Mt Arif & Mt. Carcom

 

Lotz’s Cisterns to Mt. Arif & Mt. Carcom

טיול ד’ – מתחילים בבורות לוץ. 5 ימים. מעלה ערוד, קניון הפריזמות, בארות עודד, הר עריף, הר מיכאל, באר כרכום והר כרכום,
נחל כרכום ונחל צניפים עד לבאר עדה וצומת ציחור. בעייתי עם מים. אופציה להאריך את המסלול לטובת תספוק בבסיס בהר שגיא.

Duration 3.5 days

Distance – 47 km

Difficulty – Difficult

Start – Lotz’s Cisterns

End – Mt. Carcom, Road #

Nearset towns – Mitzpe-Ramon,
Be’er-Sheva

Transport – bus, hitchhiking

Preferred season – oct-april

Preface

Of all the less travelled regions of Israel, this is almost certainty the most beautiful of all! If you ask any Israeli (even most of the hikers) how many Makhtesh’s (special craters, see glossary) are in Israel he’ll answer 3 – the Big, Small and Ramon. Just a few know that there are two more, small, beautiful and special Makhtesh’s, hidden in this less-travelled region. The whole region, serves as a big nature reserve.

The Second  highlight of this trek is Mt. Karkom. Except for having the extraordinary shape of a huge and high  plateau in the middle of this different area, the mountain was also very holy for the cultures who lived here more than 3,500 years ago, and served as a place of worshiping. Numerous rock paintings are scattered all over the mountain, as well a very interesting stone temple and other interesting pre-historical sites. Professor Emanuel Anaty of the TLV University, recognizes Mt Karkom with the bibilical Har Sinai (Sinai Mount) where the Torah, the first part of the bible was given to the people of Israel in a most extraordinary event. More info at the end.

Planning

  • First of all, do not panic !  Planning this trek might get  a little complicated, so, we’ve tried to collect and concentrate all the info, contacts and tips you’ll need here. Our recommendation is first to read all this section till it’s end, and then, depending on your time, money and passion for adventures, decide what will feet you. Please feel free to write or call us, It is our pleasure to assist you.
  • It is important to know that except for being a nature’s preservation area, it also  serves as a big air force training area. This data is important for two reasons : you can hike here only in 3 specific times of the year, and you should not go off trail in this area!
    Do not get worried, though!
      It’s not like we’re sending you to hike in a minefield !  It’s just that basic precautions should be practiced.
  • Best Times to Trek : This extraordinary walk is usually open  only in 3 Jewish holidays : Sukot, Khanuka & Passover. The best thing to do is just send us an e-mail about when that happens exactly…
  • Access town: The easiest option is probably leaving from Be’er-Sheva, where you can easily supply very close to the CBS. Another option is the nearby much smaller (but special) town of Mitzpe Ramon. It’s an interesting place, with a unique atmosphere, as well as a very interesting Dancing & Acrobatics school, which you might find interesting.
  • As the end of the trek is well far off any settlement, and close to the border with Egypt, you should put some thought into which direction you decide to go:
    1. Start from North (Lotz’s Cisterns) and walk south to Mt. Karkom. Then you should either try to hitchhike with 4X4 vehicles back into civilization. On one hand, this is a bit risky. On the other hand, as the area is opened only a few times a year, it is usually packed with jeeps, and it is relatively safe to count on it, during those times.  If this sounds too complicated, write us, and we’ll try to help specifically.
    2. Start from south (Mt. Karkom) and walk north. In this case, you spend the first day on getting to Mt. Karkom, either hitchhiking or by renting someone (more info ahead…), and finish the trek on the northern road between Ha’rokhot Crossroad (צומת הרוחות, the crossroad of the winds) and Mt. Sagi. Not exactly the TLV-Jerusalem Highway, to say the least, but still it is easier and safer to hitchhike from here.
  • Water and Supply Forting
  1. If the winter was generous –  maybe you won’t need water at all, as the Oded’s wells (5) at the end of the first day and the Gevim (water-impermeable chalk-make river-beds where water is gathered through the winter, see glossary) west of Mt. Arif  may be full. Contact the INPA Ranger (contacting info is attached below) for the most updated information.  This water is usually of excellent quality, but most people prefer to purify them still, using Chloride or Iodine.
  2.  Orgenized Water Forting – Having said that, sometime a good option will be starting the trek on it’s Southern end (option B, above), with a 10 km. lift from the Border road straight to Mt. Karkom (See topographic map below). This can be easily arranged (for a not so pricy fee) from Mitzpe-Ramon (Visitor’s center and field school contacts are below). A good option will be to ask the same guy who we’ll take you there to fort some water and supply for you, on the same day (See the below “Water and supplies Forting” section).
  • Getting There & Away
    1. Public Transportation: The starting point of the trek, Lotz’s Cisterns ( (1) in the Topo. Map ), is on a road # 171, between Harukhot Crossroad ( (צומת הרוחות) which is right next to the IDF’s Officers School, Ba’had Ekhad (בה”ד אחד, בי”ס לקצינים) ) and Kharif Crossroad, an “at-the-end-of-the-world” crossroad near an IDF outpost, close to the border. A few busses stop there, but the most useful is :
      1. 60 – leaves from Be’er-Sheva’s CBS, about twice an hour, stops at Harukhot Crossroad, and then goes on to Mitzpe Ramon.Th The exact time table is in bus.co.il. (look for the small “English/beta” blue button at the left-upper part of the web-page). It takes about an hour. The First bus leaves around 06:00 (depending on the season) and the last around 23:00.

      All hours are due to changes through the season and should be reconfirmed at a CBS, by phone or online thourhg either : http://www.egged.co.il/Eng/ OR http://www.bus.co.il/ (the english button is on the left)

    2. Road Map in English :

    3. Private Lift to Trek’s Starting point: As mentioned before, hiring someone to drop (fort) fresh water and supplies for you in the various camping sites, might be a good idea. If you’re 4 people, the price will be divided among you and might get down to 150 NIS per person. A similar option will be hiring someone to take you in his Jeep through the trail, fort the water yourself, and finally be dropped at Mt Karkom – and then walk north… we’ve included a small list of field-services providers here. All speak English.

    4. Help from 4X4 Drivers – it is now accepted to ask jeep drivers, through their communities’ websites to drop the supply for you, as a favor, while travelling in this area. We know this might sound a bit awkward, but since the area is hiked in specific times each year, and since people are glad to simply help, you can post a massage in Jeepolog webite’s forums, with your email and ask for help. As the website is written in Hebrew, you can ask an Israeli you’re staying with (or us) for help in posting the massage.
    5. Hitch-hiking:  To be honest, the last time I hiked this path, we did it hitchhiking only. As mentioned before, in Passover & Khanuka, the area is busy with jeeps, which makes it way easier. We took a ride from Harukhot Crossroad to Lotz’s Cisterns, walked the 3 days south, and then picked a great ride with a group of older people who took an organized jeep trip. But, if you count on that, calculate your food and Water for an extra day!Anyway, a smart thing to do is to call the local ranger (contacts below) and ask him:
      1. For how long is it is allowed to hike.
      2. Is there any permanent ranger presence at the base of Mt. Karkom (it is usually there in those times !).
      3. Does he know any specific group of hikers \ jeep-men that would likely like to help.
      4. Can he help out in dropping water for you at the camp sites (this is also accepted, depending on the mood of the ranger).
    6. Where to stay \ Eat :

    • On the way In:

      1. You can spoil yourself very nicely on the Natural thermal baths in Ne’ve Midbar (נווה מדבר ( just on the road from Bash (Hebrew acronym for Be’er-Sheva) to Sde Bokker. Ask the driver of bus # 60 to be dropped-of at Tzomet Mash’abei Sa’de ( צומת משאבי שדה ) and walk or hitch the last 1.5 kms to the turning point left (south) to the thermal baths.
      2. You can eat in Bash in various restaurants, on all levels. Just step 300 m of the CBS. Saba Jepetto is one of our favourites (Rasko St. 109, Bash, other side from the court hosue). For a complete review of Sleeping & Eating in Bash see the dedicated page.
      3. Mitzpe Ramon – is of course another option. Here you can stay in the Adama dance school (also have a camping ground and a great B&B). Adama is a very special place, and well worth checking and even spending a night or two, if you have the time. The HI Hostel offers all you’ll expect in an HI Hostel, and might supply useful information. The SPNI Field School -HAR HA’NEGEV SPNI FIELD SCHOOL (Mitspeh Ramon 30600, Israel, Tel: 972 8-658-8615/8616 Email: [email protected]) is more pricy, but has a professional crew that might help with useful information, or, if you’d like to hire some professional guidance.
  • Supplies
    Note :Be’er-Sheva is the main base for trekking in the south. Being that, we wrote a whole dedicated part covering all you need in Be’er-Sheva. Therefore, there is little written here. For full info, check Be’er-Sheva – General Info.
  • Supermarket : There’s a full supermarket just across the street from the CBS (just walk across the Train station and it there) where you can buy about all you need. Gas is available at Lametayel (see Be’er-Sheva’s dedicated part for maps and info) and gasoline for liquid fuel is available at the gas station infront of the CBS.
  • ATM’s :There is an ATM (“Kaspomat” in Hebrew) at the entrance to the CBS. This are also available today in many gas stations.
  • What to eat and how to pack in the desert (link)
  • Water : There are no permanent water refilling points on the way, so water must either carried with you (about 4 Lt. per hiker per day for an experienced hiker, in normal (not extreamly hot) weather). The other option, which is getting more popular with the very growing popularity of the INT[2], is forting water.

    Water Forting
    is done by hiring a local Field Services Provider (list included), typically a nice guy with a pickup truck or a 4X4 who works with travelling agencies, who will leave water and dry food for you, in an agreed hided location close to or at the camping ground. This way the supplies and water wait for you there, saving you the efforts of carrying it on your back the whole time. The prices varies between 200-400 NIS, depending on various factors. Hiking in a group of 3 or 4 is therefore strongly recommended, reducing both the weight on your back as well as the economic price. It is of course much safer. Groups are spontaneously arranged in Bash at the beginning of weeks, around the Monday Briefing in Bash. Use the massage board to find other companions.
  • Another great way to solve the water problem is contact the relavent field schools in advance (2-3 weeks) and ask if there are any organized trips to the relavent area. If there is, using their logistics will usually be easy, and many times free or very cheap.
  • Relevant Phone numbers:
  1. Park Rangers :
    Yossi Sinai – 057-7762177 – Ein Akev (day 1 ).
    Makhtesh Ramon – Ben Drori 057-7762074
    Southern Negev Mountians – Nimrond Ben Ha’aron – 057-7762069
  2. Field School[3] (NPS): Sde Bokker Field School (Day 1 ) 08-6532828. Khatzeva Field School (Days 2-3 ) 08-6581546
  3. Emergency : The local S&R unit are contacted through the park rangers.
  4. Cellular Covrage : there is reasonable cellular covrage during the first day. When you start to go down from Ramat Ovda to Ein Shaviv, the reception goes down, and from here on, reception is available only in high peaks

The Route

  • Starting and ending Points (Can be switched) :
    Start Point
    : (1) is on the 171 road, (162.362, 490.547), where the blue marked trail head south of the asphalt road.
    Ending Point : Either the camping ground at the base of Mt. Karkom, or the border road where the trail from Mt. Karkom meets it.
  • Note : It is not allowed to be around the border at night. You will not be shot of course, but a patrol will be sent to you, as hundreds of work-u
  • immigrants from Africa are crossing this border into Israel each month.

–      Day 1 – from Lotz’s Cistern to Oded’s Wells

15.5 km

800 meters north, along the blue marked trail, are the lotz’s Cisterns, where you can take a great bath. Take a look at the photos to get the idea… After we dress up, we’ll head south back to the main road, locate the signs that point south, labeled blue (white-blue-white…). From here there are two options. One is following the marked blue trail south (it will curve east after about 2 Km.) and walk on it for 14 Km. until the camping site (5) near Oded’s Wells (6). The second option is making a short detour – From the Starting Point (1) through Mt Ramon (2), the highest point in the area. The trail is marked Red in the field,  And we’ve painted it purple on our map.  The summit can make a great location  for a breakfast or a coffee break, and you can stumble the last two hundred meters off trail (we are not in a preservation area, so this is completely allowed ) and sit right on the edge of the huge Ramon Makhtesh and enjoy this unique view. Watch the photos !. if you choose the second option, you can return to the main road by walking south, downhill, from  Mt. Ramon, and meet the blue marked trail.
This way or the other, great views to the Makhtesh are available through the first 7 Km. of the day. After about 7 km. the trail winds south and leaves the Makhtesh. We’ll walk it for another 5 Km. until the bifurcation point (5) with the red marked 4X4 trail that goes south. From here you can either go on the blue marked trail straight to the camping site (5, yellow pentagon on our map), leave your heavy backpacks here and walk to Oded’s well to fill your water. Refer to the “Trekking in the desert” section for basic rules of behavior In the camping ground.

–      Day 2 – from Oded’s wells to Mt. Arif & Khispass.  

19.5 km

Today is going to be a long day, so wake up early. We set off south along the short green marked trail (again, it’s always white-color-white… so here will be white-green-white… J ) pass the wells (fill up water again)  and then a short segment of a black marked trail. Both are 4X4 trails. From the Wells, we’ll leave the 4X4 trails for the expensive jeeps, and head on south, uphill on the green-marked walking-on-two trail. We’ll cross two desert channels (dry wide streams) until we’ll get to the beginning on the ascent to mt. Arif . This is a good point to drink some water, take off some extra cloths (it’s going to be hot walking uphill) and tie your shoes…  The way up is about 1.5 Km, and the height gradient is about 250 m. Making it to the top, you first see the big oval makhtesh (southern one) in front of you. You can then drop your heavy backup here (at the meeting of the green and blue trails), take some water, a snack, your camera and something with long sleeves and head up for the summit itself. From there you’ll see the second, perfect round makhtesh, as well as magnificent views in all direction. If the visibility is reasonable, you’ll probably see all the way to Jordan, so the far away mountains are Edom Mountains in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

When you decide to head down, just follow the blue marked trail down along the ridge. After 1,200 the trail goes into the canyon. While going down the canyon, two canyons join the main canyon, both from the north (your right). On the second canyon (8a) there’s a great Gev, which is usually full after a good winter. It will make for a VERY refreshing bath here. And if it’s empty, don’t be sad, there are plenty of other nice attractions here… J eventually we make it to the bottom of the trail, where the canyon meets the small Ma’or stream. A good area to look for water (mainly for drinking, as there are no Well in the next camping site. Again, the park ranger will be able to tell you exactly if there any or not) is at this stream, some 200-300 meters  east along it. If you’d like to make this a short day, there is a camping site (11) another Km west. If not, like we recommend,  head south along the black trail which joins the green  4X4 trail. It will wind south-east for almost 2 Km. then (12a) we leave the 4X4 and again head south on a hiker’s black marked trail, that will take us all the way to Mt. Khispas –  Another 3.5 Km and a short escalation at the end. Mt Khispas has some very interesting treasures in it – including the Jaws of an ancient Shark. The geology is interesting and you can leave your pack and explorer around. From here to the camping site is only one last lag. You can try to luck with the big Gev’s in the creek (17) that comes down from Mt. Michael (The Gev is off trail, inside a creek, but this is not a nature reserve, so feel free…). The black trail will take you along the last 4.5 Km to the camping site at Karkom Well (usually empty, ask the ranger) (18).

 

–      Day 3 – to Mt. Karkom !

~11 km

Some people will prefer to leave a whole day for exploring Mt. Karkom. Being an extraordinary high flat mountain, It served as a ritual place some thousands of years ago, and many interesting signs were left around. There a link below for some detailed info on the mountain itself only, so we’ll focus on the way to get there.
from the Camping site at Karkom Well, we’ll take the black hikers trail that heads east-east-south. After 1.5 Km the trail reaches the bottom of the ridge, and head straight up. From here on, beautiful views east can be seen. Then we follow the trail, on the ridge, for another 4 Km, through the very deep geological fissure (20) into the big plateau of Mt. Karkom. Here there are many options, and you should read the extra info below. The Chalcolithic Temple, that’s make of stones where were carried from far away in on the east side (21). Lots of Gev’s where you can bath and rest for hours, are the upper part (22) of the stream that goes down. The summit (24) is also beautiful… Take your time…

At the bottom of the Mountain (23) Is the camping site. In holidays, this will be the right place to catch a ride out of the area. Also, in many cases, there is a deputy-ranger here, that can help you if you need.

If, and only If, you get stuck  with no water and food, and there is nobody around (and this is not very reasonable scenario usually) you can walk the  9 km to the border road. The next military patrol will pick you up (he must) and drop you at Kharif Junction, near the IDF outpost there.

 

–      History :  On researcher, Professor Emanuel Anaty of the TLV University, identifies Mt. Karkom as the biblical Mt. Sinai, where the ten commandments and the  Torah, the first part of the Bible (the old testament)  was given. Though this theory is not very common among researchers, it is very interesting to read the relevant chapter in Exodus while on the mountain. The Scene was an extremely epic one…

o    http://www.2008-paris-conference.org/mapage8/mount-horeb-1-.pdf

o    http://ancientneareast.tripod.com/Mount_Har_Karkom.html

o    http://www.bible.ca/archeology/bible-archeology-exodus-mt-sinai-mt-har-karkom.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exodus:_A_Journey_to_the_Mountain_of_God

–      Bible

–  Connection to the next Trek –

o   From the end of the trek you can pick a ride either to Be’er-Sheva – where all the options are open, are to the much closer town of Mitzpe-Ramon. From here you can take the Beautiful walk of East Ramon Mt. Trek – definitely one of my favorites.

o   You can head for some real hardcore desert trekking to the Ein Um Tzalakh spring in the Central Negev Mt Trek. the starting point for this long & Beautiful walk is in Midreshet  Sde Bokker (David Ben Gurion’s tomb is near) which is 20 minutes away in a car.