I’ve recently returned from a trekking trip in Morocco with a group of fantastic girls. We reached North Africa’s highest peak, Mount Toubkal, which was the ultimate highlight of the trip, but more uplifting was the camaraderie and support of a group of women that didn’t know each other so well at the beginning of the trip, but by the end were best of friends.
Arriving at Marrakech airport you notice a few things as you step out of the airport; the first is the intense heat of the midday sun (and this is in November!). The second is the proximity of the Atlas Mountains ahead of you, a gentle reminder of your reasons for visiting this majestic country. The third is the culture change that’s so apparent even though 4 hours ago you were sitting in Manchester airport sipping a glass of wine!
The city of Marrakech itself is a wonderful mixture of modern madness outside the ancient city walls, and traditional culture inside, with its famous Jemaa el-Fnaa square enticing you into the centre with its distant drumming, snake charmers and the aromatic smell of fresh herbs and spices. A city definitely worth a visit, if only to sit in a rooftop café and observe from a distance.
We left for the foothills the following day, full of anticipation, excitement and slight apprehension at the adventure that lay ahead of us. The mini bus, packed full of all our luggage and equipment, stopped at the end of the road at a small village called Imlil, the foothills of the mountains. From here our luggage was transferred onto two mules and along with their muleteers they set off up the track to our gite for the night. We followed behind and wound our way up the track the short journey to Aroumd where we were greeted with sweet mint tea, Moroccan pastries and magnificent views of the snow-capped peaks above and the arid valleys below.
The walk up to the refuge the following morning was steady but we were already starting to feel the effects of the altitude and mid-day heat. Water never tasted so good! The views on the way up were fantastic, moving from arid dry landscape, crossing rivers and eventually we could see the refuge in the distance. The air started to get colder as we climbed higher and the sun started to set as we reached the refuge. We retreated to the warmth of the lounge area with the log burner, the only room with heating, and attempted to stay there for the rest of the evening, minus a few toilet stops for those who dared brave the cold.
The following morning we were up early for summit day and we all ate as much as we could stomach before setting off as the sun was rising. The route was strenuous (or maybe we were all just feeling the effects of altitude by now!), but we took our time and our spirits were lifted after a couple of hours as we walked into the sun and started to take our layers off. We reached the top of the cwm and were rewarded with fantastic views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks and the vast Sahara desert in the distance. Stopping briefly to take photographs, we made a final push for the summit, trudging through the snow and up onto the head of the mountain where we could finally see the summit. A brief stop for water and food and we walked the remainder of the easy path to the summit. We congratulated one another, took pictures and marvelled at the magnificent views, a warm feeling inside, connecting our achievement.
The journey back down was slow but our heads and hearts were light. At 4167m high, Mount Toubkal was no easy achievement. Everyone that day had really pushed themselves at some point in order to reach the top. It never ceases to amaze me how, under extreme pressure; people will go out of their way to support each other. As a group that day we all helped each other reach the top, whether it was something so small as helping someone take their water bottle out of their rucksack, or giving encouragement when really needed, these small acts of kindness made the achievement so much greater, and left me with memories that will stay with me for a very long time.
The following day, we packed our bags and headed back down the mountain to Marrakech for an evening of well-deserved celebrations, and a few days to relax, explore the city and soak up the sun!
Join us on one of our Moroccan trekking trips and experience the magnificent mountains and Moroccan culture for yourself… http://desperatelyseekingadventure.co.uk/shop/active/morocco-trekking-mount-toubkal/