Lower nahal Asael
The route type:
The canyon is dry all the year round but be wary about floods during winter rains.
Attention: this route is not on the list of officially allowed rappelling routes. Take it into the account while making your decision.
Drive on road 90 along Dead Sea to Nahal
Mishmar that is between Ein Gedi and Masada.
Between road marks 235km & 234km a side dirt road branches to the west and leads up the wadi of Nahal Mishmar. This dirt road is marked with red marks. There is a night campground 100-200m farther on this road. The safest spot to leave your car is here or near the main road.
Generally speaking, you have 2 options to get to the upper reaches of nahal Asael. The first is fairly straightforward but longer, while another is pretty hard and not so obvious but it is shorter.
1. Via the ascent “Maale Mishmar”. It is the obvious but longer approach. Follow the
nahal Mishmar trail marked with red marks all the way till “Maale Mishmar” and
then ascent to the main plateau. While on the plateau, continue to follow red
marks for 1km or so. The first obvious wadi your trail crosses on the plateau
is nahal Asael. If you have GPS, you can cut directly to point 6 (31°
24' 04.5"N 35° 20' 34.4"E; see the approach map below).
Overall: 7-8km, the height gain 600m, allow 4 hours.
2. Via the ascent “Maale Asael”
(another name: “Maale Sakinei Mishmar”).
It is much more adventurous approach. Take in account that there is a very
faint trail, if any, all the way up (especially in the beginning) so having a
GPS is essential. Leave the nahal Mishmar trail at point 1 (31° 22'
49.6"N 35° 21' 59.3"E),
cross the plain and climb up a loose slope to a big and prominent rujum which
signs the start of the steep ascent (point 2, 31° 23' 20.0"N 35° 21'
32.9"E). The faint trail is present. The steepest part of the ascent
goes along an obvious ridge (sometimes wide, sometimes as narrow as knife –
“sakin”). The point 3 (31° 23' 23.1"N 35° 21' 26.3"E) serves as a
reference. You have to climb grade II rocks in a couple of
places. The ascent ends on a “summit ridge” (point 4, 31° 23' 23.8"N
35° 21' 11.5"E), which leads to the main plateau. While on the
plateau, keep north to the edge of the Asael canyon (point 5, 31° 23'
46.1"N 35° 21' 06.3"E). Then follow the edge of the canyon in the
west direction till point 6 (31° 24' 04.5"N 35° 20' 34.4"E)
where you can easily descent into the canyon close to the first rappelling
spot. Go down the canyon for about 100m till the first rappel.
Overall: 6km, the height gain 600m, allow 3.5-4 hours.
The approach via “Maale Asael” (“Maale Sakinei Mishmar”) ascent:
On the “summit ridge” which leads to the plateau
A view on nahal Asael from the approach
In nahal Asael
There are 4 rappels in this canyon:
R1. 18m (vertical)
There are two expansion bolts with a mailon on the far right. Natural anchoring is possible but be prepared for longer rappel. *
The edge of the main wall is about 150m meters from the foot of the first rappel. There is a small nice arch in between that you should pass through.
The rappelling station R2 is located inside a narrow channel which leads to the edge of the main wall.
R2. 125m (about 80m vertical, then 20m of overhanging which ends on a big terrace, then stepped descent onto the second terrace)
As for now, the station
must be established on natural anchors. The most obvious option: a big lug on the left side. *
The rappel leads to a huge first terrace some 100m below, followed by a stepped descent to the second terrace, where the next station is placed.
It seems pretty obvious that it is possible to set an intermediate station on the first terrace if you haven’t 125m ropes, but we had them and the option is not finally proved…
There are loose rocks on the wall. Be careful while rappelling!
The second terrace is not high, but steep. There is a single expansion bolt with the hanger (“ear”) on the far right.
R3. 6m (vertical)
A single expansion bolt with the hanger.
This step can be down-climbed with a caution. Not recommended for the first.
Walk down the wide canyon through
boulders for 1km. Eventually the canyon narrows and after 50-100m you come to a
dry fall which should be descended by rappelling.
Important: An “escape trail” starts on the right side just before the canyon gets narrow. The trail runs high on the right-hand slopes till the very exit from the canyon.
Walking between the main wall and R4:
R4. 24m (mostly vertical)
There are 2 expansion bolts in left wall near the edge and 2 artificial spits interconnected by a metal cable with a ring for last rappeller. *
Walk for 1km till the exit from the canyon and then cross the plains keeping Sought-East to your car parking spot (another 2.7km).
***** - The only one of its kind. A "must do" trip!
**** - Very interesting, highly recommended!
*** - Pretty nice route.
** - Inexpressive one.
* - Do it if you have nothing to do...