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Caroline George Reflects on First Ascent of ‘Uprising’ in Jordan
Posted on February 28, 2011

By Caroline George; photo by Jim Surette/GraniteFilms.com

Uprising: 5.11b (one section), 700-feet, 5 pitches. Named after the recent events in the Middle East.

The sun was already low on the horizon when we topped out on our new route. We looked around at the vastness of the desert below and beyond to the Saudi border. The smiles on our faces spoke for themselves: We had come to Jordan with the hope of doing a first ascent, and we were bursting with excitement for having done just that. But our elation was short lived as we still had to rappel down to the bottom of the route, 700 feet below, and darkness was setting in.

Sarah and I had scoped out the route a few days earlier. The rock looked mainly dark above—a good sign—but there were a few areas of lighter rock, which would remain an unknown until we would climb to it. We decided to come back and give the whole route a go.

We left Wadi Rum around 9 a.m. and headed south, back through the desert. We planned on being there for two days, not knowing how long it would take us to do the route. We hiked through mushroom-like formations to the base of our climb and geared up for the climb.

Our highpoint was 60 meters off the ground. We—Adam, Jim, Sarah, and I—all climbed to that point. While I led the next pitch, Adam started hand-drilling bolts for our anchors. The pitch followed a featured crack system, from wide to a thin-tips layback crack. I thought I would build an anchor in a sheltered alcove, but the rock was breaking instantly as I touched it, so I kept climbing into a deep cave, which offered good protection for an anchor.

Jim jugged up one of the lines while Sarah climbed to me. Adam followed on the rope Sarah was dragging behind her. Sarah led the next pitch—a beautiful traverse on dark rock, which proved to be way more fragile than we had thought. The route continued up an obvious notch/chimney to a big ledge. As the sun was setting, I led up the chimney/wide crack system to the top of the climb, which topped out on the tower we could see from below.

We rappelled in the full darkness. As I sat on anchors, waiting for the rest of the team to rap to me, I reminisced about our climb. Although the climbing wasn’t always hard, you would often have to think very light thoughts while pulling on some of the loose and hollow-sounding rock. You never knew if your foot hold or hand hold would bear your weight.

What was even more scary was to think that the rest of the team was right below you, and they could get hit by rock if you misread the quality of the hold you were pulling on. Sarah and I had the fun part of the job, climbing the route, while Jim filmed, and Adam drilled anchor. The behind-the-scenes work is often not as fun.

At first, I thought we could deal with building anchors later, but while rapping in full darkness, tired from a long day on the climb, I was extremely grateful that these anchors were in place.

We reached the bottom of the route by 8:30 p.m. Getting off the climb was almost as exciting as climbing the route: We got a rope way stuck on the first rappel, rappelled in full-on darkness down a line we could barely see, and each time we kept our fingers crossed that the ropes wouldn’t get stuck. The climb is only really done when you are back down at your packs.

We pitched our tents, had a quick bite of pita, babganoush, and hummus and soundly fell asleep, reliving our adventure in our dreams. It feels so good to have done what you had set out to do.

Doing a first ascent in Jordan felt like coming full circle. I had returned to the roots of my passion, exploring what my parents loved to do best: adventure climbing and searching for new lines. Although this was my own experience, every step of the way was tinted with the bright and loving memories of my first trip here, without which, maybe I wouldn’t have become who I am now.

Author: - Monday, February 28th, 2011
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