Globetrotting climber Sam Elias has made it his mission to explore the climbing adventures available throughout the Middle East, a region where nature, adventure and history collide. Elias recently visited Lebanon, and reported about his experience with some of the Arab World’s most challenging venues for rock climbers. Original story published on Rock and Ice.
I recently returned from a short trip to the Middle Eastern country of Lebanon. I went at the invitation of my friend Will Nazarian and his organization R-A-D (Rock Climbing Association for Development). He’s been traveling to an area known as Tannourine for years, with the mission to assist the community in harnessing the local climbing potential with sustainable development, which will lead to economic empowerment and cross-cultural understanding. He’s been working tirelessly with the help of several local Lebanese climbers to bolt and clean climbing routes and establish trails in cooperation with the municipality and mayor of Tannourine.
I climbed for six days in several different sectors. Nazarian toured me around and showed me the established routes and open projects. The rock is high quality limestone with a variety of features and angles, and the sectors are all within relatively close proximity to the village. At the moment, there are roughly 70 developed routes, but there is potential for many more. I climbed several of the established routes, and then set my sights on trying some of the open projects.
On my last couple days, I tried some really hard projects, and bolted one of my own. All of these routes are in the 5.14 range, I believe. I shared my time not only with Nazarian, but also some local Lebanese climbers—George Emil, Jad Khoury, Tony Dagher, and Rani Charbel—as well as traveling French Canadian climber Emilie Pellerin. Everyone was psyched and trying hard and having fun, and I am grateful to have spent the time with all of them.
At the end, it was far too short of a trip. Since departing, I’ve thought very frequently about my new friends, and about my project there, and about when I will return.