Go back to Middle East.
With so many international borders still closed, we once again reached for our Rolodex of climbing destinations and flipped through to the “winter escape” section; and there was Egypt, practically at the top. The search for a local, Sinai enabler was pretty quick since the recent drivers of route development in the area have been the British and the Russians*; and among those it was only Misha who was living there full time. We pinged him and he was game.
*Apparently the recent route development also involved Swiss, Austrian, and Ukrainian climbers (thank you Timo Elony). Lastly, many of the older routes had been established by Israeli climbers.
This was a great move on our part as Misha turned out to be an excellent fixer: very knowledgeable in terms of Sinai climbing, an excellent organizer with suggestions that made our trip very memorable, and just a fun guy to hang out with for more than 10 days! And – as a bonus – not only does he know what a decent cup of coffee is, but he also showed us a great backcountry, Egyptian-rum-based punch recipe. We cannot recommend his services enough!
We outlined an itinerary, purchased airline tickets, and started looking around for places that would reliably allow us to do a Covid PCR test – a requirement for entering Egypt – within 3 days of departure. This last piece was not trivial as most places in the US offered no guarantees and were subject to the fluctuating local caseloads. Instead, we opted to hedge our bets by getting this done at a few places: two mail-in companies and two local clinics. Unbeknownst to us, one of the local places had a fast turnaround option and we got the results in the email before we could drive home from the clinic; and thankfully there were no false positives among the ones that came back later.
Some two months before departure, we got an email from Lufthansa alerting us to a schedule change in our itinerary. New one looked shitty and so I called them only to find out that in fact our itinerary had been cancelled – surprise! The one positive here was that they refunded us within a few days and we rebooked on Delta and at a better price.
After a long and valiant battle with cancer, my beloved Auntie passed away in Europe while we were traveling in Egypt. As it turned out, my quick trip in early March of 2020, just before the world succumbed to the pandemic and to the overzealous border closures, would be our last good-bye. We are a closely knit family and I’ve always felt extremely lucky to have two Aunts whom I always think of as my other Moms. Climbing is a distraction from the usual pains and sorrows of life but the thoughts of childhood, family, and loss always resurface in those quiet moments of existence. Photos of happier family times.