Omani trekker sets sights on scaling Jebel Akhdar, undeterred by previous fall

Hadiya Al Zakwani won't let one painful experience stop her from exploring rough terrain

Hadiya Al Zakwani at Umqbir village where she fell and broke her leg.
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Veteran trekker Hadiya Al Zakwani’s friends never thought she would return to her passion for outdoor adventure so soon after suffering a nasty fall.

Hadiya was used to trekking through rough terrain, using her vast experience to explore the natural surroundings, walking on cliffs, rocky ground and steep hills for hours at a time.

But what started out as a regular expedition in Oman became a painful ordeal thanks to one misplaced step, after an accident left her stranded for more than 24 hours.

Last May, she set out for a trek but little did she know that something would go horribly wrong on a steep climb.

There was nothing much they could do except wrap a life-jacket around my broken leg
Hadiya Al Zakwani

“There were four us led by two tour guides,” Hadiya recalls. "We enjoyed rock-to-rock jumping at Umqbir village. Then we started climbing a cliff on foot to get to the top.

“I stepped on something and lost my footing and came tumbling down.”

Her leg turned as she was coming down, causing her to scream out in pain as she landed on rocky ground.

Her group informed her that she had broken her shin.

Umqbir is a haven for hikers with its gorges, meandering tracks and cliffs that offer a magnificent view of the landscape below — but it lies about 100km from Muscat.

Climbers pictured on Jebel Akhdar. Photo: Hayley Skirka / The National

“I could feel this unbearable pain coming from my leg," she says. After years of trekking it was the first time she had fallen and hurt herself seriously enough that she was unable to move.

It was about 10am when she fell. The tour guides used first-aid to relieve the pain but they were not trained to deal with broken bones.

“There was nothing much they could do except wrap a life-jacket around my broken leg,” Hadiya said. "They called the police emergency services and were told to wait for their arrival.

“But we were on difficult terrain and it was difficult to get out of there in my condition.”

The tour guide and fellow trekkers decided to get her down since they were somewhere between cliffs on a higher plateau. But the unevenness of the sharp rocks, stones, dangerous bends and steep hills on their way down made their progress extremely slow.

On a makeshift stretcher, they carried her down precarious paths at a snail's pace.

Umqbir is known for its beauty but difficult access when it comes to rescue.

A spokesman for Oman’s Civil Defence and Ambulance Authority (CDAA) explains: “It is a place notorious for its narrow paths — cliffs almost touching each other, where a rescue helicopter cannot go through. The best a rescue team could do is wait down on flat ground or send a team on foot up there.”

Hadiya and her group had to rest in the wilderness overnight and continue the journey down early the next morning.

By 11am the group had reached a plateau where the CDAA's rescue team was waiting with a helicopter.

Despite the setback, Hadiya is this week dead set on trekking to Oman's breathtaking Jebel Akhdar.

“The accident last year did not put me off trekking,” she said. "I still trek regularly and I learnt an important lesson of being careful where to go and what to step on while trekking."

A small community exists on Jebel Akhdar with some supermarkets, small restaurants and a handful of other resorts, and the surrounding landscape is set up for hiking, biking and trekking trails.

Whether a seasoned or first-time trekker, a list of dos and don’ts should be followed to protect the trekker, as well as the natural habitat.

Mohammed Al Saifi, a veteran of more than 30 years’ trekking, warned of the many potential dangers on a seemingly peaceful and serene trek in Oman's mountains.

“Before you go trekking, you must make sure the tour guides know what do with emergency like broken bones,” he said. “Avoid trekking on cliffs that are closed to each other or grounds that are too spiky, steep or slippery.”

Updated: February 16, 2023, 11:15 AM