• Masada
  • 50 m.
  • By the Dead Sea (-390 m), Israel
  • Climbed May 22., 1999.


How to get there: Masada is overlooking the Dead Sea. There are good highways from the central part of Israel.
Route description: There are two trails, one called the Snake Path zig-zags more or less directly up underneath the cable car that transports by far the majority of the tourists. There is a somewhat longer trail that curves around on the northern side (right hand side when viewed from below), this trail is also steep (even some handrails!) in places. It arrives at the back side, the final section being on the big ramp of dirt and rocks built by the Romans in order to conquer the fortifications on the top of the cliff.
Comments: This is the lowest mountain on this list. What justifies an entry is the fact that at only 50 meter of elevation, the vertical drop to its base at the Dead Sea is still about 440 meter. The Dead Sea is the LOWEST place on the planet, so a unique place from where to start a climb.
The top of Masada contains very impressive ruins from the castle. The story of the long Roman siege ending with a mass suicide instead of surrender is very special. Why somebody would ever even consider building a castle and secure years of supplies on such a remote and hostile place, with nothing to protect is even more of a mystery.
We arrived on May 22, in the middle of the day (tourists are supposed to make the climb before sunrise). Israel was experiencing a record setting heat wave, we had about 45 Centigrades that day.
Climbing Masada turned out to run into more hostile buraucrats than in the most "overprotected" US national park. First we were told that the Snake Path was closed due to repair work. When the repair folks would take a break, then the trail was simply closed because nobody could survive hiking in such hot weather. Well, after more research, we finally found an alternate trail around and up on the north side which the officials had more trouble keeping people off. I set out with two big bottles of water and took several rests along the way. Yes, the heat was incredible and one should likely have experience from summer hikes in places like Death Valley in order to do this hike at mid-day in 45 C. After sightseeing the ruins, the return hike down the same trail was quite pleasant, the heat being strongly noticed only on the few small uphills near the end of the hike just before returning to the car parking area.