Point Akev – חוד עקב

This two day trek leads leads to the great Point Akev, a peak overlooking the Negev Dessert. The overall hike itself is moderate to difficult. The main assent is steep, advising caution. An early start, but enough light to see clearly is recommended and be aware of heat and drink plenty of water. The path to Point Akev is long, but not necessarily difficult, while the remainder of the hike is likewise.

We went on the 8th & 9th of June, 2012
Trekking to the top of חוד עקב (Point Akev)
Route includedHavarim river,  Zin river, and Akev spring trails
Trail Map #15, Israel National Trail Maps

Seasons: This hike is best in spring and fall, though can be done any time of the year, beware of extreme heat during the summer. Also note that the Negev has chances of flash floods during the winter rains.

Water: At the second day you will come to a spring but the water is not that good for drinking. The desert is unpredicatable. You are better off packing for two days, plus emergency.

Camping: You are allowed to camp only at the marked sites when hiking towards Point Akev. You must reach them an hour prior to sunset.

Car:  If you have one, it is best left behind the gate at the Ben Gurion Field School.

Trail Directions:

Day 1

Stopping, we waited for the rocks to settle, the mixture of sand and dirt that had formed small clouds around our feet to dissipate, and simply stood there. My breathe sounded like a storm over the wind, and I let it get caught in my chest for a minute – holding it as I listened. Listening to the wind ripple through the Zin Valley, across the yellow rocks and empty water bead; the only sound as the ibex stood idle overhead, watching our passage.

IMG_5951

There is a silence, where the world is so quiet it is too loud for your ears. Where everything is so empty that it feels whole. We were alone in a dessert, walking with our fourteen liters of water, food, coffee grounds, pot, gas burner, sleeping bag, and tent all shoved into our packs.

Walking through silence

Walking through silence

After an hour napping, on the grass under the tree at Ben Gurion’s Field School we had started out. The heat of the day was dying down, with the sun still overhead in the sky. We walked out of Ben Gurion Field School and continued down the highway (left hand turn onto the highway from the school’s main entrance road) for an approximate 2 km until you come to the sign for Nahal Havarim (blue trail marks will continue through the riverbed).

Meandering the river trail is gorgeous, even in its common, waterless state. The rocks are hues of yellow sandstone, which in time opens up to the expansive dessert valley. After 2 km the blue trail ends at a paved road. The road continues to the east, with three trails intersecting at this location. The blue trail that you have just arrived from, the red trail which you will now take, and the green trail you will arrive back on tomorrow.

Take the red trail for 4 km. At the fork, take a left following the blue trail for another 1 km, and then a right hand turn onto the green trail (another jeep road). Along the green trail, near the base of Point Akev there will be large square area for camping.

During our walk down the red trail, the park ranger at the intersection warned us that we are supposed to be settled into the campground one hour before sunset. We were given two options: an offer to let us hike to the nearest campground or give us a ride the 2 kilometers left of our hiking trail to the base of  חוד עקב (Point Akev), where we would set out from come morning. We choose the ride, throwing our packs into the truck bed and hopping in the back. We were quickly on our way, bouncing down the Jeep path over the rocks, with a constant workout for the suspension.

Once at camp, we met our bunk mates for the night. More accurately, we walked past the mid-size group that was already starting to build their fire, to our corner of the world. And went about making tea, which was followed by a dinner of humus and pita, cucumber salad, and dried fruits.

The stars that night were spectacular. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. I wished upon the comet as it shot by over head. And then laid, watching the satellites slowly creep across the sky, a visual impact of just how far the human world reaches. The stars glimmer, against the dark night, showing just how much we do not understand or even know.

Day 2

We woke up at 3:40 AM to find the world in a mist of fog, and curled back up inside the tent. At first light the fog burned off and we were packing our tent away. Eating an apricot, we walked down the Jeep track the 200 meters to the path. Cutting straight across the desert, no true trail, just red and white markers ever 100 meters or so, we made our way to the base of the mountain.

With a 557 meter climb ahead of us, we set out. Keeping steady footing, we made our way up to the top, climbing the rock face in its twisting trail; half trail and half climbing. Two thirds of the way up the sun peaked out of the horizon, and what had moments ago been a light blue sky filled with a warm light, had turned into a world of bright yellows and reds. The sun had awoken, and with it the world.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Growing light

Growing light

The tail up Point Akev

The tail up Point Akev

Point Akev with the moon overhead

Point Akev with the moon overhead

We reached the top shortly after. A few renditions of the Lion King’s “aud-invenda-vedigichi-levegichi-avo-oo-ah-yayyya….” and we set about to making breakfast. I made do with slightly warm green tea, since using the burner on the top of the peak quickly proved to be a waste of gas, as we had it shoved against a small rock mound with Tzachi on one side and a pack on the other. Along with a little cheese, whole wheat bread, fresh cucumber salad (some how the tomato did not get smashed), and the leftovers from our dessert last night – toasted walnut granola bars with flambéed cherries (I had made them the previous day, in anticipation of our hike).

From the peak, we hiked down the other side of the mountain, across a ridge line, and into the river valley to a natural oasis. A large date tree stood tucked away in the corner of the valley, wedged against the cliff line that had been worn away by past rains and floods. We stopped here for an hour, dipping our feet into the cold water, enjoying the shade, and then setting about making coffee. Coffee and fresh cherries, and an hour rest of skipping stones on the small pool, listening to the birds sing, and the dragon flies dance (and swatting at flies) refortified us. And we were on our way, determined to be back at the field school before the worst of the day’s heat hit, at high noon.

Oasis

Oasis

Hidden in the desert

Hidden in the desert

Out of the oasis and across the dessert ridge, we hiked the last kilometers back to the parked car throuh Ma’ale Divshon (marked in green trail mark). Ending a beautiful hike, we left the serenity of the dessert and headed back to metropolitan Tel Aviv. Stopping for a much needed ice coffee along the way.

 

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