dramatically exept for the moss and lichen growing on its surface. The climb leads 35 meters straight up with the occasional hole for hand and foot holds. Sufficient cracks allow for safe camelot & rock placements. The type of the climb is plate/friction climbing. In two locations, small sand-clock holes can be used for slings (we left two 5mm string loops in them). After 40m the line reaches a horizontal crack with a solid tree which we used as belay for the absail. During the ascent, it is however smarter to continue on easy ground 10m to the right and up to a second tree and end the first approx. 50m long pitch there.

The second much shorter pitch has a very different in character following up an almost vertical 15m high crack. The crack allows for solid camelot placements (sizes 0.5 to 2), it is save but technically tough climbing. Especially hard was the almost complete absence of foot placements for the left foot. After the crack follow a few meters of scambling over an exposed gravel covered narrow ledge before a splendid balcony for the second belay is reached. For the absail, we found two sand-clock through which we tied in the 8mm string slings from my hexes. We absailed in two runs, first to the first tree, then back to the start terrace.

Pictures on the right Top: Jürg leads the crack of the 2nd pitch during the first ascent, Mid1: Martin arrives at the exit, Mid2: the baclony offers ample space and glourious views for the 2nd belay, Bottom: The reason for the name of the route found on the way back to the car.



Martin after his heroic lead over the out of condition first pitch of the route in January 2008. The mosses in the route were encountered wet and extremely slippery, the temperature hovered around 4 C.







Alien Trail , 6a+, First ascent Gerri Obermüller with Jürg Neidhardt, 25th of May 2008

Description Very beautiful natural line about 200m left of Dead Donkey Trail. The route follows a crack system passing a big overhanging bulge. The route's line is straight forward: the first pitch follows a crack 25m up a ramp where it steepens to a subvertical slab leading another 10m slightly to the left to a small ledge below the bulge. The crack offers placings for small rocks and camelots (0.3-0.5). It is advisable to hammer in a peg in the middle of the pitch. The steeper slab can be secured with 0.5-0.7 camelots on the right side. The 1st belay was built with two safe pegs (left in place). The second pitch leads along a good finger/hand crack on very fine steps 15m over a hard an steep slab (camelots 0.5-1) to another crack system, where the angle eases off. Gerri climbed the rest of the pitch in a 15m run-out, but there are nice sand-clock holes for sling protection and cracks for further camelots. Gerri set up the belay on a arm-thick bush stem. For the absail, we placed two pegs on the last terrace directly above the overhang from where we just could reach the entry of the route using a 2x60m twin rope (pegs were left in place).

Pictures on the right From top top bottom: Gerri at the top of the first pitch of Alien Trail; Me and Gerri after the1st ascent, the cut in my face originated from surprisingly pulling free a peg and hitting myself; nice long absail over the whole route; the small valley at the foot of the mountain provides vast potential for more routes.



Gerri Obermüller leads the start of the second pitch along the overhanging crack of Alien Trail.

  Site is still under construction more route descriptions will follow soon  

How it all started... Sports climbing on bolted routes has one overwhelming advantage: it is fairly difficult to kill yourself in the procedure. On the downside, one is forced to climb the same rock again and again to the point where you now practically every tiny little pimple in each hold of the route.

If you come for a visit to a new climbing site, bolts really are a relief. They allow you to efficiently tick off every problem within your capabilities without growing too many grey hairs. Pure plaisir! You can even push it a bit and dwell into lines beyond your limitations- in the very worst case you just leave behind one of the chewed-up carabiners you used to pull your car out of the snow last winter and absail into savety.

As a resident and developer the situation is somewhat different. The main motivation climbing to drill up new routes is boredom: you have seen all the moves and you are craving for something new. To feed this hunger is hard work. And at some point you run out of undevelopped rock at a particular site and need to look for climbing rock at some other spot.

Now, in Syria, everything out of the normal is eyed with suspicion. Opening a new site inevitably draws the attention of the authorities: the secret police, the military etc... When we openend up the Wadi Barada site, we were stopped by the police every second time we went climbing there. Nothing serious happens, but until all your details have been jotted down several hours have passed and the weekend is over. There is always a danger that the access to the rock you just have spent days of bolting on will be prohibited. However after a while, when people get used to the "crazy climbing guys" you nomally walk away unbothered.

Now, Trad offers a solution to the problem - at a cost obviously. The cool thing about trad is there is no work involved. You just go there, crack the route and walk away. The downside: in limestone you never know if your friends will crack the rock if you take a plunge. In addition, often the most sublime lines in our limestones lead over undisturbed plates which are hellish for placing gear. Nevertheless, trad offers a nice alternative adventure to sports climbing.



The village of Halbun with the trad cliff in the background. The routes are located on the back of the cliff (invisible from here).


SSAC Last updated: June, 2008  
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