February 8, 2021
The West Bank of Palestine, with its bucolic rolling hills, vast deserts, and deep valleys is known for its biblical history and the modern Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But despite that...
... Rock climbing is a wonderful way through which to explore this culturally, politically, and historically rich “Holy Land.” Climbers will find 350+ incredible limestone sport climbing routes of all grades in a setting unlike anywhere else in the world.
The best part? The warm, enthusiastic, and diverse group of locals who climb at various crags around the West Bank throughout the year. We encourage you to seek out the locals, swap belays, learn a little Arabic, and maybe even try some of the Qalayat Bandoora (fried tomatoes) that often gets cooked over an open fire at the crag. No better way to discover the beauty of the country and to learn about the complex political reality.
Though Israeli climbers had been developing crags in the West Bank since the 80s, the Palestinian climbing scene didn’t get its start until 2014 when two climbers from Colorado, Tim Bruns and Will Harris, moved to Ramallah. Upon arriving, Tim and Will established Wadi Climbing, the first indoor climbing gym in Palestine, and, with the help of some foreigners and locals, bolted 350+ routes at five new crags near Ramallah. Their vision was to leverage rock climbing as a tool for social empowerment in a place with few recreational opportunities. Local Palestinians live with heavy restrictions on their freedom of movement. Rock-climbing is a new way for locals to discover their own country and to connect with the rest of the world. It is a way to experience adventure in the vicinity of Ramallah and it has created a tight and fun community, eager to meet and welcome international climbers.
One of the main bolters and guidebook author Tim Bruns on "Boulder express" 7c+ in the West Bank of Palestine, © Julie Ellison.
You can access the West Bank of Palestine by flying into Tel Aviv in Israel. From there, head to Jerusalem by train, and cross through the Separation Wall into Ramallah with one of the many public buses. It is a vibrant, bustling city that is the West Bank's political and economic heart. Start your trip by visiting Wadi Climbing, Palestine’s first climbing gym, where you can meet a mix of local climbers and expatriate volunteers, journalists, and diplomats. Here you can pick up a copy of the guidebook ‘Climbing Palestine’ (available also online) and join one of the outdoor climbing trips.
A 20 minutes drive north from Ramallah is the Yabrud crag, with 50+ routes between grade 4 and projects in the 8a to 8b range. A day at Yabrud means climbing on bulletproof limestone with crag-side tea. If you are with local climbers, someone will likely bring a hookah to smoke between routes! The best months are October/November and March/April. Just a few minutes away from Yabrud is Ein Yabrud, which features unique rippled limestone in a lush valley. North-west of the city is Ein Qiniya, the first area developed by Will and Tim, perfect for climbing all year round. The beautiful cliffs have been climbed by Bedouins for ages, and now some of the local Bedouins have become dedicated sport-climbers! Besides the 30+ sport routes from 5a to 7b, there is a huge potential for bouldering in the area. In the hot summer months, a good option is Al Bireh, a north-facing cliff in a calm valley, unfortunately surrounded by some of the most conflict-prone areas of the West Bank. Beware of the soft rock and keep a low profile to avoid any conflicts.
Top: Tawfiq Najada on "The Bullet and the Feather" 7a+, one of the very best lines in Yabrud crag © Henna Taylor
Bottom: Crag-side tea on an open fire in Yabrud is way better than our thermos.
In the picture, local climber Mohammed “Abu Sayyaf” Naja is getting everything ready. © Henna Taylor
After exploring the Ramallah-area crags, venture a little further to the amazing Ein Fara valley with its hundreds of routes, beautiful wildflowers, and natural springs that you can swim in! Ein Fara is considered one of the best sport climbing sites in the Middle East, both for the quality and quantity of climbing and the spectacular location. Grades range from easy warm-ups to routes above 8th grade, with limestone overhangs and nice slabs. From here you can access the Wadi Qelt hike: an ancient path between Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. You will pass monasteries, Roman water channels, and Bedouin herder communities.
You should also head north from Ramallah to the ancient city of Nablus, where you can climb a cliff that overhangs the city. Afterward, relax in a Turkish bath and eat some of the famous Middle-Eastern dessert ‘kunafa’ that originated in the city. A trip to the West Bank is not completed without a visit to Bethlehem. Here you should check out the eclectic Banksy hotel, the street art on the Israeli Separation Wall, the Old City with its religious sites, and you can also climb! There are two climbing associations: PAMSD, supported by the French Alpine Club, and Laylac, supported by Italian climbers. Most of the climbing routes are around the picturesque village of Battir, with grades from 4a to 6a, and great potential for development. The view is beautiful and filled with ancient Roman ruins.
Momen and Mujahed are the Local climbers, as well as volunteers at Wadi Climbing Gym and Guide climbing trips © unknown