It’s a Sunday morning in the Al Hajar Mountains of Oman, about two hours south of Muscat. While most guests are sipping Bloody Marys by the cliffside infinity pool at the Alila Jabal Akhdar resort, a luxury retreat that’s known for its remote location and traditional Omani stone architecture, I’m dangling from the country’s highest mountain, just a few hundred feet below.
Opened in January, Alila’s new via ferrata mountain climbing route is the highest in the Middle East, not to mention one of the most memorable ways to experience Oman’s Jabal Al Akhdar, also known as the Green Mountain—an expanse of craggy cliffs and limestone rock formations overlooking a perilous gorge.
Meaning “iron road” in Italian, the course comprises a series of steel cables that wrap around the mountainside. Via ferrata pathways originated in Italy and were used strategically during World War I to move goods and evade attackers. Today, more than 1,000 courses dot the mountains of the world, each offering a unique set of obstacles and panoramas.
So, how does it work? Climbers attach themselves to the cables using a waist harness and carabiner clips. While legs remain free, climbers use their hands to grip the steel cables and trace the rock face, offering a view of the area’s desert-like landscape from an exhilarating—and otherwise inaccessible—angle.
Most people are really scared at first,” explains Mahmoud Mohammed Ahmed Al-Amr, my via ferrata instructor for the morning. “But once they start to walk around and understand the cables, they will start to a feel a little bit comfortable. You just have to trust the equipment.”
Day in and day out, Mahmoud walks first-time climbers through the basics. He assures me that my reaction is normal: My right leg is shaking uncontrollably as I grip a steel cable at 6,500 feet above sea level, all the while attempting to descend a near 90-degree drop towards Al Roos canyon, which plunges some 2,950 feet at its deepest point.
Despite the epic heights, there’s no training required. Anyone between 110 and 250 pounds, and over 12-years-old, can book the guided experience. Outings range from one-and-a-half to four hours, starting from $65 per person. Climbers need only a few tools: a harness and shock absorber, hard hat, and carabiner clips to hook onto the cables, which are divided into separate sections. Throughout the course, you’ll clip on and off the cables hundreds of times, until the movement is etched into muscle memory.