Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Monday 12th January 1942

Today visibility was not good, but it was still warm and sunny. We decided to examine the great wadi which runs into the base of the Mount of Temptation (it's geographical name is Mount Quarantana).

We reached the wadi bed fairly easily and walked inwards. Gradually the wadi deepened until the sun was shut out and gloomy walls rose on two sides of us. Far above us in the sunshine, we could sometimes see the monastery. From this angle it seemed even more crazily perched on nothing.

We tried to climb the slightly lower mountain to the left (i.e. the south) of Quarantana but our first attempt failed. It ended at the top of a great ravine about 150 feet from the bed of the wadi. Here it was dank and sunless; sheer walls rose about 30 feet on three sides and the forth side was the mass of loose rocks up which we'd scrambled. We went down some way and found a path which ran out above the ravine to the right and beyond our sight. We ambled along this and it brought us to a steep but quite climbable scree slope.

At the top of this on the edge of a shoulder but still below the level of the monastery we had a pretty dizzy view. Three lumps of mountain with the U-shaped great wadi driving into the rock at our feet. We went on into the sun, away from the precipice up good rocky slopes with sound hand-holes (The one who carried the pack needed some hand-holes to help himself along, too!)

We spread our lunch on the lee and sunny side of a rock wall, upon a flat slab. We were hungry and fortunately had a hotel lunch with us – meat sandwiches, bananas, oranges, cakes – and of course our standard ration of chocolate and water. Subsequently I had a pipe. Players Medium Mixture. It tasted fine; think I'll stick to that instead of Waverly, after the war.

We reached the summit – a steady, easy scramble – only 20 minutes after leaving our resting-place; we hadn't thought it was so near. The plain was rather misty from here, but the high ground around us was clear enough. We were a little below the level of the ruins on Quarantana. We had a discussion about the height of these mountains. Jack modestly estimated them at less than 1000 feet but I pointed out that average climbing time is a thousand feet per hour (“Not for rope work of course” I added sagely, as though I'd seen a rope, which I never have!) and we'd been climbing nearly three hours.

Reference to the map – a very poor one – showed we were somewhere near the contours “above 300m.” and “above 600m.” but there didn't seem any ground much higher to our west so we were probably more than 600 metres, say 2000 feet above sea level. We then found that the Dead Sea is 1280 feet and Jericho 820 feet below sea level, so that we'd probably climbed nearly 3000 feet from the bed of the wadi.

Having settled this, Jack surveyed a route down. The one eventually chosen was an excellent one for descent, with some scree slopes down which one could safely slide, and we reached the plain, about a mile south of the wadi, very rapidly.
We both agreed that the ascent and descent were routes which were worth inclusion in “The Rock Climber's Guide to Palestine,” if such a booklet had existed.

Feeling fit and well pleased with our day, we returned to the hotel and had cake and a large pot of tea in the garden. Jack read “Rogue Herries,” I read a Zane Grey “western” and in between whiles we watched two cats at play.

There's good grub here, plenty of green stuff and potatoes; the complete change of diet is doing us both good, especially Jack, whose insides were a bit crook at first.

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