Later this week, we’re off to Morocco to climb Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. Four times the height of Snowdon at 4167 metres, it’ll be the highest mountain we’ve ever climbed, our current highest being Griffith Peak near Las Vegas, which is 3372 metres. As well as contending with the altitude and ascent, and staying in a mountain refuge in winter, it will only be our third trip using ice axes and crampons so, it’s a pretty big adventure! When we’ve visited to deliver Christmas presents this weekend, friends and family have been asking if I’m blogging the trip, so here we go! We don’t leave until Friday, but here are the plans.
After work on Friday we travel to Gatwick, leave the car in a long stay car park and stay in the Ibis Hotel, then on Saturday we meet the rest of the group and fly to Marrakesh. The trip is booked with Paul Poole Mountaineering and there are up to 8 of us with 2 experienced guides, so we’ll be in safe hands. We’ve met Paul already and he’s a lovely guy, and a friend who we met through the canoe club, Branwen, is also coming.
When we arrive in Marrakesh we travel by minibus to Imlil, one of the main trekking start points in the High Atlas mountains, a journey of about an hour an a half. Then we should have some time to relax, explore the village, and prepare for our trek. We are staying in the Riad Atlas Toubkal, which looks lovely, decorated in typical Moroccan colours and with spectacular views.
On Sunday, we hike from Imlil, which is about 1750 metres above sea level, to the Mouflons hut, which is at about 3200 metres. We’ll carry our usual hiking gear and our kit bags will be taken up by mules. Paul has advised us that we’ll travel very slowly to allow our bodies to start adjusting to the altitude and that the 9 kilometres and 1400 metres of ascent will take us between 6 and 8 hours. Hopefully, I can manage that! As with other refuges we’ve stayed in, the hut will be basic with little heating and no hot water, but plenty of good food.
On Monday, the plan is to spend some time acclimatising and practising using our ice axes and crampons as we climb about 400 metres up the valley to Tizi n’Ouanoums, a mountain pass at 3680 metres.
Tuesday is the big day, weather permitting. After an early breakfast, we’ll set off on the steep ascent up Mount Toubkal. Paul has told us that this is 1000m of height gain over only 3.5 km, and it can take up to 5 hours to reach the peak. As we descend, we may be able to make a diversion and summit the Western Peak of Toubkal at 4030 metres. It’ll take 2 to 3 hours to get back to the hut. Very exciting!
On our final day in the mountains, we may get the chance to climb another 4000 metre mountain. Obviously, trips like this depend greatly on the ground conditions and the weather. Paul thinks that the cycle of snow and sunshine, and the constantly freezing temperatures look promising. Fingers crossed!
On Thursday, we hike back down to Imlil, which will take 4 or 5 hours. Then, after lunch, we get the minibus back to Marrakesh. It’s the last night for the rest of the group so we’ll spend the evening with the others, eating in the famous old square of Jemaa el Fna and soaking up the atmosphere. That night we are staying at Riad Omar.
After saying goodbye to the others, on Friday John and I move to Riad Eden, which was recommended by Paul and his wife Viv, and looks a beautiful place to spend Christmas. We have 3 days to relax and explore Marrakesh, before returning home on Monday 26th. Although we’re looking forward to seeing the old town and the palaces and gardens, and experiencing the colours and the hustle and bustle of the souks, we’re also looking forward to resting on the roof terrace in the sunshine, enjoying some peace and quiet and reading our books. Can’t wait! The Christmas deliveries are done, the bags are more or less packed, and cat sitters have been arranged for Millie. Four days to go!
Thanks to Paul for supplying some pictures for me to include. Hopefully, in the next blog I’ll have some of my own to share 🙂