Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Climbing in the holy land

Every year our climbing group in Oetztal attempts to go away on a climbing trip together. This year suggestions included Turkey, Oman and Spain. But when Israel became an option, I knew immediately that it would be an experience, impossible to miss. On the 26th of December it was time to go for Stew, Babsy, Kathi, Heiko, Hens, Eli, Gabriel, Kili, Anna and me. We found ourselves at airport Munich terminal 2 F ...a lonely terminal far away from the main airport (reinforced control). After a very thorough check by security we sat on the plan, with travel guides in our hand and minds full of excitement and slight trepidation. This was my first time visiting the middle east and I did not know what to expect, one thing was for sure there will be a lot of sightseeing to do between days on the rock. During the time we spent in Israel, Or Wechsler an Israeli climber, guided us around. He showed us many interesting places. Below I have documented some information from the areas we visited:

Keshet Cave: This was my favorite crag. I climbed in the sector Apollo’s wall where the routes were up to 35m long and slightly till strong overhanging with difficulties ranging from 6a to 8b+. The rock was similar to the most crags we went to, orange limestone. A local told me that this area was only a few month old and climbing was still prohibited due to nature conservancy law.  But since a few month a group of strong Israel climbers try to negotiate with the government to ease this regulations and open up more areas for climbing. 

Ein Fara: This was probably my 2nd best climbing spot. Ein Fara is a beautiful desert oasis close to the historical city of Jerusalem and lies in the beginning of the Judean desert. I was impressed about the amazing rock and technical climbing on the main northern wall (south face). The wall on the other site, sector academy, was unfortunately not as impressive but we still had a good time trying out some of the routes there too.  My favorite in Ein Fara was a crimpy and very technical 7c+ line on the main northern wall.

Gitta: Gitta sector Fuel is the oldest area for hard sport climbing in Israel. Here I probably had my best day of the entire trip. The routes were ones again overhanging and steep, but not as long as in Keshet Cave with the most climbs in the 8a region. I dried a lot of different routes but only manage to climb the interesting route called Cornflake 7c+, but I thoroughly needed the restday after. 

Nezer Cave: This is probably the craziest crag I have ever seen. You enter through a hole in the ground were a massive fig tree grows out and inside you will find the steepest wall in the world, a bloody horizontal roof, hence the name “madness” of one sector. This was an interesting experience and proven my incapability of climbing in overhangs.

Wadi Qelt: This was the first area we went to. It is positioned west of Jerusalem in Palestine. After some entering problems into an israeli settlement for parking we were ready for the mission “climbing in Israel”. After quite some walk we entered the valley wadi qelt. This was a very new crag with still a massive amount of potential. The climbing there was quite similar to Ein Farra north side, just with a sligthly better rock quality.  

We made three visits to Jerusalem and each time we experienced something new. It always feel like traveling back in time. We went to the western wall, shopped in the enormous traditional market, went to the food court, experimented local cuisine and absorbed the atmosphere as much as possible. On our second restday we travelled over 2 hours to the Dead Sea, which was definitely worth the effort! I will never forget the feeling of floating around in the water effortlessly and how much the water stung if a milliliter went anywhere near your eyes. On the second restday (after New Year) we had a day chilling on the beach of Herzilya and a stroll around Tel Aviv. On our third and last restday we visited Bethlehem, where we saw the place of birth from Jesus. But must I was amazed about the wall the Israelis build right through the town. Here the you could feel the tension and conflicts between the Palestine and Israelis the best. All the paintings on the wall talked a strong and true language. Overall it was a bit of a different climbing holiday, beside the surprisingly amazing rock and the so divert landscape we learned about another cultural and religion and what it meant for the people they live there.