St Katherine’s protectorate is a 5,750 Km² national park, which has the city of St. Katherine at it’s center. Surrounded by mountains, the city makes an excellent base in which to stay and explore.
We have included guides to routes on four of the closest mountains to the city.
Two hours drive from Dahab is the picturesque village of St Katherine. The trad climbing here is some of the world’s finest, but remains relatively unknown with much still to be discovered. There is plenty of scope for new routing and for the more adventurous, camel trips deep into the desert will reveal huge areas of virgin rock.
Much like the whole of the Sinai, at first glance the rock appears loose and crumbly, but look closer and see excellent lines all around you.
Up in St Katherine the Israelis and Russians were the earliest explorers, they have documented most of their routes on www.sinaiclimb.h12.ru and www.israelalpine.org. Take these with a pinch of salt however, as some appear to have been described (and graded) without them having actually been climbed! Dave Lucas is the current expert on the area. He lived there for a few years and ran many trips out to explore and document new areas (around 180 new routes, and 250 boulder problems!).
This large mountsain has so far the largest number of routes logged on it and is easy to access.
Jebel Fara is the middle of the three main (climb-able) mountains on the south side of St Katherine village
Jebel Rabba is the mountain at the Southern end of the valley in which the village lies
St Katherine is on the ‘tourist trail’, thanks to the 6th century monastery and popular trips up Mount Sinai (or Moses Mountain), making getting here very easy.
A twice daily bus service - the Bedouin Bus - leaves from Dahab and costs 45LE each way. It picks up from various local hotels and camps (the final pick ups are 8am and 4pm from Sheikh Salem House). Return is from Bedouin Camp in St Katherine at 1pm and 7pm. The bus service ask that you are at the hotel/camp no later than 20 minutes prior to your departure time. An excellent service that gives 10% of your fare to a local school in St Katherine as well as rebuilding the Bedouin settlements in the mountains.
Alternatively, a private car costs around 200LE each way, but can then be used in St Katherine to take you directly to the foot of the mountains. Ensure you either book a return trip, or if taking a taxi from St Katherine, that they have the correct license to take you through the check points all the way to Dahab.
Ensure you have your passport to hand as you pass though the checkpoints and that you have the correct visa (the $15 Full Egyptian Visa you can buy at the airport covers you for 30 days). You will also need to buy an entrance pass, $3 from the final checkpoint before St Katherine.
The routes are spread around the village, and getting to the foot of the climbs varies from 10 minute strolls, to 2 hour scrambles & 3 day camel trips!
The best time to go to St Katherine is September to May, although it is possible to climb year round if you can stand the heat, and choose your climbs carefully. St Katherine is generally around 10 degrees cooler than Dahab due to the altitude (1500m), and gets very cold at night; even in early April a down jacket is desirable, and in mid-winter it’s a necessity. A soft-shell also comes in handy to climb in the cooler months.
As most of the climbs are full day climbs it is difficult to get out of the sun at midday, so it’s advisable to stay fully covered unless very used to the sun, it’s still deceptively strong here.
There are plenty of camps and hotels in St Katherine, from around 35LE for a basic room with shared bathroom, to 100 euro for an air-conditioned hotel room with pool.
Moonland Camp is in the perfect position at the base of Jebel Safsafa and Jebel Fara. They have a large dining room and kitchen. A dormitory room costs around 35-45 LE per night.
This is an incredibly remote area and with no good maps it is very easy to get lost. A guide is compulsory when heading out of the mountains surrounding the village, although it is recommended to have one even on the local routes. The guide doesn’t have to climb with you, but if you indicate the top of the route he will meet you at the top and guide you down (often the hardest part of the day!).
When you are looking for a guide, be sure to say that you are climbers, as a few of the guides are especially good with climbers. They can organize your permissions, as well as buy and prepare all of your food - and there is nothing better than getting to the top of a route to be greeted with a cup of Bedouin tea, a fire and a meal!
Most of the descents can be done hiking, but a few need abseils so take plenty of tat. Take enough supplies with you to last the day, at least a couple of litres of water and a head torch. The latter is essential, even if you’re not planning on descending in the dark - remember dusk is short, and darkness falls quickly here.
A helmet is also recommended, it’s very easy to kick down loose rock onto people below you.
Near St Katherine mobile reception is excellent, but it drops off to nothing as you head further into the mountains, so a satellite phone is useful. There is no mountain rescue in the area, and the nearest large hospital is Sharm el Sheikh, so you must ensure you are self sufficient.
As before, standard ethics apply here. There is NO bolting allowed in St Katherine National Park.
The grades listed here are French and UIAA grades, and are approximate. As in Dahab, if you put up a new route and have any notes please let us know so we can include it for others. The routes were first published on www.sinaiclimb.h12.ru, and only routes we have checked have been included here.