Member Trip Report

Hike Name: Masada - Snake Path
Country: Israel
Region: Dead Sea
Trip Date: 03/29/1973
Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes
Trail Conditions: Fair
Trail Traffic: Light
Trip Weather: Sunny
Trip Winds: None
Trip Precipitation: None
Trip Temperature: High: Over 100, Low: Over 100 degrees fahrenheit
Trip Report: Thursday, March 29, 1973
I left the Youth Hostel in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City at 630AM and walked through an uncharacteristically quiet Jerusalem to the Egged Bus depot on Ben Yehuda Street. The first bus to the Dead Sea and points south was not to leave until mid-morning, so I had a bit of a wait. The bus made a number of stops in East Jerusalem, Bethel, and Jericho before turning down the west shore of the Dead Sea. At Ein Gedi, an oasis on the Dead Sea, we stopped for about 15-30 minutes in the open air terminal, but at least it was shaded by trees. I exited the bus at the visitor center at Masada where I found it was 105 degrees Fahrenheit -- took my breath away. In the restaurant, I sipped a cold apple juice while considering my alternatives. The Meyer family back on my kibbutz were insistent that I do as the Israelis all do, and hike up the Snake Path. In that heat and without water or hat, I decided that the aerial tram was more like it for me. As I walked to the tram, however, I saw an elderly man and a woman walking across the street from the end of the Snake Path. So, it was to be the Snake Path or die trying.

The path began adjacent to the walls of one of the Roman siege forts across the street from the visitor center. From that vantage point, Masada towered in sun-bleached glory above the wadi -- I must be insane to be doing this -- no shade anywhere, in blistering heat, no hat, no water. At first the trail was a rough climb across a debris slope. Then it started a seemingly endless series of switchbacks, at times less than one foot wide, at other times long sets of steps cut into the rock, especially as it ascended the sheer vertical rock wall near the top. Unfortunately, the steps are irregular in height and width, so it was impossible to set a regular stride. Surprisingly, I made the 2.5 mile hike with 1200' climb in less than an hour.

At the top, the trail goes through a guardhouse, where the Israeli soldier on guard exclaimed something in Hebrew and motioned for me to sit on the bench in his guardhouse. I thought I was in trouble, but it turned out he was alarmed that I had made the ascent without water or hat and was afraid I would pass out from heat stroke. He gave me a bottle of water to drink, and loaned me his soldier hat for the time I was on top of the mountain.

I toured the ruins of the ancient fortress for 2 hours, visiting the palace and sauna at the northend, the synagogue and breach where the Romans battered the wall down in 73 AD, the Byzantine chapel, the storehouses, and the many apartments of the Zealots in the wall along the southend.

The descent down the Snake Path was a lot easier, although still not shaded anywhere. I made it down in about 30 minutes.
Trip Rating: 5 stars

11550 points


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