Bags and bags and bags of top notch hiking tips… in today’s The Daily Adventure!
I came across the questions “what is an adventure” recently thanks to the guys at Outdoor Bloggers and it really got me thinking; because the word gets thrown about a lot these days – I think probably because having ‘an adventure holiday’ sounds way cooler than ‘a walking holiday’, which in most cases is probably the case…not all the time of course, for me I’d plump for definition 3 from the dictionary, it seems to be the most fitting:
“a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.”
My reason for this, is that it’s so subjective, and of course an adventure has to be subjective right? Like you can’t say to someone “Go do that thing because its an adventure.” Can you? maybe you can, but I mean in the way I see adventure, it’s a completely personal experience…this is why my 4 year old daughter can have an adventure in my local woods, while I’m just plodding along experiencing the exact same objective world, yet my heads probably wandering in 15 different directions, whens my car tax due, did I pay that bill yet, I wonder if I will finish that blog post today…etc – or probably ideally, just making sure my daughter doesn’t come to any great harm during her adventure in the woods!
So; point A: it’s a personal experience.
my immediate question…so what makes it so?
Well to answer that, I’m going to lay out what I think are the elements that add up to what we would categorise as an adventure, and not merely ‘a walk in the woods’; and then I’ll illustrate what my own personal ‘greatest adventure’ has been to date – I guess then we can see where we’re at.
A good start point, so I’ve been told, is the start, so we’ll go for that – so let’s determine the type of adventure…and in these circles we’re usually talking about a planned activity that we think will be a challenge, have some risks involved, that ideally won’t kill us, and that we can tell an interesting story about – that seems to sum up ‘adventure trips’ i.e to make a summit of a mountain, to swim the Channel Crossing, to run a marathon in the Sahara desert etc etc.
That description seemed to come very naturally, so let’s pick it apart to get to the bottom of what it truly means: so – why a challenge? why risk? why stories?
The challenge element I think is a key part, and with planned adventures, the handy thing is you can kinda guess at what the challenge is going to be – so you can prepare your best for it, because of course a surprise adventure would be a pretty terrifying ordeal.
So the yearning for a challenge is in there, why? So perhaps the element isn’t ‘challenge’ so much as it’s ‘to learn something about yourself.’
I can obviously only speak on my own experience, but to overcome a challenge, involves learning something new about yourself, or indeed, letting go of a part of yourself.
What does it mean to take a risk? Well it means that whatever you are doing has consequences. Do thing well = you’re all good. Do thing bad = you’re not so good. Again just like all of these experiences it’s a subjective feeling; coming down the icy ridge of Toubkal felt like a pretty damn big risk to me…fall that side…probably die right…so death was a loose footing away – and I’m not being over dramatic here, that’s just the obvious truth.
Luckily there’s a number of things to minimise that risk – having a guide, having decent kit (I did just make a typo there and type ket…let me confirm that having decent ket on the side of Toubkal would not minimise risks at all).
Again, if I go back to my 4 year old in the woods adventure…well woah I mean, there’s SO much risk in the woods for a 4 year old it’s untrue…from evil witches living in gingerbread houses, to foxes dressed up as an elderly relative…jeez that’s one risky place…that’s not the place I’M in when I’m in the woods, but for sure that’s where she is…
Meeting the unknown; is not too dissimilar to over coming the challenge – on a personal level – to be pushed to a place you’ve never been emotionally / physically can be an enlightening experience – for me, this parts easy, because I’m a complete wimp, I freeze if I’m exposed to sheer drops (or tackling scrambles etc), I’m not athletic at all, and I generally struggle about inside my awkward flabby body. For these reasons, I’m constantly pushing myself beyond my perceived limits, it’s happened on almost all the summits I’ve achieved.
Snowdon: froze due to vertigo on a scramble nearing the top.
Scafell Pike: we (hands up stupidly) descended down an un-routed gully, in thick fog, I was sure we would need the rescue team
Ben Nevis: by far the most emotionally depleting summit, so cold, so wet, and at that point we thought so high!
Mt. Toubkal: I’m still unsure how I made it, I’ve never been so physically pushed; to the point my sole concern was breathing to not pass out (contrast that to my jolly in the woods and you can see what I’m getting at).
So it can be the unknown, in terms of meeting unknown aspects of our character or capabilities, or it can be a literal unknown…situations, places etc. I guess the unknown element from Scafell Pike was the literal unknown of being down a scree gully in about 2M visibility.
It took me a while to process my story from Toubkal, to the point where if people asked me within the first week or so of returning home, my response was – “yeah, so hard, but it was awesome”…that was it! I just hadn’t figured how to articulate the whole experience – maybe that’s a common thing for adventurers? Let me know!
But why do people care, and why do we like, LOVE, the stories? Well it’s occured to me during writing this, that all of those elements that create what we call ‘Adventure’ occur not just on the mountain side, but in almost every day of every year.
It’s the story of our lives.
So…what’s my ‘Greatest Adventure? Well it’s the adventure that I’m still in, every day, and although at the top of the article I did say that ideally our adventures wouldn’t kill us, well, this one will inevitably end that way. So, yeah, my greatest adventure is the one where I’ve learned not just something new about myself, but the one where I even learned that I had a self, that I had a self, and that I would bring other little humans into the world, so they too can have adventures in the woods, and I’ll know to keep the witches and foxes at bay, because they’re the same adventures I had, that we all had, and forever will have.
Our trips to conquer mountains, swim rivers, and run marathons, well, that’s when we’re living out the very essence of life itself, and that my friends, is one hell of awesome adventure.
Spending prolonged amounts of time with a small group of people can have its challenges – especially when the pretext is that you’re all good friends. Unlike in the workplace, where you’re free to dislike one, two, or all of your colleagues. There’s a lot at stake here – not only years of friendship potentially undone within a weekend of camping; but it’s in your interest to maintain that friendship – it could be the difference between launching a rescue attempt to save your sorry ass – or them enjoying some extra tent space and the additional food supplies!
So here’s some tips to not only keep your friends – but ensure you’re not abandoned hill-side by your team.
1. Don’t be annoying for the sake of being funny – okay so obviously there’s just some moments during a 12 hour drive, or 3 hour flight where someones going to be fast asleep with mouth wide open; these moments should be enjoyed by all [click here for evidence] but just know when a jokes a joke, and when you’re being an absolute…twit?
2. Just be cool – I mean being cool is in direct opposition to being a Dork, so I guess we would struggle with this one; but essentially just keeping an eye out for everyone; well, in our case Remy – as you can see (left), when he’s not asleep he can look sad. Maybe he is sad. We didn’t think to ask. Poor Remy.
3. Know yourself – If you know you’re prone to getting hangry (in our case this is Mike), keep yourself fed! Otherwise you’re not only going be spending alot of time feeling grouchy, but also your team will think you’re being an idiot. So really this is just being aware of what annoys you, and basically making sure you’re not putting yourself into situations where you’re going to turn irrational and irritable – applicable to smokers, coffee addicts, and the sleep-needy.
4. Know your mates – so we’ve learned through experience, that Dave really hates The Adam and Joe Show podcasts. We learned this by exposing him to them for around 7 straight hours on the way home from a weekend hiking in Scotland. We don’t listen to Adam and Joe Show podcasts now…because we’re nice like that, sorry Adam and Joe.
5. Space. We all need some Space – this is true, we all need some space, but y’know what – you’re not gonna get any, especially in a small hatchback stuffed with 4 guys, hiking gear and camping equipment! So what needs to happen here is for you to let-go of your personal space needs – reduce your personal boundaries and just deal with it. The important thing to remember is that it’s not the other persons fault that they’re in your space. So don’t get moody with them!
There’s loads more I’m sure; take our poll so we can finally decide, name, and shame!
Its 4am. The stars are out. There’s no light in the Refuge, and everyone’s started to bustle about…it can only mean one thing. Nope, not hammer time…it’s summit time.
This is it, I think to myself, whilst taking a glance in the mirror…I’m doing this thing. It was a weird almost third person moment, catching a look at myself, padded out in layers; woolly hat, head torch, and walking poles – I kinda felt pretty badass, like an actual mountain climber or something.
Anyway; I’ll go back to it being 4am….so everyone’s lacing up and getting ready, we only have about 30 minutes before breakfast so no time for messing about, but also, no one wants to be messing about at 4am…like, it’s not your average morning, where maybe you lose a sock or something.
So we make our way down for breakfast, which was like THE most salty porridge type dish you can imagine, like, even for me and Dave…seasoned salt eaters (see what I did there)…it was too much – but the bread was good! They also served us oranges, I packed mine for later…and after a mint tea; Mohammed gave us the low-down of how things would go that morning, and we set off.
It was of course freezing cold; but it didn’t take long for us to strip off a layer as the incline was steep from the start; luckily under the night sky I had no episodes of vertigo, which was awesome, because usually I’m terrible as soon as I feel any level of exposure!
We had been climbing for around an hour and a half, when Mohammed let us have a breather, but also so he could pray. This was an incredible rest break, as we all sat quietly, switched off the head torches, and gazed up at the stars. If I wasn’t so cold and out of breath it would have been even more enjoyable I guess….
As we continued up the valley to the Toubkal ridge; we could see the sun begin to rise, turning the peaks behind us a dim glowing red; at this stage however I’m not enjoying the views, as I was suffering pretty badly with altitude sickness; coming up the valley I struggled to keep my breath, and on a couple of occasions had to really go-in on myself to control my breathing to stop from passing out…at this point…I pretty much hated hiking and for the first time ever, I even considered never hiking again, I gave some real serious thought to just quitting the whole thing…I was over it.
(contrary to the smile, although maybe I was smiling at the thought of just going on normal holidays, and not being on the face of a 4000M mountain.)
As we reached the ridge, which you can see in the photo, we had some amazing, although hazey views of the Atlas mountains…again, I wasn’t in any state to enjoy this moment, but I’ve had a look at the photos, and I can confirm it was amazing.
The ridge walk was not so steep, and with the sun now on us, must have been a couple of degrees warmer, although I had lost all feeling in two of my fingers (but I have Raynaud’s so that was to be expected!). It also signified the final stretch…”20 Mins” Mohammed shouted…
It was at this point I was pushing through a barrier, like, in no other situation have I ever done something, or physically pushed myself, that I didn’t feel like I wanted to do. In my head I was spotting all the cosy looking rocks that I could sit under and wait for everyone to summit and get me on the way back down…yes, that’s right…in my head these ice cold jagged rocks looked cosy. I’m talking ‘Nans armchair on a winters day next to an open fire with a knitted blanket and hot cup of coacoa cosy’. I took out my last protein bar for the final push, however, it was frozen solid, and after chocking on it several times, I thought…well fuck you then…and that marked the end of the protein bars involvement in my trip, and my story.
(Remys altitude face & some jagged cosy rocks)
After pushing on for what felt like an eternity, the summit was finally in sight; 50 paces away at a guess, and bang. suddenly the strangest wave of emotion came over me. You may or may not have known that I had booked this trek to raise money for my Grandad, who sadly, a week before we flew out, passed away. This no doubt hit me at this point, I felt somehow with-him for a moment, before also feeling exctatic that I had reached the summit on a personal level.
We had all made it, even the guys who had reservations, our trekking gang, pictured below, all made it, and some even managed to smile for the photo too!
We didn’t hang-out for long up on the summit, what with it being -6C and the potential for rain later in the day Mohammed was keen to get us all back down to refuge for lunch.
I was somehow buoyed by making the summit, and felt in much higher spirits than even just 10 mins prior; and no doubt descending was easier on the cardio than ascending, even if more punishing on your legs.
Easier maybe, more dangerous, for sure.
As we slowly made our way down the icy summit ridge; I crossed paths with a hiker making his ascent, he’d put a foot wrong, and with some not-so-cosy looking cliff faces to his right, and me to his left, I looked on as he fell face first into the ground; falling rigid, as if he was literally scared stiff…luckily for him, our guide, and another, were close by and assisted him to safety.
“Okay”, I thought to myself…”no slipping mate”.
As we continued slowly down, the heat began to rise, and before long we were stripping back the layers again…blood was once again in all my fingers, and breathing was much improved…and to turn this moment from good to amazing…out came that orange I packed at breakfast…which I ate like a savage, biting through the peel.
The novelty of the heat, soon wore off, and it was a long trek back to the refuge, down varied terrain.
During one cliff-side water break, we asked our guide, Mohammed, how long it would take him to summit and return to the refuge if it wasn’t for us slowing him up…
okay…so before I tell you; we’re on pace at this point to complete the summit in just short of 7 hours…
Mohammed – “so in 2009 I did a competition, and was up in 50mins – down in 20. so 1hour 10 mins in total”.
DOWN in 20 MINS …. as you can imagine, the guy suddenly becomes our mountain God. Like that’s some serious mountain running.
The photo below is taken at the very moment that this conversation is happening…good times!
Alas, we return to the refuge, not in 20 mins, but still in good time for out-of-shape westerners I guess…and in time for lunch…which was the most welcome meal you can imagine; of bread, pasta, fish, veg, tea, rice, lentils…just everything.
So…there you have it..Summit complete and I’m back in one piece.
Was it horrendous? Yes.
Was it amazing? Also Yes.
Was it hard? Yes (Yes yes yes)
Was it worth it? Hell Yes.
Would I do it again? When’s the flight?
Toubkal was a crazy one…our first 4000M summit, no doubt one we will remember for the rest of our lives. The world is full of amazing things…make sure you don’t miss it.
As that famous photographer Wayne Gretzky once said –
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”
So make sure you take yours!
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…
We’re super excited to be announcing the launch of our project Summit Snappr on the 26th June.
(We’ve chosen the 26th as we’re going to need a pick-me-up after completing the Orwell Challenge on the 25th – a 25 mile day hike in Suffolk!)
All the details and how to join can be found by clicking though the image below; which if you want to part of a massive online community to enable massive environmental action to reduce litter on the UKs mountains, then you need to be clicking for sure!
We’re had such an awesome response from the hiking community so far; and we would love for you to join us too!
There can never be too much appreciation for mountain goats – well not in our opinion anyway! Seriously, they are the ultimate masters of cliff face climbing and mountain survival….so without further ado…the mountain goats of Instagram….
Oh and scroll down to the bottom to witness the actual winner of The Ground Is Lava!
#1 King of Pride Rock
#2 The Abominable Goat
#3 The Traffic Cop
#4 It’s a Goats Life
#5 Summit Slayin’
#6 The Cliffhangers
#7 Boulder Goat
#8 When you’re a Goat, but the Wolf is your spirit animal
#9 Young Bucks
#10 The Polar Goat
Okay Okay…stop the internet.
The Winner of The Ground Is Lava goes to…
All credit to each and every wonderful Instagrammer using #mountaingoat – go check out their feeds!