Discover Lebanon's Rock Climbing Gems: A Dream Come True
Lebanon might not be on any climbers’ radar, given its geographical position and past unstable history. After all, mass media often negatively influences Lebanon’s reputation.
Posted on Thu 26 Jan 2023 · Climbing destinations
As Lebanon relies on tourism to boost its economy, climbing tourism has a significant role in supporting the Lebanese community, especially regarding sustainable development and outdoor tourism.
Since 2020, Lebanon has had a compounded economic crisis paired with a political crisis that amplified the spillover of the neighboring Syrian crisis. Today, the financial situation is exacerbated and not showing improvement.
That being said, Beirut's vibes are a magnet for people seeking a lifetime experience, be it tourism or diaspora visiting their relatives. Recently, climbing tourism has risen since Lebanon has a big potential for climbing and good weather throughout the year.
Randa Gedeon on Something's fishy 6c+/11d © Lea El-Medawar
Is there any climbing community in Lebanon?
The climbing community has been growing for the past ten years, thanks to the outdoor climbing development within the country. In addition, artificial climbing facilities provide beginner climbers with an outlet to learn climbing and advanced climbers with an outlet for training.
The climbing community in Lebanon comprises locals and ex-pats living in the country for studies or work. It is estimated that there are 500+ climbers in Lebanon. The Instagram page @rockclimbinglebanonorg is the hot spot for finding climbing partners, staying updated about the current situation, and getting new, climbing-related pieces of information.
This is the quality of rock and crags you should expect in Lebanon. The best part? The local climbers!
© Lea El-Medawar
Three facilities provide artificial indoor climbing to the community. All of them are much more oriented to lead-climbing rather than bouldering - which is a growing trend within the country, as you can notice from all the bouldering competitions taking place over the year. These facilities cannot be compared to European facilities. However, they are evolving and will soon provide a better service for locals and foreign climbers.
Every year more and more foreign climbers move to Lebanon for work, studies, a short visit, or to enjoy the country. Many climbers work in non-governmental organizations: this offers a nomadic lifestyle praised by all climbers, which always attracts strong climbers from all over the world, such as Sam Elias, Said Belhaj, Nina Caprez, and many more. If you've ever heard about David Lama, the famous top-class alpinist and elite sport climber, you probably already watched his incredible performance on Lebanon's first and only 9a route, "Avaatara".
Sport climbing in Lebanon: an overview
Elsa Raidy showing her flexibility on Tufa Liliazin, 6c/11c © Lea El-Medawar
In Lebanon, climbing development is particularly arduous and costly, depending on quality assurance and financial capacity. All in all, Lebanon has 20+ crags and 500+ routes: these numbers may not impress anyone. However, this is just a tiny fraction of the country’s vast rock potential, which could deliver thousands more lines… is anyone keen to join?
In most cases, both the crags and the approaches are chill and straightforward: you’ll stand at the bottom of the crags with just 5 to 35 minutes on foot. If this feels like a dream, take note: Lebanon is a small country, and a trip from the capital to the closest crag would take only 20 minutes. The farthest crag is 90 minutes away, making it ideal for a 1-day trip. Lebanon’s enormous diversity of topography and potential pushes the local climbing developers to choose easy-to-access sectors first. Nevertheless, stunning, remote sectors offer some of the best climbing in the country.
Edgard Kazzi battling agains the steep overhang of Crawline, 8a/13b © Lea El-Medawar
Expect prime-quality limestone catering to all levels. 60% of the routes are between the 5th and 6th grade, 35% are between 7th and 8th grade and only the 5% are above 8a. Beginners will find a perfect playground all around the country: @rockclimbinglebanonorg is focused on developing and making climbing accessible within the country to all levels of climbers.
Jad Khoury and George Emil from @rockclimbinglebanonorg published Lebanon’s first sport climbing guidebook only one year ago, and it reached all four corners of the world, and it has become sought after by people looking to come to Lebanon.
Bouldering in Lebanon: the birth and development of a new climbing discipline
Lea Medawar giving her all on Hell Razor, V7/8, spotted by Patrick Habib © Jad El Khoury
Bouldering has been practiced for the past 15 years in Lebanon, but it used to be a fringe activity for a country mostly having a sports-climber community. However this is changing with the popularity that bouldering is gaining added to the ease of practice bouldering can be when compared to sports climbing.
Recently, Lebanon's four last climbing competitions involved bouldering. Furthermore, a handful of local climbers, included Jad Khoury, manager at @rockclimbinglebanon, launched a new climbing brand that provides locally made high quality crash pads to popularize bouldering within the local community of climbers.
For a bouldering area to be set up for climbers, the main priority is ensuring that we have access and can keep it for generations to come. Afterward we ensure the boulders are developed in order to attract climbers to enjoy their time and not waste their days searching for the boulders. Building safe and sustainable landings and trails is one of the most important things before opening a new area.
Abdo Tabet, spotted by Rami Bou Khalil on Muddy Waters V3, Photo © Lea Medawar
Thanks to the effort of Sit Start and Rock Climbing Lebanon, sports climbers in Lebanon are now discovering the importance of bouldering. However, the time is still not right for bouldering tourism, since more development needs to be done in order to show that Lebanon is not only about sports climbing, but also about high quality bouldering.
Based on the last event done in Lebanon, 60 climbers gathered for a bouldering day in one of the sport climbing crags in the country and opened up their eyes to the existing potential of bouldering and how fun and beginner friendly can bouldering be.
Thanks for reading! The article ha been produced working closely with the local climber and manager of @rockclimbinglebanon, Jad Khoury. Do not miss any updates, and follow us on Instagram. This collaboration is part of Mapo Tapo's column "Trust the Locals", designed in collaboration with local climbers and climbing developers worldwide. Together, we aim to inspire people to discover new climbing destinations through responsible tourism.
Cover: Edgard Kazzi cutting loose on Crawline 8a/13b, a line located in one of the most aesthetic crags Lebanon has to offer © Lea El-Medawar