Wadi Walkabout (Part 2)

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For my second weekend of wadi wanderings, I first did a loop hike linking Ein Gedi to Nahal Arugot.

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I had learned about the hike from the ranger I met the previous weekend and it did not disappoint. The hike starts by climbing up the Judean Plateau from the Ein Gedi Field School. As you climb up you get an unobstructed view of both the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi. Ein Gedi canyon is a marvelous hike itself, which you can read about here.

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Laboring my way up the canyon, I arrived at a huge dry fall…

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As I arrived, two big horn sheep scampered off, so I had the place to myself but most importantly I was in shade! The grotto created by the dryfall also had large mudflats created from the last rain.

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As I sat snacking on my PB&J I spotted a thin ribbon ramp that appeared to go to the plateau far above…. I was feeling more adventurous (and lazy because I did not want to hike back to the main trail), so I decided to see where the ramp took me… The hiking was relatively easy going over loose talus and I discovered some interesting flowers covered in bugs and several curious looking fruits (?).

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As I neared the top, the terrain got steeper and steeper and I had to go into climbing mode. The climbing began innocently but as I pushed higher and higher it got more hair-raising… nothing crazy but it was invigorating!!! I was alone and climbing rock more crumbly than coffee cake…

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The most exciting part was near the top… I was climbing a decomposing corner of rock when my right foot cut out and a slab of rock broke off… That being said my hands and left foot were bomber but it did get my heart pumping! Once on the plateau I began hiking south-ish to Nahal Arugot. The cloud cover was very dynamic that day and the terrain was more rolling than Nahal Mishmar the previous weekend.

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After hiking along for an hour or so I came across this sign…

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Hmmm… it is only 700 meters… and I know that mizpe’s are typically craters (e.g. Mizpe Ramon) or viewpoints… intrigued I soldiered on and OMG it was an incredible view!

 

After a late lunch, I studied my map and realized that the canyon I was looking at is Nahal Arugot (i.e. my way out), was over 500 meters (~1,600 feet) below me. The trail down was very improbable and began like this…

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It was a punishing and unrelenting hike down but I emerged into the bottom of Nahal Arugot and relished hiking on level ground. The canyon bottom was teeming with life and there was a beautiful stream flowing through it’s heart.

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Being out of water at this point, I had to use all of my will power to resist taking a refreshing swim… the park closed at 4 p.m. and it was 5 p.m., so I was not sure what would await me when I exited and I did not think getting scolded by the ranger while dripping wet would help my case. Sure enough when I exited, the ranger was right there… he did not even have to speak because his body language said it all… translation… really dude? We have been closed for nearly 2 hours… Why are you still in the park???

After explaining where I was hiking his grimace changed to… well… that face your dad makes when he says not to do it again. A win in my book! After hiking for another 30 minutes on the road I was back at the car! Whew what a day! After collecting myself, I drove to my favorite camp spot – Masada, to settle in for the night… After a couple of beers, some leftover mushroom risotto and tomato cucumber salad I fell fast asleep… and I actually slept this time!

The next day I laced up the hiking boots and threw on my pack for an exploration of Tze’elim Canyon. Kelley and I explored the upper reaches of this canyon, which can be read about here, but today I was approaching from the bottom of the canyon exploring its lower reaches.

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The hike starts as you work your way up this broad valley…

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The canyon was a bit of a tease… giving you these small midget sized slot canyon glimpses of what was to come… but just as quickly as it appeared the slot vanished.

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The canyon also made you earn the right of passage and required some serious scrambling to work your way through house sized boulders…

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And this is how it was for the first hour or so… oscillating between these little slot canyons and house size boulder scrambling… until I entered this…

 

 

The slot canyon was a welcome respite from the bitter sun that was slowly melting my body… After about 30 minutes trudging my way through the twists and turns of the sinuous slot canyon, I emerged into a flat valley and was greeted by this fella…

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He followed me until another house-sized boulder garden began in earnest. I lost the trail for a while and but eventually emerged at this spring…

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Not certain where the trail went, I began to poke around and I found this trail marker…

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Curious, what does this mean??? Do I go to the left or right of the boulder??? Okay both of those paths are blocked… hmmm… do they want me to go under the boulder???!!! Sure enough that was the solution. Oh Israel!!!

After my little caving expedition, I sauntered my way up the mountainside and was rewarded with this lovely view down the canyon.

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I continued up the canyon for a couple of miles and was dazzled (and enticed) by the slot canyon below me…

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After about an hour I got to Naama Pool filled with the evanescent green water.

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This was my cue to turn around but which way to travel??? Two road diverged from a yellow wood desert slot canyon… and sorry I could not travel both… I think I will go with Mr. Frost and take the one less traveled…

 

 

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The slot canyon was spectacular and the walls were slowly growing in height around me as I traveled further into the abyss. Since I had no description, I was not sure what lay around each bend… and sure enough I came across a pool approximately 10 meters in length that barred my progress. I tried to wade through it but it was too deep. I would have to swim across, which was not really an option since I did not have dry bags for my camera equipment. I then searched and found (I thought) a climbing route around the long pool… As I made upward progress on the cliff face I reached a point where I had to perform some tenuous 5th class climbing about 30 feet above the canyon bottom and once through that I discovered that there was not a viable path back down around the pool… S&*T!!! I did not want to down climb what I just climbed up, so I looked around and discovered a crack system that lead further up… after about 30 feet of challenging climbing I was finally out of the abyss… Well that was dumb! Let’s not do that again!

After that point the rest of the day was beautiful but uneventful. I took a high trail out of the canyon and admired the canyon chiseled into the desert.

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Well that’s it for my Wadi Walkabouts! To give you a sense of scale and geography here is a map that highlights each route.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Bob says:

    Wow, Matt, is all I can say! I hiked to the exercise room and did the treadmill, but for me, that was an excursion. Take care. Love, Bob and Zack

    Like

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