ABU DHABI // A man has plunged 1,000 metres to his death from the Stairway to Heaven, the popular but notoriously dangerous hiking path in the Hajar mountains in Ras Al Khaimah.
Emirates Airline has confirmed that the victim was a First Officer with the Dubai carrier.
The 31-year-old British expatriate had been tackling the treacherous route alone on Monday, and the alarm was raised when he failed to call home that evening.
Search teams led by police and the local community criss-crossed the rocky pathways in low light. The Air Wing of RAK Police joined the search on Tuesday, when the hiker’s body was found in the Wadi Ghalilah.
Police said the dead man had fallen from halfway up the path, which reaches a height of 1,930m.
Col Suleiman Mohammed Al Qaizi, head of Al Rams police station, urged hikers to exercise caution in the mountains and to adhere to safety guidelines, especially when climbing at night.
Hikers should also notify authorities before they begin the climb, the police chief said.
Despite numerous rescues on the dangerous pathway, which has exposed drops of several hundred metres, it is the first reported death in recent years.
“Stairway to Heaven is a very steep walk with sections of exposed scrambling where a slip is potentially fatal or could lead to serious injury,” said Pete Aldwinckle, a climber who has made the trek several times.
“Communication is very difficult and the ground is incredibly rugged. It’s unforgiving, and people just underestimate how unforgiving the terrain is out there.
“You would not be critical of someone going out on their own, but only if they thought about where they were going and understood the risks they would take.”
Experienced mountaineers say the descent is the trickiest part of the climb on a route that has grown busier in the past several years.
“It’s not a safe route for the masses,” said one climber.
Mr Aldwinckle said a number of outdoor enthusiasts who visit the mountains regularly have worked in outdoor centres in the UK.
The Stairway to Heaven route would require a high level of competence under UK guidelines, he said.
"If you're going to take your normal punter up, the majority of those working as a low-level instructor would not be competent enough for the Stairway because it's so serious."
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