Climbing Saddle Mountain

October 2007
(English only)

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Climbing Saddle Mountain near Amqat, just SE of Fanja. A prominent landmark along the Motorway to Nizwa.


 

Easy on a weekend day. The climb up is still surprising steep and should not be underestimated, certainly not on a hot day. Saddle Mountain is 5 km east of Amqat and its highest point is at 735m. Especially the nortwestern edge provides great views over the motorway in the direction of Fanja. Saddle Mountain is in the centre of the Google Map below.


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View from Google Earth along motorway to Nizwa (blue line) to Fanja, with the Amqat ridge crossing from lower left to upper right.
How to get there: Take the Motorway from Muscat to Nizwa. Turn off at Fanja. At next roundabout take direction back to Muscat again, returning to the motorway. You will soon approach a Al Maha petrol station with a few shops and a mosque ( 2327'24.85"N -  5810'21.71"E) . Behind the mosque is a gravel track leading up to the mountain ridge behind. The track will join  the oil and gas pipeline crossing the pass across the Amqat ridge to BidBid. Park your car at a convenient point in the pass. Follow the wadi climbing up between "saddle mountain" to your left side and dark ophiolites and listwaenites of the Amqat ridge to your right. At the end of this wadi climbing you can turn left and climb the last steep ascend to "saddle mountain". Follow the clear path and look for some large crevices in the steep flank which provide a relative easy climb to the top ( 2326'35.40"N -  5811'3.29"E).

Not an afternoon stroll. Be prepared for some hand-and-foot climbing, but most is simply climbing-up through a bouldery wadi. The Amqat ridge is to your right and the light limestones of Table Mountain to your left. So you are essentially following the contact between these different rocks, with the (Tertiary) limestones overlying the darker ophiolites. At certain places you may notice dark conglomerates on top of the ophiolites. The Amqat ridge of brownish rocks stretches from here to Fanja and Bowah to the west-northwest. It is much harder than the surrounding rocks and clearly stands-out for example along the motorway to Nizwa near Fanja (the saddle to cross before crossing wadi Samail). This is a weird, rusty rock that originated when hot fluids circulating through the ophiolite rocks along a fault zone altered the original mantle rocks completely ((listwaenite; ophiolite rocks altered by hot fluids).

I checked the topographic maps but could not find a name for this mountain. Obviously locally this landmark must have a name as it dominates the pass from the coast to the interior, but lacking anything better I have baptised it "Saddle Mountain" because of its shape.

The pipelines below have blasted through this pas, but a careful observer may notice remains of drystone walls in low points of the Amqat ridge. It looks like these once may have been used to control access through the pass. Clearly a strategic location as also indicate by Ward (1987, p 210). It certainly has dominating views all around, but no shade at all. Just barren limestone rock with a few bushes.


View towards Fanja with the Nizwa motorway in the distance behind the cairn

Motorway crossing the pass to Fanja in middle right, crossing the Amqat ridge

Top of saddle Mountain, gently sloping to the north, with some deep cracks.

View to the north, towards Rusayl and the coast.

References

Ward, P., 1987. Travels in Oman. Oleader Press Ltd., Cambridge, England.

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@ J. Schreurs October 2007