I am sitting in my office, listening to the English summer hammering on the window, and only a few weeks ago I was in 40 degrees of Egyptian heat.
The family had taken a break from personal training, and gone for a holiday in the Sinai peninsula, at Sharm-el-Sheikh, now becoming a very popular tourist attraction.
Typical of many travelers to this part, we wanted to experience some of the local area and history. Amongst snorkeling in the Red Sea, camel riding in the dessert with Bedouin guides, and of course lazing around the resort pool, one of the excursions we had decided to go on was to see the sunrise from the top of Mt Sinai (or Moses Mount) the place where Moses was reported to have received the Ten Commandments from God.
All we were told was, take water, wear trainers and take some kind of light jacket as it gets cold at that time in the morning (at our hotel it hadn't dropped below 30 degrees at night!)
So, we get collected at about 21.30 Friday night, and are on a coach traveling for two and a half hours, plus a couple of stops for checkpoints and toilet break, we get to St Catherine monastery at the foot of the mountain. Once there, we are allocated a Bedouin guide, and start at a very slow pace, to take the camel route up the mountain, we have the option to hire a camel, but (as most people are walking) and in true Cordell family style we were walking. I think we started about 02.00 Sat morning, it was in pitch black with a fairly steep, sandy track, camels passing us on the way, and our group passing some other groups on the way, occasionally stopping to let the group gather together again.
At about 04.30 we reach as far as the camels can go, and then are faced with 750 rugged stone steps to the summit. It is apparent that a lot of people including us had not expected such a test of endurance, and many were feeling worse for wear before the steps, at a painfully slow pace we climbed the steps, sweating from the walk/climb, now feeling the chill of the night combined with the altitude, I can only guess the temperature being about 5-10 degrees (very cool considering what we'd been used to at our hotels.)
Just turned 05.00hrs we get to the top, still total darkness, mange to find a place to sit, with blankets and a bit of food from our backpacks. over the next 45 minutes a good few hundred people join us, trying to find a place to sit and await the sunrise. 05.45 the horizon begins to change and we start to see the surrounding environment. Mountains, we are on top of the second highest mountain in the Sinai peninsula, 2,285 m (7,497 ft) high. (The highest mountain is next to us and only a few metres higher.) We are looking down on a mountain range, with colours changing as the sun climbs the horizon, spectacular views all around. At 06.00 the sun has completely lifted and so too the temperature, nearing the 25 degrees plus, and promising to increase to over 45.
We start our descent of the 750 steps, many people finding it difficult, knees not used to such exercise, or strong and stable enough to descend without handrails, we make slow progress. Once back at the camel trail we now have the option to carry on down the camel trail or, use the Bedouin steps to the monastery (not recommended to use in the dark.) A continuation of very rugged steps, 3,000 of them (in addition to the 750) all the way to the monastery, named the "Steps of Penitence" it is now over 40 degrees and it is only 08.00.
Me & Beau, not very happy to have to wait on the descent!
We then wait for the others, who when they arrive tell stories of fatigue, injury, and muscle soreness, some have resorted to getting camel rides down others have had falls, we heard of someone who had fallen, and the guides were having to get medics to assist.
Our family is very tired, and Tracy (my wife) and I are very pleased that we all made it ok, in good time, and without injury. A lot of people were very impressed, not at Tracy and me making it, but at our children, ages 15, 13 and 7 years.
If your thinking of going to Egypt and would like a good cardiovascular workout, that particularly hits calves, I can recommend this, my calves reminded me of the walk for about 2 days.
We apologised at the time, and have been ever since we got back, to Autumn (15), Zak (13) and Beau (7), "if we had known how demanding it was, we would not have taken you."
What we actually apologise for is being so cautious, because you would've missed out on a great experience, and in future we will have more faith in your capabilities and go for it.