We got up early and had a large breakfast of cereal, yoghurt, bread and jam. Then we filled our flasks and checked our packs, donned coats, hats and gloves and set off to climb from Imlil to Riad Atlas Toubkal high in the Atlas Mountains.
We’d been walking for 8 hours by now and I was starting to struggle, getting slower and slower and suffering with stomach cramps. The hut finally came into view and my spirits were raised and I dug deep and kept plodding. The path disappeared and, at the front, Pete was finding it tough but was determined to keep us all moving because it was very cold and he wanted to try and get us to the refuge before it got dark and even colder. However, at times it felt as though it was getting further away, and a couple of times I was in tears, even though there was no doubt we’d make it.
After summoning a smile and posing for a photo, a man cheerfully brushed the snow from us and showed us through to a room where the fire was blazing. Fantastic! Then, after some welcome refreshments (including more mint tea!) we were shown to a room with 12 bunk beds for us to share. It was freezing so we didn’t stay there long and were soon back downstairs enjoying a hearty dinner of soup, tagine and beautiful sweet oranges. My tummy was still very bloated, which is an affect of the high altitude, and my normally loose trousers were uncomfortably tight, but at least the pain had subsided. Some people had showers but I couldn’t face queuing in the cold and decided to stay smelly!
Later, Paul explained the plans for the next day. After today’s long trek, it was to be a later start and a shorter walk, to get used to the altitude and practice using crampons and ice axes, ready for the ascent of Toubkal the following day. He had a device to check our blood oxygen and heart rate, which unsurprisingly had worsened since yesterday after the climb. My oxygen dropped from 94 at 1700m to 88 at 3200m, a level which would be worrying if I’d been at home at sea level, but wasn’t considered abnormal here.
John and I went up to bed while the others stayed downstairs playing cards. However, they soon joined us because the electricity was switched off! It was to be a long night for a lot of us.