Ah, route W4. The route that any walker would want to do in Oman, the trek up to Jebel Shams, the highest point in the country (apparently). We'll come onto that later.
We stayed at the Jebel Shams Resort, which has incredible views of the sunset over neighbouring mountains and is near to the viewing platform overlooking the scary view down into Wadi an Nakhur (“Grand Canyon”). We were advised that the walk up to Jebel Shams was long, tedious, and not particularly interesting for most of the 11 hours that it would take. Well I'll tell you this, we didn't come all the way to the hotel just to walk tiny 'pleasant' routes; we were in this for the experience!
When the alarm went off at 05:45 the next morning, I wished we were in it for the pleasant walks! But with a packed breakfast, and lunch, in our rucksacks we headed for the start of W4 and set off walking by the time the clock had reached 06:30. It was only after about 7am that the sun rose over the mountain range to the east of us and the landscape came alive. Before that, I think I might have been sleep walking, as I didn't remember the area near to the car on the way down!
In response to what we were told about the walk not being very interesting, I couldn't disagree more. We were walking along the top cliff edge of Wadi an Nakhur with a 1,000m drop to the wadi floor right next to us. It made for spectacular views for the next two hours, whilst we circled the rim and the sun slowly warmed the rock, showing deep yellow and red colours previously hidden by the morning shade.
Towards the 4-hour mark, the path turned and followed the edge along the north-eastern flank, overlooking a breathtaking view below. You really got a feeling for how high you we along this stretch of the walk, and the rest of the route was still a fairly steady uphill climb towards the summit. We passed a couple who had camped out near the top and were on their way down, when they commented “not far now!”. By this, they meant only about an hour left to the top! We hit the summit at 2,997m and almost 12:00 sharp, making it 5 and a half hours from the start. This only afforded us about 15min lunch break at the top before we really should have started to head back down. Sunset was near enough 18:00, so we wanted to be able to find the car!
After lunch, a group photo and a bit more admiration for the views, we started the decent to just over 1,000m below us where we'd parked the car. According to the guide, this is the highest point in Oman… although we beg to differ! Pretty sure the military land on the north summit next to us was a little bit higher, although not accessible to the public. So, maybe the south summit of Jebel Shams is the highest “publicly accessible” point in Oman. Felt a bit cheated by that revelation!
The walk back was a bit more of a slog, especially the final couple of hours where my legs felt like sand bags dragging underneath me. When the car was finally in view, and that seemed to take quite a while (!), I had quite a sense of achievement flow across me… but that could also have been relief.