My digital playground for sharing my Israel bikepacking trips and eventually also abroad. I like to keep things as simple as possible and I have no problem slapping the bags onto my road bike, mountain bike or gravel bike and heading off in the direction of the sunset. That's the beauty of bikepacking in my eyes and I would really not want to start chasing my own tail and trying to put bikepacking into some kind of category of what you can and can't do. It should just be a free come and you go type of ride from a day all the way to months at a time. Why try and pin something down when you should rather just be encouraging people to get out there. You could call it touring, who cares. The most important thing is to get out and get your arse on the saddle, drink in those amazing views and meet some interesting people along the way.
What a trip! An adventure in the sense of pushing the body and legs to the edge, looking over and jumping in for some more. I learned quite a bit from this trip to make the upcoming ride doing the Twenty Peaks a little bit more doable and maybe even more enjoyable. The first day I was on my knees after the penultimate climb of the day, the sun was already low and the light had been milky all day. Luckily I had Tony with me and we pushed up the last climb of the day and managed to get in four peaks, but I'm getting ahead of myself. What happened to the other climbs.
We started off on a long climb that in truth was three climbs that were stitched together going up and down. The route was really good in terms of terrain from what we would get to later in the day. Some sharp climbs on the first pitch just as we left the road but then we just gradually made our way up in the morning humidity that had blanketed the coast. Sweating from the get-go I thought I was pushing myself way too hard for the start but Tony said that he also felt the humidity so that at least put my mind to rest somewhat. As with most trips, the energy and excitement were at its peak as we chatted away, still able to talk and the brain was still managing to put together sentences. The end of the first climb to Har Shokef from Ein Carmel takes you next to Daleyet al Karmel which these little walls of 20%+ that just saw us pushing along and getting comments from the Druse families who were out harvesting olives, all I could do was laugh along and keep pushing.
The first incident happened on the way down. The path got really rocky and would be an indication of what was to come from this side of the climb to Shokef. I do my bikepacking on a gravel bike with 650b wide tires so that I have an almost XC type of setup but just way more comfortable. Descents like the one we went down were not meant for my setup as I found myself getting stuck in a dip and doing a slow fall onto my side. Somehow I managed to not do any damage to my left side but got a serious knock on my right hand exactly on the padding that rests on the handlebar. We were twenty-odd kilometers in at this stage so this did not bode well for me. The next climb from Ein Hod really was a cool little climb that just wound its way up to the top, nothing too serious but the legs were starting to feel the effort.
We descended and had some lunch in Carmel Park. Plenty of water for refreshing ourselves and some tables so a really good place to take a breath before pushing on. I was still feeling fine going through Beit Oren which has a beautiful climb overlooking the valley of Nahal Oren and some really mind-blowing geology. After this things got tricky for me and again it was partly the bike setup but mainly my body that was feeling the long day in the saddle. The trail looped around some really beautiful caves and rock features on a narrow path when ridden in the opposite direction is really cool. Going up though meant getting off and pushing over the rocks, this I basically had to do all the way up as my body was knackered and I just was getting beaten up by each rock section I tried to ride through with a bit more power. The climb was 20km long which I had in my head as much shorter and took over 2 hours. I had hit a dark spot by now and dropped down the Beit Oren climb on the road after navigating down from the top of the peak for the last time of the day.
Tony was waiting and every time I tried to talk I was stringing together maybe 3 incomprehensible words. I needed to get something into me quickly and coke was just the thing to lift the spirits. I stay away from this toxic drain cleaner but there is no sweeter feeling of feeling your senses return to normal as all the sugar starts pumping into you. After a rest, we decided to climb Beit Oren and call it a day. There was supposed to be another climb but that would have to wait for another time. Having just taken a beating from the train where the next climb was going to also weave its way through I was once bit, twice shy. Beit Oren is a road climb, pretty famous in Israel, and has some really wonderful views. I also knew the climb so just had to find a rhythm and pedal away as the night time swallowed us up.
A meal for kings we had of proper food which is far from the ordinary I have on trips like these. I experimented with rice cakes wrapped in seaweed and they not only held up well but tasted great. We also had homemade black olives Tony had brought along as well as some biltong, an old South African favorite. We even had sprouted lentils so protein was put back into the system and the rice cakes made up for protein. Sleep took me quickly and this was one of the best nights of sleep I've had on a trip mainly due to me being too tired to actually worry about anything around me. I did though do some really good stretching before bed in the hope of recovering a little bit for the next day which it did do. The other treat, probably physiological, was some compression socks that I slept with to aid recovery and keep me warm.
Day two started with an easy spin down the Beit Oren hill where we had spent the night. The riders were out in force climbing in the opposite direction and I must say I was happy to be going in against the stream. The fresh morning air and the heat still hadn't arrived as our legs slowly started turning and moving to get them warm for the long climbs to come. The day basically had two long climbs, one taking us across the Carmel and the other north along the edge on the dirt road back to Haifa.
The first climb was just long with some rocky bits and pieces. I was not fighting the bike today I decided early on and as soon as I saw any sort of power section I jumped off the bike and pushed. There was no point in trying to kill my legs early on especially as I knew there was a sting in the tail and also the following climb started steeply. The climb up to Muchraka was really interesting as we were in the heart of the mountains and remote as you could get. Things got more interesting on the final push to the monastery that sits at the top from which the climb derives its name. We spotted it from a way off and then as we looped in and out it got slowly but surely closer. the final bit was luckily tared but unluckily also around 20% gradient, you win some you lose some I guess. The top had some beautiful views but I was only interested in the sandwich I had bought and stuffed into my bag. Having gobbled it down within a few breaths I was able to relax and get some water into myself with a tap right there. It was great to be able to wash my face and just refresh ourselves.
We descended on the road which Tony knew and was definitely a much better option than the original route. The second day we had already decided to swap around a bit and these changes made the day much more manageable. I would even say that doing the route with day 2 as the first day would be an even better option. Maybe placing the car at the top of Beit Oren and navigating around from there. Again stopping at the gas station to fill up, I chucked a coke and we were on our way to the toughest section of the day. My bike setup again not ideal from the rocky sections we were pushing over, this was the dark spot for me on the day as I was just being thrown around or pushing on the first 4km to get back up to the scenic road that goes around the Carmel. Luckily this didn't last long as I put my headphones in to get a few good vibes dancing around in my head to take my attention off the trail a bit.
From there the loop around the scenic road was actually more downhill than up. My spirits lifted and I was singing and laughing once again as we made our way around. My legs weren't feeling too bad although my bottom was feeling two days of being bumped around on the saddle. I had in mind that the last steep climb was going to be rocky but we got ever closer and closer with no apparent rocks. The last bit of the climb to Isfiya was only about a kilometer and a half and a compact white road with a few rocky sections that I could easily navigate through. With the second climb done for the day and we had a choice to make. It was early and we had a road climb we could do or head downhill.
I am glad to say that neither of us hesitated in taking off another bite of the climbing pie and heading towards Nesher. This is a twisting switchback of a climb that is just a steady 8% gradient that you find a pace and apply power. My legs were pretty cooked by this time and I felt like we were chasing the sun a bit but the climb just helped that fade all into the background and we slowly ground our way up the climb. We ended in the dusky evening light back at our cars with big smiles and sore legs, happy that we had taken on a challenge and managed to make it through.
I must say that I learned quite a lot about my capabilities and doing four climbs is a stretch with my current gearing and especially as these are off-road. The going is slower as you look for a decent line or grip. The bumpy rocky sections also make the climb so much more difficult. I'd say that doing 2200m of climbing in a day is manageable as we did on both days but that this needs to be stretched out over about 100km like the second day and not compressed into the 80km we tried to fit it into on the first day. I'm looking forward to the next trip and hopefully, it'll be next month in Gilboa.
Today holds three climbs with the first one in the morning probably being the most difficult in terms of the gradient. The others are really long with walls scattered between. Which is easier? I really don't know but after a day of climbing in the legs, today will not be a walk in the park. We start today on Nesher that has an average gradient of 7.3% over the 6km climb so it's a grind all the way. One of the cool things about this climb is the hairpin bends that kick up and around corners. The climb starts off quite sharply but then gradually becomes a power climb, there is even downhill in the middle which I don't really like.
After Nesher we have to traverse to the other side of the Carmel to be able to ride across to the next peak. The route is a triangle of pain today and this section means dropping down from Nesher and then riding along the coastal road to get to the next climb. It's a bit of filler but there isn't much we can do about it. Muchraka is a long climb that goes along the southern section of the Carmel. We climb up to the plateau again from the sea and then it's rollers before the final punch to the top. I've actually ridden the revers of the end of a trip I didn't a while back and I can remember this just being a grind up and down. There isn't really any relaxing as the descents are rocky so it's hanging on and bumping it out.
This final long climb of the day is called Isfiya which takes in most of the Carmel Scenic road. This really is a lovely little path looping in and out of the hills and you get a view of the whole Galilee as you navigate back across the Carmel from the North-East side. From there it's a long drop back down to Ein Carmel through Daliyat Al Karmel. I'm sure that even though there are only three climbs the legs will be jelly by the time we arrive back at the cars but smiles will be stretching across our sunburnt faces
This trip visits Har Shokef three times each in succession. The first is a long way up but seems to find the roads with the highest gradients and starts in Ein Kerem. The climb goes up and down three hills so there is a stretch of downhill after the first two attacks on the mountain which bring the average gradient climbed down to 2.8%. The first uphill seems to be a bit of a leg warmer to soften the legs up a bit and even the next climb leaves the sting until after the 10km mark. So it'll be easy going to save as much as possible. This is a bikepacking trip after all so no point blowing up on the first of the eight planned climbs. The last bit has far too much red for my liking but then this is supposed to be a challenge.
With the legs nice a warm, the day will be getting on and the last climb will have taken around 2 hours of solid climbing it's time to get onto one of the categorized climbs of the competition. Not that it matters as at the rate we'll be going up it won't be pulling up trees and knocking down KOM's. That will be one of the challenges on this trip is to not go into the red or at least as little as possible. Tranquillo all the way. Har Shokef from Ein Hod from Ein Hod is a brutal no messing around climb. There's a peak, find the shortest way up. The climb has some bits over 10% but the majority is spent between 2-5%. Things might be different on the ground as it'll be during the warm part of the day but by the looks of it this is a forest area so might give a little bit of shade.
Two down and one to go as we drop down into the Har HaCarmel National Park and this will be a great little place to find some shade and have a bite to eat and just relax a bit. Amazingly this will only be 40km into the day plan of doing 100km or so. The next climb up to Har Shokef will be from the Haagam park which luckily doesn't entail dropping all the way down but rather starting the climb below Bet Oren. This one is like a piece of spaghetti that goes up most of the way to the top then drops back down to where you started before again taking us to the final passing of this hill for the trip. A lot of going around and around to make things work. There is another climb actually up to Har Shokef but let's be honest, I'm sure that by this time we'll be wanting to move on to greener pastures.
This bikepacking trip won't be all off-road as the Twenty Peaks is both on the road and offroad. So the first road climb will make its appearance and it's one I did a few weeks back on one of my long rides. I hit Beit Oren after 100km so my legs already had some lactic buildup or whatever they're blaming that burn on nowadays. Either way, I'm quite confident I'll know how to pace this climb, and seeing as it's on the road it'll be a bit of a break from trying to find traction of the uphills after a long, hot summer having baked the dirt to powder.
This drop down will be through Haifa so this will be the ideal opportunity to fuel up for the night. Grab a bit to eat. Maybe even sneak in a cheeky beer if something is open before attempting the final piste of the day. David Eisen viewpoint another new climb to me although I have a feeling the top I might know a little bit of the area. It's another long one with most of the hurt coming in the first part of the climb as you climb out of Tirat Carmel straight to the University. I think that from there quite a bit of the route will be rolling to get the final peak.