Looking at the elevation graph of day 9, it looked a tough one. I knew there would be three ascents: Har Tavor (Mount Tabor), a notoriously steep climb, followed by Har Debora (a little smaller) and finally Har Yona. So, waking up at 3am (as usual), I was pleasantly suprised to find a significantly shorter drive to the hike start - every day so far I have driven to the end of Route 6, the toll highway in the centre of the country, and then continued on Route 77 north-eastwards. But today I left Route 6 much earlier, taking Route 65 through the Jezreel valley to where I left the trail last week in the south-eastern Galilee.
Again, the speed with which the sunrise is getting later and later suprised me, and I spent the first 30 minutes of the hike in total darkness with a headlamp, passing the town of Shibli and beginning the ascent of the looming Mount Tabor in front of me. I even had a particularly brazen red fox following me, who's eyes I kept seeing flash with the light from my headlamp. After an hour and a half of steep climbing, and a gorgeous sunrise, I reached the top, where the path turned left and skirted round the large christian franciscan compound at the top, where I could just glimpse the Church of the Transfiguration through the mist.
Then, after circling most of the summit, I took the path down which wasn't so easy to follow - it didnt at all match with the gps placement on my watch or my phone, and a few INT trail markers pointing in the wrong direction definitely didn't help. But eventually I made it to the bottom of Har Tabor, on the opposite side of Shibli, and was suprised that nearly 3 hours of the hike had already passed. I was only 8km in, but I knew I had finished the hardest part of the day. Or so I thought.
Har Devora actually ended up being a piece of cake. It started with a leisurely stroll through a forest that reminded me a lot of Ben Shemen Forest near my home. The path climbed gradually through the pine trees until I got to the top, where I stopped for lunch in the shade of my parent's taxes, donated in honour of the queen's silver wedding anniversary.
After coming down a shoulder of Har Devora, I passed through olive groves with the occasional spring dotted here and there, but all either empty or thoroughly green and unenticing. And then I started climbing - not too steeply, but it was approaching the heat of the day, so I definitely noticed it. But I figured it would be a short uphill to Har Yona, so it wouldn't be too bad.
And then the path completely dissapeared. Completely. I didn't lose it, I knew exactly where it was supposed to be, but I don't know if because of Corona or some other reason but it looked like no human or other animal had walked on it for weeks. I battled through for an hour, my legs cut to shreds and scared every step of treading on a snake I couldn't see. I eventually did see a marking, which stopped me panicking that I would have to retrace my steps, and with a lot of breaks in the hot sun I eventually made it up the hill to Har Yona. After this I had a fairly leasurely 2km through the streets, and then a shortcut through a field to Mash'had junction, 2 buses and I was back at my car.
And so ended another hot August day completely alone on the Israel trail. I saw 3 hikers on Har Tavor, but I'm pretty sure they ended their hike there, and only I am foolish enough to hike three peaks in 37 degree heat. As the Nazgûl flies, I hadn't travelled that far - but my elevation graph at the end of the day gave me exactly the sense of accomplishment I needed to do this crazy thing again next week.
I have uploaded a sped-up video of the entire hike here so you can see what is in store.