We get kitted up and clamber aboard Dubai's newest climbing wall. It's the higest in the UAE, don't you know
It’s been two years in the making, but Dubai’s World Trade Centre now boasts the highest climbing wall in the UAE, standing at just over 15 metres high.
Maurice Dorell, who runs Dorell Sports in partnership with DWTC, has been planning the wall since 2007. ‘The Wafi wall was the first one that got really established out here, but we went for something higher,’ he explains. ‘We wanted more overhangs, more difficult routes and an outdoor space.’
The outdoor factor is a definite pull for climbers to this new facility. Rather than being trapped in the air-con pyramids of Wafi, the wall has been built directly on the side of the Dubai World Trade Centre Club. There’s a definite thrill to bounding up the wall, getting to that top hold and feeling the wind rush past you.
Offering grades of difficulty from easy(ish) to hard, with varying routes and precarious overhangs, Dorell’s facility is also set apart by having a World Cup standard speedwall. Pitting two climbers against each other to race up two identical routes, speedwall has become hugely popular internationally and Dorell hopes that eventually Dubai might host a World Cup event. ‘We will start off with local events and competitions and take it from there,’ he says.
With this in mind, a bigger, grander opening of the wall is planned for May, when the speedwall will be showcased by two world-class climbers in a head-to-head competition. ‘These guys rank in the world’s top three,’ notes Dorell. ‘The strength in their bodies is amazing.’
Although the sheer challenge of the wall may make the fainthearted feel, well, a little faint, there is nothing to fear because safety here is paramount. Dorell’s team is fully qualified, with years of experience, and offers carefully guided sessions every day, with groups for specific experience levels. ‘Climbing is tough but beginners are put into groups of three or four people at their own level,’ he explains. ‘It means they’re meeting people who they can develop with over time. We have routes that range between levels three and seven so as people progress through the levels, they can see their skills improving.’
Aside from a small traverse, the DWTC facility is entirely rope-based, but Dorell has plans to develop a specific bouldering (free climbing) wall in the coming months. He’s also keen to really push for a greater presence for the local climbing community that, he tells us, is surprisingly strong despite there being only one real climbing wall in the city before Dorell’s. ‘There’s quite a big climbing community in Dubai,’ he says. ‘Those who go out in the weekends to climb in the outdoor crags in Hatta and Oman. We’re trying to get a social community of people who are using our wall as a base to climb and at weekends go out. It’s working very well at the moment – people can just come into the club, hear about an upcoming climb somewhere and join in.’
As more facilities like this develop, the social aspect of climbing should become more pronounced. Groups that head into the mountains and plot routes tend to form organically, slowly developing a culture of climbing. But a process like that first needs a base to grow from. Dorell’s wall is another, much-needed step to getting a fully fledged climbing scene going – one handhold at a time.
Carry on climbing
Here’s a few more options for getting a hand up. Pharoah’s Club The UAE’s original climbing wall in the grand setting of Wafi. Scale to the top of the Wafi pyramid interior and scramble across 50ft of wall space. Dhs40 for a two-hour session, lessons also available. Call 04 324 0000 to book.
E-Sports Climbing Academy Kids’ climbing club meets at GEMS World Academy in Al Barsha. There are 22 different routes open to 5-18 years, every Saturday at 11pm. Dhs45 for a one-hour session. Call 050 975 7316 for information. Dibba for beginners Bluebanana.com has finally announced that its three hours outdoor lessons in the crags around Dibba have started. At Dhs395 per person, this is perfect for beginners and you get to learn on real rock with expert tuition. Call 04 436 8100 or see www.bluebanana.com, Dubai World Trade Centre Club. Children sessions run daily between 1pm-6pm and adults from 6pm to 10pm. www.climbingdubai.com.