08-Jun-2006 -- Continued from 26N 39E.
This was hard! The best map I had of the ridges and valleys here was the satellite imagery of Google, and it was very fuzzy and hard to interpret, so I missed the best route to the Confluence. I parked the car at the roadside about three kilometers northeast from the Confluence and scrambled in along a very narrow valley, which at first seemed to bring me to the right direction, but then the valley ended and I had to climb over a ridge line between me and the Confluence. The climb was not hard technically, but very hard physically in the heat of the Saudi Arabian summer. The altitude gain was about 500 meters.
At the top of the ridge I was still a considerable distance from the Confluence and in that direction I saw another even higher ridge on the far side of a deep valley. I had already used more than half of the water I carried, so I decided to abort the hunt and return to the car. However, the valley in front of me lead towards the road and had a flat bottom unlike the valley along which I came in, so I decided to descend the other side. This meant a few kilometers of extra hike at the road because my car was waiting at the mouth of the wrong valley, but this was insignificant, because I can get so many more miles per gallon of water on road than on the mountains.
But then, when I had descended about two thirds of the way from the ridge summit to the valley bottom, I happened to look at my GPSr and to my surprise it said I was less than 100 meters from the Confluence! I had grossly underestimated the width of the valley and the Confluence was not on the opposite side, but right on my path towards the bottom.
So this had become a successful visit by accident although I had already aborted the hunt. I was very exhausted and low on water, but because I was this close, I decided to resume the hunt and zero out the remaining distance. After all it was just a slight detour on my planned descent route. After the photo shoot I descended the rest of the way to the valley and headed north along it.
When I reached the road, I was out of water and beginning to feel the first symptoms of dehydration, but there was plenty of water in the car and it was just half an hour hike away. Or should have been, but on my way there I was stopped by the police four times by three different police cars, and each time I was questioned for ten minutes or so. The policemen didn't speak or understand English and I don't understand Arabic, so I have no idea what was the problem. Apparently walking in Saudi Arabia is considered suspicious activity. When I finally reached the car, my half an hour hike had taken about one hour and fifteen minutes and I was really feeling the symptoms of dehydration.
If I had used the exit valley to get in too, I could have visited the Confluence in half the time and one third the climbing and without running out of water. But the view from the ridge top 500 meters above the road was almost worth it.