Gebel Sirbal (Gebel = mountain, pron. shebel) is located between the Katharina mountains and the Gulf of Suez. Its climb is more difficult and harder than any of the Katharina mountains although its altitude is only 2070 meters. The climb starts at 680 m (most altitudes I mention are my estimates) and the uphill march amounts to 1660 meters. If you start from Cairo or Dahab, which needs an extra 2.5 hours of driving, it does not seem advisable to climb this mountain in one day. Sirbal is difficult to find, you might end on the wrong one: there are 4 Sirbal peaks and only one is the highest. Not before I was on top did I beleive that I was on the hightes one. Cell phones do not work.
Similar to Gebel Musa, Gebel Sirbal is supposed by many to be the mountain where Moses met God. While many Christians think that Gebel Musa was the real mountain, most Jews believe that Gebel Sirbal is more likely to be the place where God appeared to Moses. The Muslims, whose Koran corresponds to the Jewish bible and to the first testament of the Christian bible, do not care: the Moses mountain can be any mountain.
As with any mountain in the Sinai, you need a local Beduin guide. It is advisable to rent an additional guide from a tourist office who organises the trip and understands the Beduin dialect. Even if you speak Arabian, you will most likely not understand the Beduin guide. This guide will do two things for you: find the way and find water. Water is very rare, of course, and water can mean clear running water or it my be water that is located in a whole and does not look inviting. You will still drink it if you have no other choice or if the Beduin guide boils a sweet tea and shares it with you.
We stayed at the Swiss Inn at Dahab mainly for surfing in the Gulf of Aqaba and enquired for this mountain climb. Gebel Sirbal was not offered by any travel office, but we found one who offered us chauffeur with Jeep and an excellent young mountain climber who did some free climbing in the wonderful Sinai mountains. A few things went wrong, so I stick to an ideal version which I recommend and to which I would adhere to if I repeated the climb. Maps that are of any help are not available.
Start from Dahab (or Cairo or any other place) so you reach Markas Feiran before 10 a.m. The Feiran valley is well known for its 12000 palm trees and the Greek orthodox convent that belongs to the St. Katharina. At the west (lower) end of the valley with the palm trees, there is a valley pointing south. Enter with the Jeep for a couple of miles. The end of this road is the starting point for the trip (680 meters a.s.l.). Maybe your travel office can arrange a camel that carries the luggage. If not, then put the rucksack with water bottles on your back and walk for 1.5 hours to a source. This place (1100 m) can be used as a biwouac, which I only recommend if you want to spend three days for the Sirbal. Here the camel trail ends.
There is no trail anymore, but excellent cairn markings. Turn sharp left (east) until you reach the next valley, almost horizontally. In this adjacent valley you will find clean and fresh water at 1250 meter. This place is not suited for biwouac.
A steep valley leads up to a narrow saddle at 1690 meters, which needs easy rock climbing (II). From the saddle climb to the left and down, then up again and reach a flat part with a relatively large tree at 1780 meters. This is an ideal place for spending the cold night. Some water available. From the valley to this place it takes about 4-5 hours. Many Jews believe that this is the place where Moses met God, not on the mountain top. This place can also be reached by camel an a 14 hour ride from south.
Now turn left (east), follow a small path to a saddle and then turn right and climb on easy and wonderful rocks to Sirbal I. 1 hour from the bivouac.
Climbing any mountain in Sinai needs a Beduin guide. If you do not understand the Beduin Arabian dialect (different from high Arabic) you should have an additional guide, who usually speak English and/or German. A driver is usually also necessary to find the road. For instance: for driving from Dahab to Feiran the driver uses a short cut through the desert (no road), which would be very hard to find. It is also very tricky to drive in the sandy desert.
Fees: we (2 persons) paid 230 Swiss francs (ca. $ 180) for driver and 2 guides including water, food, sleeping bag.
When To Climb
We climbed Gebel in December 2003. Very nice, warm at daytime, cold at night. The sleeping bag was built for desert and not for mountaineering. Take warm clothes with you!.
I assume that summer would be too hot.
No huts. Sleeping outside. Hardly any rain. Cold nights. Beautiful sky.
Cell phones do not work. Climb slowly and carefully. An accident up at Gebel Sirbal must be hell. No rescue teams! The Beduin guides are extremely fast and could call for help. But what help. You should discuss such a situation with the travel agent.
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