The Tallest Peak in the UAE?

Jebel Jais is commonly considered the tallest peak or point in the United Arab Emirates. But the peak of Jebel Jais is in Oman, so that isn’t the tallest peak, only the tallest point, located on a ridge, which crests at 1,892 metres.

So if you really want to reach the peak, you must look further. It is just a bit harder than may be expected.

Looking east over Oman from the top of Jebel Jais summit, Oman. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

Digging deeper, you find that if Jebel Jais isn’t the tallest peak, then it is thought to be Jebel Yibir. Jebel Yibir has a military post on top, but has recently been said to be open by Patrick Vijay D’Silva, one of the UAE’s most prolific hikers.

Just in case you want to ascend Yibir, here’s the latest detail. from Wikilocs

When you look up the height or reach the top of Jebel Yibir, you will find it is about 1,527 metres in elevation.

However, looking to the east you will see a peak that appears higher, right on the UAE/Oman border. It is unnamed, but has an official metre high white border marker on its summit as is common, with Oman on one side, and UAE on the other. Like Everest, it sits at the nexus of a mountain range, a peak shared by two countries.

Trail running to the east of Jebel Yibir, headed out for the taller peaks to the east. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

This peak, at location: 25.686337, 56.155915, has regularly registered on multiple GPS and on multiple ascents as being circa 1,582 metres high, well above any other peak in the UAE.

So is this really the highest peak in the UAE?

The border marker atop the tallest peak in the UAE? In the far background left, atop the ridge with the antennae is the summit of Jebel Yibir. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

We had started our climbing of the UAE high points like so many others, with Jebel Jais. We drove the road first, had a very good coffee at the shop, and wandered as far as a sign saying this was it. Which it obviously wasn’t, as there was ground above and behind, still in the UAE, that was higher.

If you need the photo at the tallest point in the UAE, you can get it here. But this is neither the tallest point, or the tallest peak. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

A month later, we hiked all the way from the valley floor, to the rim, then around the sign, past the agriculture farm near the top of Jebel Jais, and followed a smooth stone path beyond it, then past the border marker that indicated we were stepping into Oman. Somewhere along an indistinct ridge was a nondescript pile of rocks that marked the real highest point in the UAE.

Continuing along the trail on the high ridge, we carried on for 15 minutes up to the true summit of Jebel Jais. There were no border posts, people, or barriers to entry. Only the occasional official cement post marked the UAE/Oman border.

From the tallest point in the UAE, on the ridge leading to the summit of Jebel Jais. Quite high up and looking out over the Arabian Gulf, but not a peak and a rather indistinct point. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

A few months later we moved on to ascending Jebel Yibir, having researched the infinitely wise web and finding it listed as the tallest peak. It was variously labeled as a trail, a road and a closed military post, as well as a peak.

We drove up the very steep road (very, very steep; with holes, washouts and toppled over guard rails), past a military checkpoint and gate which the guard cheerily let us through. We parked at a sharp curve of the road before you actually enter the military post.

We then set off trail running, thinking there might be a way up the back or around the side of the peak. It was a beautiful and rather remote area, only a few other trail runners returning to their car did we see all day. We passed a mule driver and his mules, saw birds soaring high along the ridge, a snake crossed the trail rather quickly.

Over the Arabian Gulf, a rather brittle moonscape to pass through and end of day shadows coming into play, best to keep running. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

The trail led east, not up, with easy running on good sandy, rocky tracks up and down through the heights of the Hager (Rocky) Mountains.

We had earlier worked out on a range of maps, from google, to wikiloks trails, to, to, that there might be a higher point along the border, so we headed for that.

The border marker just visible in white atop the peak. Looking Northeast from the trail, over the UAE. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

Soon we crossed into Oman, then back again, and above us we could see a lone white border marker atop the peak. A final steep hike took us up the side and onto the summit. Our respective watches showed 1,582 metres and 1,583 metres. The phone GPS also showed a similar elevation, plus or minus 3 metres.

At this elevation, we were higher than any other known peak in the UAE.

At coordinates: 25.686337, 56.155915, and it being quite prominent, the peak, with a very obvious border marker on top, is not that hard to find.

Waking up on the slopes of the Hagar mountains, 100 metres to climb to the top of the UAE. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

A few months later we returned with a team we were training with for an ascent of Kilimanjaro, camping just below the summit, then going to the top the following day.

Multiple GPS, as well as a full fledged Garmin device, again registered from 1,570 to 1,590 metres, all significantly higher than Jebel Yibir.

Atop the peak, looking over the UAE. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

So is this the true tallest peak in the UAE?

With accurate mapping of the country not publicly available, and digital methods providing a range of heights, perhaps?

But maybe there is another peak, buried along the magnificent Hagar Mountains, that may be taller? In any case, this peak is certainly worth a run or a hike out to.

And if it inspires further exploration or something higher is out there, for the adventurous amongst us always the better.

Right foot in Oman, left in the UAE. Certainly not a first ascent, but until someone comes up with a suitable, Arabic name, hopefully soon, we will just call it Jebel Josephine. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson.
A little Strava data. On our first climb we ran part of the route, so hiking could take a bit longer. There are multiple trails, and lack of trails at times, all part of the adventure.

Signed copies of Nine Lives – Expeditions to Everest are available now from Vertebrate Publishing in the U.K. and for delivery anywhere in the world on Amazon, in print and digital versions. You can also purchase it in French, direct from Editions Paulsen, in print or digitally. Cover Photo: Alex Hillary