12-Sep-2010 -- Our journey to conquer the last “easy” confluence point in Saudi Arabia actually began several weeks ago in July 2010, when we tried and failed to reach the point. A combination of hot weather, poor planning, and most especially over-confidence, robbed us of the chance of completing the point at that time but gave us the chance to learn more about the dangers of the mountains and how to survive in blistering heat up there.
The confluence point is located at an altitude of 1,012 m ASL, in steep, barren mountains, with scree, shale, and steep cliffs, high up near the Tabūk-Madīna provincial boundary.
For our next attempt, we used the `Īd holidays in September 2010 and stayed at The ARAC al-Ūlā hotel using it as a base for our operations. The confluence point is about 140 km NW of the hotel by a new road, not shown on Google Earth or the latest maps, but which we discovered on the previous trip in July. Our team of five set off at 06:30 from the hotel and reached the environs of the point near the village of Badā'. The tarmac road brought us to within 3 km of the point, and a rough, stony landscape awaited us. Turning off, we managed to find one rough, bumpy track taking us closer to the mountains but still leaving us 1.6 km to go (as the crow flies) and about 350 m to climb.
This time the five of us set off properly armed with compasses, sunscreen, and litre upon litre of water. We recognized that going up one of the gullies was the optimal way up. The only problem being that we had forgotten that there were a number of gullies going up in the north-easterly direction we wanted to go. Following a short discussion, one was chosen and off we set. It gradually changed from a gentle slope to being a scramble up its higher reaches. At last we had gone far enough east and we needed to travel directly north. That was the good news; the bad news was that our path ahead was almost a cliff face. The expressions on the faces of the females in our party began to turn grim, as the enormity of the task ahead began to dawn upon all of us. Even the men were also secretly worried that the point itself may lie on the almost vertical cliff face, making this attempt virtually impossible.
As we climbed the steep and rocky mountainside, the temperature climbed into the lower 40 °Cs and sweat poured off us as we negotiated our way over the crags.
Finally the last ridge was surmounted and before us was a gently rising rocky slope which the GPS told us, contained our goal. Within minutes we were all at the point, grinning from ear to ear having conquered what has been by far the trickiest challenge we have attempted. Once the necessary photographs were taken (apart from, strangely, a group photo on the mountain), we set off back to our baking vehicles way down in the valley below (see photo), arriving with only minor bumps and scrapes to our bodies and getting back safely back at our hotel by mid afternoon.