In January 2012, Stairway to Heaven hike was the first hike I did in the UAE after living in the country for nearly 4 years. All I knew of the hike at this point, was the scary stories that circulated around camp fires.

‪The plan was to ascend via the famous staircase route, that starts on the UAE side of the mountain and ends on the Omani side. Set camp on the famous plateau overlooking Ras Al Khaimah port and the sea, then traverse to the opposing mountain, and descend from Jabal Al Jais the following day.

Some of the 2012 team

Some of the 2012 team 🙂 (Pic creds goes to Nadine W.)

‪Long story short, without a topo, guide, nor previous knowledge of the route, we set off and made it to the top. Setup camp, and a fire, cooked dinner, and called it a night.

Well deserved meal after a long day at Stairway to Heaven Hike

Well deserved meal after a long day at Stairway to Heaven Hike

Well, I never really got to call it a night… Soon after I settled into my tent the wind picked up.  Until then I didn’t realize how powerfully the wind could blast over the plateau – and pitching my tent close to the edge of this plateau was definitely not one of my wisest choices!  Soon enough the wind started moving my tent slowly towards the edge…

optimistically setting my tent on the edge for a beautiful morning view !!

optimistically setting my tent on the edge for a beautiful morning view !!

Doesn’t it sound crazy enough?

Think of it this way:  you are in a tent pitched on an edge of a mountain overlooking few hundred meter of free drop, and this tent is slowly shifting towards the edge. What ideas would come to your mind? I had silly visions of this tent floating over the edge and carrying me safely down to the ground.  Reality quickly sank in, and I had to escape from the tent before it was too late.   I did not want to leave my belongings behind so the only thing that came to mind was to hold the poles from the inside, bring the tent down and crawl out of it so it didn’t fly away once I got out. I felt somewhat heroic and a huge feeling relief as the plan worked out perfectly, and I made it through the night without getting blown off the edge.

the view from one of Stairway to Heaven Hike's Stairs!

the view from one of Stairway to Heaven Hike’s Stairs!

‪As light broke through the next morning, we were on the move again. The traverse was rather straightforward and a few hours later we found the descent point. The descent made the ascent look like a walk in the park. There was no route, or a path to follow at all! The decent consisted of only loose rocks and boulders staggered on the severe mountainside, making the entire trip down extremely dangerous and tough on our joints. There was nothing special about the descent except few old, deserted houses along the way. We all made it safe back to cars and the adventure ended there.

A selfie with the exposed path during the Stairway to Heaven Hike!

A selfie with the exposed path during the Stairway to Heaven Hike!

‪Stairway to heaven hike remained a special hike that was always relatively challenging. No route, no path, untouched and vague – a hike that requires physical fitness, outdoor experience and no fear of heights or exposed edges.  Set for those seeking a true adventure!

‪However when I visited Stairway to Heaven a couple of weeks ago, I discovered the hike has changed remarkably.

‪A new path has been built from the parking all the way to the ascent point. From that point, loads of stone cairns have been assembled all the way up to the plateau. These cairns are easily identifiable and will put one at ease knowing they are on the right path. At the same time I found they took away the thrill of route finding and my adrenaline level dropped in this comfort zone.

The new path leading to the Ascent point

The new path leading to the Ascent point

Stone Crains marking the ascent from start to finish

Stone Crains marking the ascent from start to finish

TP was used to mark the route, which I have removed.

TP was used to mark the route, which I have removed.

Thanks to the cairns, our ascent was straightforward and not as exciting as I had remembered it to be.  On the way up I collected garbage that humans had sadly left behind and had lunch in a sheltered spot just before they last staircase to avoid the wind on the plateau. As we reached the plateau, it started to poor with rain, the temperature level dropped and visibility was to almost zero owing to the thick fog.

The beautiful man made staircase at Stairway to Heaven Hike

The beautiful man made staircase at Stairway to Heaven Hike

Leanne admiring the scenery during Stairway to Heaven Hike

Leanne admiring the scenery during Stairway to Heaven Hike

It is not easy to locate the staircases from distance.

It is not easy to locate the staircases from distance.

Breathtaking yet scary looking man made staircases of Stairway to Heaven Hike

Breathtaking yet scary looking man made staircases of Stairway to Heaven Hike

Leanne happily posing on top of a staircase during Stairway to Heaven Hike

Leanne happily posing on top of a staircase during Stairway to Heaven Hike

This is how narrow some passage can get to

This is how narrow some passage can get to

you got fear of heights? think again

you got fear of heights? think again

 

‪This got our adrenaline levels kicking!  We hiked in the rain and poor visibility trying to reach the other side. Things got even more exciting when it started to hail… An hour later, half way across the traverse, the skies cleared and we were blessed to witness amazing colorful sceneries.

Grateful to have made it on time before the heavy rain have started

Grateful to have made it on time before the heavy rain have started

Happy Leanne on the edge of the plateau

Happy Leanne on the edge of the plateau

Just when it started to rain at the plateau (1,300 m)

Just when it started to rain at the plateau (1,300 m)

Panoramic view of the heavy rain and dark clouds over the platea

Panoramic view of the heavy rain and dark clouds over the platea

‪Upon arriving at the decent point we discovered a new path has been cleared, and connects with the path where the accent starts.  Although I am not a fan of pathed routes, this new path definitely helps avoid a lot of potential of accidents, and makes it easier for people with less outdoor experience to come and enjoy this beautiful hike and the gorgeous the scenery it offers.

Taking more elevation right after the plateau

Taking more elevation right after the plateau

Ascending right after the plateau to reach the traverse path

Ascending right after the plateau to reach the traverse path

Most of the traverse route is a donkey path, just make sure to find it and stay on it

Most of the traverse route is a donkey path, just make sure to find it and stay on it

by 2:08 pm temperature dropped to 7.4 Degree C at 1,715 m of elevation

by 2:08 pm temperature dropped to 7.4 Degree C at 1,715 m of elevation

Follow the villages until you reach the descent starting point.

Follow the villages until you reach the descent starting point.

happy to be on the other side of the plateau with full view of Stairway to Heaven Hike

happy to be on the other side of the plateau with full view of Stairway to Heaven Hike

Descent path is well established but still very steep.

Descent path is well established but still very steep.

However, take breaks in the designated picnic tables and benches :)

However, take breaks in the designated picnic tables and benches 🙂

Crossing the wadi to reach the balcony walk on the descent Crossing the wadi to reach the balcony walk on the descent

Crossing the wadi to reach the balcony walk on the descent

The balcony walk during Stairway to Heaven Hike descent.

The balcony walk during Stairway to Heaven Hike descent.

‪We descended and headed back home, hoping I would get some adventurous compensation during my Rock Climbing trip to Lebanon the following day.

One of my favorite places of Stairway to Heaven Hike . 2012 Vs. 2015 :)

One of my favorite places of Stairway to Heaven Hike . 2012 Vs. 2015 🙂

‪In summary, please do not underestimate Stairway to Heaven hike. Some experienced hikers have faced problems and this hike has witnessed fatalities. As an outdoor person, you should always be prepared and know what you are getting yourself into. Some might find it hard, others might find it easy, regardless of what you think of it: BE SAFE 🙂

Below is few maps I drew as reference. Please note these map are not 100% accurate:

Stairway to Heaven Hike - Ascent topo

Stairway to Heaven Hike – Ascent topo

Stairway to Heaven Hike - Descent path

Stairway to Heaven Hike – Descent path

Sky View of Stairway to Heaven Hike path

Sky View of Stairway to Heaven Hike path