I have been a training for high altitude mountains including the 7 summits for the past 3 years now.
Besides the cardiovascular and weight training, it is very important to be on a mountain to train for another mountain.
Living in the UAE does not make it very easy when it comes to training on mountains since more than half of the country is a desert. However, Ras Al Khaimah offers great mountains ranging from an easy hike to a hard one.
The highest mountain known in the UAE is Jabal Jais, but have you heard of Stairway to Heaven?
Stairway to Heaven is the toughest mountain in the UAE located in Wadi Ghalila next to the Oman borders. It stands at an elevation of around 1,800m with a distance of 19km roundtrip and it’s known for its exposed paths.
So far, I have hiked up to the summit more than 15 times during both winter and summer, I go almost every weekend to train. This keeps me in good shape for my upcoming mountains abroad and there is always something new to learn every time I’m on the mountain.
Here are some key takeaways that I have collected from the mountain so far & would like to share it with everyone interested in hiking up to its summits.
Stairway to Heaven has been known for its dangerous exposed route however, this is not the case anymore. The path has been fixed and throughout the route you can find Stone Cairns marking the ascent from start to end. Yet, you should always stay cautious because there are 3-4 parts that have loose rocks or a messy slippery stair.
Given the fact that I have been on the mountain during both winter & summer, I would always suggest to start the hike as early as possible. It’s nice to start as the sun rises so you can complete the maximum distance possible in shade until the sun is completely up. It is usually harder to hike when the sun is up because it drains all your energy and leaves you dehydrated.
Hiking up the summit is always great during winter, you can start around 7 am and enjoy the weather. However, during summer, you have to be very experienced and have a very high tolerance level because the heat and humidity can be as high as 45 degrees Celsius with 70% humidity. Usual start the hike at 5.30 am to finish as much distance as possible before the sun is up.
The summer hike is only for experienced climbers who have to train and have no other choice otherwise, there is no reason for anyone to be on the mountain from June to September.
Since the mountain is a tough one, there are different options to hike it based on your fitness level. What I usually do is go up and down the mountain within 4 hours and 45 minutes. When I take a group, the average time is around 8 hours. Group member are usually fit but hiking a steep mountain requires strong legs with high stamina.
Another way to hike up to the summit is splitting the hike for 2 days. I haven’t done that previously as I like to let the group individuals be aware that they can push their limits.
I know it is tough on them sometimes, but the positivity and excitement of the group individuals after the hike is done is just amazing!
Stairway to Heaven offers great views, the higher you go the better the view gets. I have met some villagers there and one of my good friends now “Saeed” who was born on the mountain and is 48 years old now always meets up with me either on the summit or on the way down.
He is usually there every Friday picking up a specific plant to cook for lunch!
It is very funny when Saied & I communicate as the language barrier is our main issue but we still understand each other! Saied believes that stairway to heaven is his home, He told me about every area name at the mountain, where his friends on the mountain live and how they manage their daily life.
An Inside piece of information is that there is water almost every 2km on the mountain but they hide it so that nobody can see it except them!
If you ever plan to hike the mountain, try to find him and if you do make sure to share some energy bar because he loves them!
Stairway to Heaven is one of my favourite mountains in the UAE, I always suggest the hike to people that I think can do it based on their fitness level and stamina.
This mountain is not for everyone and it requires a lot of effort to complete. I suggest you only do it with someone who is experienced and has done the mountain previously. We should always respect the mountain to avoid injuries!
However, if you are a mountaineer or training for your upcoming mountain, Stairway to heaven will be your perfect playground! With its tough ascent, the mountain will make sure you are ready and well trained. ■
Words + Photos by: Tima Deryan