High Mountain Region
The High Mountain Region is an area of high peaks around the town of St Katherine. The name’s a bit misleading in the sense it suggests this is THE region ie- the ONLY REGION – with high mountains in the Sinai. It isn’t; others have them too. They’re just clustered together in a small, well-defined area here. Most are red rock giants with smooth cliffs and big dome-like summits, like Jebel el Ahmar in that photo above. A few others are black rock mountains: usually with more jagged, pyramid-like peaks. This is the most fabled part of the Sinai, home to famous peaks like Mount Sinai and Jebel Katherina. Away from these though, there are stil little-trodden summits to explore.
Here’s a list of mountains in the area. Soon, you’ll be able to click on each one to go through to a blog post. Right now, I’m still building the list; going through old notes, writing it up, and making the blog. But it’s all on the way.
JEBEL KATHERINA This is Egypt’s highest peak at 2642m and a chapel stands on the summit, where it’s said angels carried the body of St Katherine, after she was killed in Alexandria. It’s holy ground for Christians and it has some of the Sinai’s best views, looking out to both Africa and Asia.
JEBEL MUSA Known as Mount Sinai in English, this is one of the world’s holiest peaks. It gets hundreds of visitors every day, with most following one of two tourist routes to the top; the Camel Path or the 3,750-step Stairway of Repentance. There are much better ways though…
JEBEL EL OJAR A high peak north of St Katherine and one of the most little-trodden summits in the region. It gazes out to Jebel Katherina, Jebel Musa and other famous peaks and has a beautiful panorama to the high plateau of Hadabat el Tih: the Biblical Wilderness of the Wanderings.
JEBEL SUNA A neghbouring peak of Jebel el Ojar, this towers high over the Bedouin hamlet of Kharazeen and is a brilliant viewpoint for the Monastery of St Katherine, which appears opposite, in a deep valley, at the foot of Mount Sinai. There’s an easy a scramble up the last summit crags.
JEBEL BAB EL DUNYA This stands on the very edge of the High Mountain Region and it means Door to the World. It looks over the Gulf of Suez to Egypt’s Red Sea Mountains and there’s a small spring and a ruined Byzantine chapel at its foot. Getting to the top involves a short scramble.
JEBEL EL DEIR This towers over the Monastery of St Katherine; a mass of rugged crags and big, rounded pinnacles. It’s a little trodden peak scattered with Byzantine ruins but there are no good trails and it involves scrambling from the start, the best route going up a ravine on the west face.
JEBEL UMM ALAWI A high, outlying summit of the High Mountain Region, this stands in the zone where the Sinai’s rugged highlands break down into the lowlands. It looks out over the Plain of Sened, where huge rocks were once painted blue to honour the Egypt-Israel peace deal.
JEBEL EL AHMAR Meaning the Red Mountain, this is one of the highest peaks near St Katherine. It has brilliant views to Mount Sinai and the north face of Jebel Katherina and you can couple an ascent with a visit to Jebel Rabba: its slightly smaller, but equally worthwhile, sister peak.
JEBEL HADANA This is a little-trodden peak in the same chain of mountains as Jebel Umm Alawi. Its summit looks out over the Plain of Sened: the other way, you can gaze all the way up Wadi el Sheikh; the long, wadi that leads to St Katherine. It’s an easy climb with bits of scrambling.
JEBEL MADSUS A high peak beyond Jebel Bab el Dunya. From some angles it looks an easy prospect; from others, a steeper pyramid. It invovles a long walk-in from St Katherine and there’s tricky routefinding through high crags; with walking and climbing on loose, broken ground.
JEBEL ZIBB RUBI A high, upstanding pinnacle, this is one of the Sinai’s most little-trodden peaks. It looks over Naqb el Hawa, the wadi through which pilgrims once approached the Monastery of St Katherine. It’s a scramble almost all the way; first up a ravine, then over exposed crags.
JEBEL TARKIBA A short ascent with bits of both scrambling and rock climbing. It stands on the high edge of Wadi Nugra, a deep gorge that cuts out of the highlands; and has brilliant views over the lowlands. Jebel Banat is a neighbouring peak and Jebel Zibb Rubi is close too.
JEBEL SAFSAFA Meaning ‘Mountain of the Willow’ this is Mount Sinai’s sister peak. It’s a beautiful red rock summit that some believe is the real spot where Moses spoke with God. To get to the very top, there’s a short traverse of a ledge that overlooks a deep drop.
JEBEL RUBSHA A twin-peaker next to St Katherine, this is an easy climb. From the top you can look directly down on the town, which always looks good at night. From the other peak you can see the Plain of El Raha where it’s said the Israelites camped during The Exodus.
JEBEL SERU The high point of a mountain chain that divides two of the region’s biggest wadis: Naqb el Hawa and Wadi Madaman. This is a beautiful place to wander, with hidden basins and subsidiary peaks, with good views to the lowlands and the faraway peak of Jebel Tarbush.
JEBEL TARBUSH A tarbush is a traditional Fez-type hat: some say the mountain resembles one from some angles. But the name could equally have other origins too. It’s a high, frontier summit of dark volcanic rock, straddling the border between the High Mountain Region and Wadi Feiran.
JEBEL AJRAMAYA Also known as Thelaath el Ikhiwaat – ‘The Three Sisters’ – this has three distinct peaks. Two of them are easy scrambles; the third, trickier and more exposed. It towers up over the Plain of El Raha and looks directly down on the small Bedouin village of Abu Seila.
JEBEL JADEELA A rugged peak in the northern foothills of the High Mountain Region, some call this Jebel Batta – Duck Mountain – saying the mountain has a head and two wings from some angles. It’s easy to get to and easy to climb, with a short, fun scramble at the top.
JEBEL UMM JALKH A small peak with a flat top, this stands in the middle of the Farsh Faria plain, near the Abu Seila village. It isn’t on the main hiking trails and there’s only one way for scrambling through the high, sheer crags to the summit, which always takes a bit of searching out.
JEBEL SALHAFA This is a summit of smooth, exfoliated granite, like the rounded shell of a tortoise. It’s one of a bigger cluster of peaks and another of the High Mountain Region’s most little known and untrodden summits. It’s a beautiful spot for sunset, with the rocks turning a deep red.
JEBEL NAJA A big, red rock summit that towers up over the tomb of Sheikh Ahmed: an old holy man of the Jebeleya tribe. It’s a rarely-visited peak with easy scrambling near the top and it can be approached from Wadi Shagg Tinya: a deep, shadowy gorge with waterpools in its upper section.
JEBEL ABU GASABA A remote summit near Jebel Abu Alda, this is one of the Sinai’s most beautiful peaks. The name means Mountain of the Canes (or Bamboo) and it’s a great place to sleep, watching the sunset and sunrise. There’s a short, steep scramble to the very top.
JEBEL MASBA ABU GARUN This is famous for a big boulder that stands on a high precipice, cleft into two sharp pieces like a pair of horns. Abu Garun actually means ‘The Place of Horns’. It’s close to Jebel Bab el Dunya region and is the neighbouring summit of Jebel Abu Alda.
JEBEL ABU ALDA A high promontory near Jebel Masba Abu Garun, this is one of the best viewpoints in the Sinai. It gazes out over one of the most remote parts of the peninsula; the rugged wilderness of the Deep South: look further and you can even glimpse the faraway peaks of Africa.
JEBEL ABBAS BASHA This mountain’s summit is crowned by an unfinished palace: started for the Ottoman Viceroy Abbas Pasha; then stopped when he died, in the mid 19th century. Towering up over the town of St Katherine, it’s one of the region’s highest peaks and is an easy walk.
JEBEL BANAT Not to be confused with Jebel Banat in Wadi Feiran, this means ‘Mountain of the Girls’. It’s a scramble, where you have to traverse smooth, sloping granite near the top. The summit is marked by two huge boulders, which you can climb to reach the very highest point.
JEBEL ABU ZEITUNA This rugged peak towers over Abu Zeituna, a small Bedouin village. It has good views to Jebel Umm Alawi and Wadi Sebaiya: the long, rugged wadi that leads into the remote wilderness of the Deep South from St Katherine. It’s an easy scramble up a long gully.
JEBEL RABBA This towers up over the town of St Katherine; part of the same massif as Jebel el Ahmar. It has several different peaks, all divided by pretty basins, scattered with wild shrubs; and all of which can be scrambled. It’s probably the best spot for sunset in this area.
JEBEL ABU RUMAIL One of the Sinai’s highest peaks, this is just south of Jebel Katherina; sometimes it’s even classed as a part of Jebel Katherina itself. Further south, the High Mountain Region merges into the Jebel el Reeh range and the more remote wilderness of the Deep South.
JEBEL FARRA A rocky ridge whose northern prow looks over the town of St Katherine. It’s lower than neighbouring peaks like Jebel el Ahmar and Jebel Safsafa, which ensures it’s rarely visited. It’s a good, easy scramble, with a good walk along its back to the highest point.
JEBEL MONEIJA A small peak at the end of Wadi el Deir; about half way up the camel path to Mount Sinai. It’s crowned with a summit chapel and is tourists without a guide often mistake for Mount Sinai itself. It’s probably the best viewpoint in the Sinai for the Monastery of St Katherine.
JEBEL EL ASKOF A mountain with several peaks, this towers up opposite Jebel Abu Zeituna. Foreboding ravines drop away from its southern heights to the depths of Wadi el Sheikh and there are good views south to Jebel el Deir and Mount Sinai. All of its peaks can be reached with easy scrambles.
JEBEL KHIZEIMIYA A rugged summit near Jebel el Ojar and one of the most little-visited mountains in the region. It’s a brilliant peak with secret basins and gullies, offering views to the huge eastern face of Jebel el Ojar and further away, to the northern ranges of the High Mountain Region.
JEBEL UMM LOZ A mountain with long, gentle slopes, rising to a wide and airy high point. These long slopes widen the distance between Jebel Umm Loz and and its neighbouring mountains, giving it a unique and spectacular 360 degree panorama of the High Mountain Region.
JEBEL HAJEEJ This is a remote peak on the northern edge of the High Mountain Region. It looks down on the Bedouin village of Tarfa, and gives a brilliant climb. It’s reached with a long walk through plains and canyons; later, a bouldery gully gives access to its high parts.
JEBEL GHABGHAB This is in the same chain of mountains as Jebel Umm Alawi and Jebel Hadana, on the eastern edge of the High Mountain Region. Several peaks tower up in Jebel Ghabghab cluster: the easiest, a moderate scramble, the hardest a more serious rock climb.
MORE ON THE WAY…