In November last year, Lebanon’s sport enthusiasts put their country on the radar of the international climbing community by going up the Beirut ‘CIVIL WALL’, a bullet-ridden, 35 meter high, derelict building and one of the many vestiges of the 15-year long civil war that practically destroyed Beirut, Lebanon’s capital. The CIVIL WALL event, organised by Redbull in tandem with the growing Lebanese climbing community, was an example of the way a new generation is leveraging the country’s past to build its future.
Until recently, little was known about climbing in Lebanon. The first equipped crags, dating back to the 1990s, were solely reserved for army use. But the country’s mountainous terrain, its moderate climate, and its beautifully pocketed limestone rock has turned it into a prime climbing destination away from the crowds. The sport has become increasingly popular in the country, and several outdoors companies now offer climbing classes for beginners, including Chahtoul Camping and La Reserve Afqa.
For the more experienced climbers, some of the most magical crags Lebanon has to offer are located in its northern mountains, tucked between olive groves and natural caves. Close to Beirut, Laqlouq’s climbing site is right by the ski slopes. Beginners will love this crag: The first few routes are all graded between 3+ and 5, and none are too steep. Further down, away from the ski lifts, a cave offers more technical and impressive climbing.
For those looking for a challenge, head to Tannourine, a once sleepy village now overtaken by sport enthusiasts on weekends. The sun-kissed cliffs of Tannourine Harissa, close to the Tannourine Cedars reserve, offer delicate and yet technical routes with quirky names, such as Shawarma – a local dish – or Yalla Habibi. And for those of us who reach the top, the reward on a clear day, from the heights of the Mount Lebanon mountain range, is a view of the Mediterranean Sea.
Tannourine Tahta, offers even more technical climbing, with grades averaging at 6c or 7. If you’re not keen to hit those overhangs, Tannourine Tahta is still worth visiting, as it has a few good restaurants. But beware ! You will need to check opening times as the majority are closed in the evenings in winter and early spring.