After the shell shock of an afternoon arriving in Marrakesh [as explained in Pt 1]; we were about to see a completely different side to Morocco. We had some brief complications with our breakfast, and by complications, I mean, our breakfast was served in an entirely different building on a completely different street…delicious nonetheless. Being rushed along by our driver we knocked back our mint-tea and bundled our gear into the minibus, sat ourselves down, and anticipated the days ahead.
It didn’t take long before the echoes of the bustling Medina were out of earshot, and we had views spanning across vast desert land; with the occasional village…and occasional luxury apartment block being constructed.
We could soon make out the mountain-scape through the morning haze; and we suddenly found ourselves being thrown about in the van by the twisting mountain lanes…if nothing else, the adrenaline release at least made up for the lack of Red Bull in my bloodstream.
Arriving at the beautiful mountain village of Imlil at around 09:30 / 10:00 we swiftly unpacked, and then re-packed our day 2 kit onto the Mules, before sitting down to share a mint-tea whilst going over the itinerary for the next few days with the guys at Aztat Adventures.
The first part of our journey was through a shaded woodland; and being Walnut season, we could see locals up in the trees harvesting the nuts. The shade was welcome, as it was around 35C in the sun; and of course the woodland wouldn’t last forever!
The woodland gave way to the dried river bed; which in the Spring is a popular resort for locals to access clean water, fresh from the snow-melt from the peaks of the Atlas mountains.
The river bed was easy going on the legs, but extremely hot, which made it tough – there was another smaller mountain village ahead; which marked the half way point to our lunch break.
As we made our way through the village; we found ourselves outside of a primary school; with the children running about around us; which was awesome.
Now over more rocky terrain; we trekked on for around another hour until we can to our lunch stop. where we had a feast cooked up of pasta, vegetables, fish, and bread. The locals cater to our westerner sugar dependant needs too by stocking fizzy drinks ( Coke, Fanta etc. and a load of chocolate bars too!). The rest was welcome, more-so to have a break from the heat; things had been easy going to this point, and we had a sense of anticipation still of bigger things to come…
…and bigger things came indeed! As I mentioned before, we had packed the mules with our kit for day 2, and in our wisdom, this included our coats, gloves, waterproofs etc etc etc…so of course it rained, hailed, and rained some more! So here we are, in all our plastic theme-park chic ponchos…I don’t care. I know these are the gripe of many a seasoned hiker…but guys, they DO serve a purpose; sure they make you look like a complete idiot, but
a) it was hot
b) we kept dry
c) they weigh like nothing.
So you can be uptight if you like, but I say embrace, with due thought, the £1 poncho. Like…if you’re on-top of Nevis , or in the Valleys of Snowdon and you have a poncho but no 4 or 5 other layers…like you’re an idiot. But there definitely is a time and a place for them…well, the time was the end of September and the place was hiking up the Atlas mountains.
The weather sure made it a slog; a fairly gradual ascent wasn’t too tough on the legs, but the changes in weather made it mentally tough. The Mountain Refuge was in sight after a further 3 hours of trekking; arriving at around 5:30pm
The facilities were basic, as to be expected, but comfortable and actually, when you’ve hiked for 7 hours, and are 3600M up…amazing.
The lads in our group all had the upper bunk of a dorm; which eager to rest-up we climbed up to have a chat and relax…of course, our bed collapsed…of course. Luckily no one was squashed, and after some not so convincing handy work by the guys running the ‘tuck-shop’ we were told it was safe, and to jump back up. Which we did after dinner, and a chamomile tea…which for some reason had the same effect as drinking a pitcher of Long Island Iced Tea.
The night was drawing in; and with a wake-up call waiting for us at 4am we headed off to bed at around 9pm. Legs aching, and mentally exhausted from the weather extremes, I don’t suppose our minds could comprehend the next days task…the 13,500 ft summit. We could over hear some mumbles from the dorm from a couple of lads who were prepared to opt-out of the summit attempt… no chance we thought… we’re here to do this thing.
So all that was left to do, was contemplate and digest the days events, and anticipate the next… and of course, taping up our feet in preparation!
Join me on the summit attempt in Pt. 3 (Toubkal Breaketh the Man) where we set off in pitch darkness, taking in views of the Milky Way, an eating breakfast by head-torch; experience our first ice and snow hike…and where I almost pass out on two different occasions due to the altitude…