• Ryan Olson

Looking for Climbing in Thumamah

Looking at the canyon system

My buddy has been hounding us for the past two years about this spot in Thumamah that he wants to bolt for climbing. He’s always telling us how nice the rock is, how we need to develop it, and how we need to come see it with him. Until last weekend I’d successfully avoided committing to go, but he finally got me by suggesting I take photos of the area for a presentation he’s going to give to his employers about developing the area. An opportunity to go to a cool place and take pictures that other people will see is not an opportunity I wanted to miss.

Thumamah is an area north of Riyadh. It’s absolutely gorgeous by the standards of its other surroundings. Especially in the winter after it rains and all of the flowers bloom. I’d spent some time hiking there a couple of years previously. We used to go out and hike big loops around the park, trying to find ways up and down the escarpment. But I hadn’t been back since then.

The problem is access. It’s a protected area and the only way to get in is by having or renting a campground, which are very expensive. We used to get in with a friend who worked for an International School and had access through work. Fortunately, this time around my friend had access because the company he works for is in charge of development for the entire park.

We went in the afternoon to avoid the worst of the sun. It may be October, but it’s still really hot in Riyadh. The temperature is starting to cool down, but it’s still getting up to 38 C (100 F) most days. We got to where were going around 3:30pm, and headed towards the canyons.

My friend had explored many of these canyons, so he had a pretty good idea about where to take us. His main goal was to show us the spots that he thought could be developed for rock climbing. And sure enough, even before we entered the actually canyon system, there was rock that looked decent (by Riyadh standards) and could potentially be bolted. It would require some cleaning, but if we could manage it could be an excellent crag.

After exploring the outer areas we headed into the canyons. It’s hard to describe the area without pictures. Imagine a mound of wet earth that, after it hardened, started to crack apart. Those cracks were the canyons. Tall walls of sandstone formed a series of crisscrossing canyons that we were able to play around in. The majority of the rock wasn’t fantastic, but there was some that was surprisingly solid.

We explored the area until just before sunset. Then we had to retreat out of the canyons. We went up to the top and watched the sunset and spent some time talking about. By the end, we were all on board. If we could fix the access issue, get permission to start developing, then it could be one of the best (if not THE best) climbing areas near Riyadh. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens with it, but I’ll keep you all updated.

©2018 by Ryan Olson Photography

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