07-Dec-2008 -- Our visit to this Confluence was on the 4th day of a 6-day trip and followed our visit to 21N 54E the day before. We had waited nearly 10 months to try again for this point after not quite reaching it in February 2008. Our route traversed nearly 650 kilometers of sandy desert after leaving tarmac roads at Šābita. It was extremely rewarding to stand at 22N 55E after coming up short on the previous attempt and the many hours spent planning and preparing for this trip.
After departing 21N 54E around 9 a.m. on day 3 of our trip, we crossed over 300 kilometers of primarily sabhka terrain with easy passes over the dune ridges. The passes were situated in the low spots between merging star dune crests which composed a series of southeast to northwest trending sand ridges. The ridges alternated with flat sabhkas. The amount of sabhka territory became less and less towards the northeast and passes through the sand ridges more difficult. Our 4th night's camp was on a pass between two huge sabhkas which resembled inland seas in the fading sunset. The resemblance of the sabhkas to the ocean when viewed from high on the dunes was striking and led us to refer to the base of each dune ridge as "the beach". Often when the first vehicle had found a way over one of the sandy passes between sabhkas, they would call out on the radio "we're on the beach". On our 3rd night we were about 30 kilometers from our goal and enjoyed a clear and calm desert evening.
On the 4th morning we chose a more northerly approach to 22N 55E from the route used on our first attempt the previous February. To make our way north we had to cross a towering dune ridge that we had been paralleling for over 30 kilometers. It proved to be one of the toughest crossings of the trip; it took us over 2 hours to find a way. There were a handful of other challenging passes, and we chose to descend sizeable slip-faces to drop down to the final two sabhkas on our way to 22N 55E. This meant our route was non-reversible and we were committed to finding different ways back out of the desert.
We were able to drive directly to 22N 55E, as it is located in an area of small dunes and gravel, slightly elevated above the adjacent sabhka. We arrived shortly after 12:45 p.m. and had lunch nearby after taking photos from the confluence point. We began our exit by retracing our path approximately one kilometer over an easy pass to a sabhka we had originally reached by descending a lengthy slip-face. We then began to head directly south towards what appeared to be the easiest exit from the sabhka. This turned out to be a good choice. We were able to ascend the dune ridge and from there drop off a long slip-face to the last sabhka we had reached in February of 2008. From there we were on an exit route we knew was passable all the way to Šayba Oil Field, and maintained roads.
Reaching Šayba Field took the equivalent of two more full days and over 230 kilometers of off-road travel. Since all of our party are Aramco employees, we were able to access the Aramco facilities at Šayba, where we enjoyed lunch and a shower before departing around 3:00 p.m. for Ẓahrān. The Degree Confluence Project has been our pretext for visiting the magnificent dunes of the eastern Rub` al-Khāliy. With this trip filling in the last unvisited confluence point available in the area we will now have to find another justification to spend time in this truly breathtaking playground.