Qornit El Sawda is the highest summit in #Lebanon, standing at 3,088m above sea level. It’s name comes from the blackish color it appears to have during snow storms, according to local villagers. Qornit El Sawda is easily accessible in the summer months, when most of the snow has melted, on quad bikes or even by car (provided you drive a sturdy 4×4!).
However, on this clear Monday morning in May, we set out to reach the summit on foot. A good, although tiring, way up is the trail that starts at the bottom of the #Arz ski lifts. To get there, the best option is to drive up from #bcharreh to the Cedars, and take a left after the army checkpoint, where you will find the deserted ski resorts. You can park the car almost anywhere in the area, and start heading towards the plateau, following the ski lifts up.
The initial ascent is slightly tiring, and will allow you to gain around 800m of elevation – a good warm up for your thighs, and a great way to burn off those Sunday mezzes. Once on the plateau, we had a well deserved rest, before starting with out walk again. The conditions were still great – sunny and crisp clear – but we could see a few clouds forming in the horizon. At this stage, the easiest way to the summit is to follow the ATV trails, walking with the ski lifts straight behind you, and with summits on each sides.
We were definitely surprised – and taken off guard – by the amount of snow left in the area, especially considering we nearing towards the end of May! Nevertheless, it was a great chance to slide down the hills on our feet – and to curse ourselves for deciding to keep those extra layers in the car! The walk on the plateau is eerie, with total silence and clouds slowly coming in and closing in on us.
A few loose boulders allowed us to have fun scrambling, aching for the tannourine cliffs. After about 1:30, we came face to face with two peaks of similar heights, and we hesitated slightly – could we have come all the way here and not do the summit? We decided to follow our gut feeling and go for the one with the most ATV traces – a blessing considering the path up there was still closed due to the amount of snow. Once there, we lingered just in time to take a few shots. However, we were not be lucky enough to see Cyprus that day as sun abandoned us and we were now freezing!
We slid down the hills and got back to the plateau, a few degrees warmer and bit more sheltered from the wind, to have a celebratory beer and our packed, slightly unorthodox, lunch – homemade stuffed courgettes and wine leaves, courtesy of my gran, washed down with a cold #Almaza. The walk back follows the same trail, but beware, the plateau us deceiving and you will still have a few ups and downs before reaching the ski lifts!
In total, the walk took 6h30 but I would allow 8h to be on the safe side. End of May is a great time to do it if on foot, but I am keen to go back on snowshoes and discover the peaks in winter! To be continued…