ADVENTURE TO MOUNT TOUBKAL 03/2018
Mount Toubkal is the highest mountain in the Atlas Mountains, a tremendous 13,671ft (4,167m). A serious mountaineering challenge in the winter, there were gusty winds of over 50km/hr (on a good day!), sheer drops, and temperatures of -12˚C.
In March 2018, Simon and Hannah from the FEAST! board, along with Emily, a star FEAST! volunteer, joined Climb4Kim in climbing Mount Toubkal in memory of our beloved Kim Rosenfeld, to raise money for FEAST! At the time of writing, the total raised for all charities was over £22k! Thanks to all who have donated thus far! Please continue to donate here if you would like to further the cause!
Day 1 – altitude acclimatisation
We left Marrakech bright and early for a 2-hour drive to our starting point at 1200m, the equivalent of Ben Nevis. Our first hike was a 7-hour jolly in the beautiful burnt orange, green and purple African countryside to a small Berber mountain village, Imlil. We were accompanied by brave mountain goats clinging to cliffsides, local village children wanting chocolate, and rocks decorated with vibrant patterned rugs hanging out to dry. Our wonderful guides lulled us with a mesh of French, Berber and Arabic, and laid out a delicious Moroccan feast and abundance of sugary tea on a rare area of flat ground. As we climbed hills, forded streams, and followed every rainbow, we were merrily singing, philosophising, and absorbing the stunning scenery. As we climbed ever higher, we would glimpse Mount Toubkal towering ahead, seemingly a long way off, knowing we would soon face its enormity. With the sun falling we entered Imlil at 2300m, grateful for our last snippet of civilisation with hot showers and toilets with seats.
Day 2 – through blizzards to base camp
We woke Friday morning to find the village in a blanket of snow. The sun had gone and we were shrouded in mist. It may have looked beautiful from the comfort of the hostel, however the reality was chilling, especially for Emily who had to overcome severe altitude sickness. She was determined to stick with party and convinced herself that she was strong enough to make it through a long day.
Our destination was the refuge, a small building in the middle of nowhere at an altitude over 10,000ft (3000m). We carried only our mountain essentials; extra layers, plenty of water, and most importantly, Hannah’s endless supply of homemade banana flapjacks (made from surplus bananas a la FEAST!). The wonderful mountain mules schlepped our sleeping bags and main bags in the relentless snow along treacherous paths until it became too dangerous for them and the local villagers took over carrying 3 rucksacks each whilst we struggled up with our single day bags! We said our goodbyes as we faced whiteouts and strong winds that could have swept us off the mountain in an instant.
Day 3 – Assault on the summit and the long journey down
At 5am, we put on our wet hiking boots, every layer that we had, and our head torches. We went out into the freezing pre-dawn. Our superhuman guides took off their gloves to fit our crampons, gave us ice-picks, and after 5 shots of sugary Moroccan tea, we naively embarked upon the dauntingly steep slopes of the highest mountain in North Africa.
Boy, was it cold! And steep! And windy! Endless misery was punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Precarious was an understatement. Our guides casually informed us that the snow had turned to ice, such that if we fell, our waterproof trousers would make perfect skis to certain death. Why did we go in the winter? Why did we go at all? Would it we make it to the ridge ahead?! Everything was hurting, including parts that we didn’t know existed before. Em had a feeble pair of woollen gloves. As her numb hands were massaged like daggers painfully back to life, the camaraderie of the group in sharing their own gloves shone through. Meantime, urination behind a faithless rock might have relieved the bladder but certainly not the dignity as the wind sprayed the contents everywhere and turned them to icicles. Hannah thought she had frostbite on her bottom.
Through the existential crisis and compounding physical struggle, everyone was there for each other, and despite the little energy we had remaining, Simon opened his outer and inner jackets to reveal the Climb4Kim T-shirt, got out the brandy flask, and mustered a smile at the summit! However, the joy was overshadowed by the intense cold, the lethal wind, and the knowledge that every step we had taken up, we would have to take down in good time. The descent was hard on the knees. Naproxen was our best friend, although hard to swallow due to Simon’s diminishing water supply turning to ice.
We finally reached the refuge for a quick lunch before embarking on the 8-hour descent to civilisation. We set out to retrace the steps made throughout day 2 which seemed like a lifetime ago. You can understand our sense of humour began to fail by dark when we finally arrived at 8.30pm! It was a long and awakening day that we will not forget, and safe to say, we truly appreciate flat ground!
To hear more about the challenge, and donate to the cause, visit their fundraising page here.