A few months prior, when Hayden asked me if I was interested in climbing with him in Wadi Rum, Jordan, I had a rush of excitement mixed with intimidation. I’d climbed quite a few multi-pitch routes before, but they were shorter and much easier than Rock Empire. The routes at Wadi Rum have a reputation for poor rock quality and run-out protection. The closest experience I’d had was climbing long routes in Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. But being merely a stone’s throw from civilization in Las Vegas, it felt only mildly adventurous and overall comfortable. In Jordan, the element of adventure would be on a much grander scale, given it’s in the Middle East in the middle-of-nowhere, and these routes were MUCH bigger than anything I’d done before.
Hayden is extremely experienced with multi-pitch climbing. I felt anxious about committing to the trip -- I didn’t want to hold him back. I’ve had my fair share of projecting hard single-pitch routes, but questing up big walls is a different game all together. It requires significant stamina -- physically and mentally -- rope management, reading the rock for the “choss-factor,” and route finding. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up.
But multi-pitch climbing is all about being a team player. If you’re not as strong in one element it’s okay. It’s about supporting each other along the way in order to get up the wall.
And so there we were, Hayden and I in Wadi Rum having just completed the hardest pitch of the big wall. It was surreal. We knew we could do the rest -- we just had to persevere.
I started up pitch four -- the last hard section -- graded 5.12c. We knew this climb had some big run-outs, but I quickly found out this was unlike anything I’d experienced. The pitch only had four bolts in 35 meters! Each time I clipped a bolt I had an overwhelming sense of relief. The climbing wasn’t exceptionally difficult, but the rock quality was variable, which made the run-outs unnerving.