Mount Toubkal – Day 2 – The Ascent, and the ….long descent….

Mount Toubkal – Day 2 – The Ascent, and the ….long descent….

Area: High Atlas
Starting point: Toubkal mountain refuge
Date of walk: 28th April 2019
Walkers: Me & Saeed (local guide)
Distance: 11 miles
Difficulty: Moderate – Hard
Terrain: Rocky, Icy in places, Snow
Weather: Clear skies, sunny

Up like a Meerkat by the sound of my 4:45am alarm. I seem to be the first one up in the dorm and I walk to the window and peer out. It’s pitch black, but from what I can see the weather seem’s calm. I’m pretty shattered, muscles a a little tired, altitude headache is still lingering but I’m excited & rearing to go. Downstairs, me & Saeed sit down for a continental style breakfast, cheese, jam’s, breads, olives – that kind of stuff. Oh and ofcoure, plenty of Berber whisky. Still peering out the window, it seems the snow storm has stopped. I’m told fresh snow is good for walking on, old snow becomes hard and slippy.

Not making the same mistake, I drop most of my weight here at the refuge so I’m only carrying essentials (yes, the chocolate leibniz, a few oranges & some water). We step outside and breath in the fresh mountain air, I always feel unattached to this world when I’m on a mountain, the higher and higher you ascend, the less attached you become. Consciously doing this make walking into a deep profound tool for transformation. The rolling hills of England reflect life itself, like a heart beat, up’s & down’s. Sometime’s you may find yourself in a murky bog, other times high in the sky. It is about being OK with all of it, it is all experience. Being OK with ups & downs and remaining the observer through life’s chaos. 2days ago I was in the busy streets of Marrakech, now I’m 2000 metres above sea level taking solace in the High Atlas.

Crampons on, gloves on, hat on . Torch’s are needed to trek through this thick snow in the pitch black. There is no path due to the fresh snow. Saeed says, let the groups go first, they will carve a nice path for us. Very wise! We depart in the pitch black to make our ascent.

By 6am we are making our ascent, it is steeper than yesterday but very manageable for many reasons (lighter pack, acclimatization & good sleep). Spirits are high not only among the 2 of us but everybody summiting. We walk in darkness for 2 hours until we see the sun hit the top of the peaks. What a sight, ‘Dusk’ is my favorite part of the day, it’s the calm before the storm, before the day takes a hold.

First sun hitting the caps of Atlas mountains
First sun hitting the caps of the Atlas Mountains
Looking back – gazing Westways

I struggle to believe their is not a cloud in the sky following yesterdays fiasco wading through a snow storm being pelted with hail stones the size of my index fingernail. Not a cloud in the sky, in fact, could their have been a better day to summit a mountain? I’ve not even had a day like this weather wise, summiting Snowdon! Looking back and gazing West knowing the sea is there, to the North Marrakech & to the East, the Sahara desert.

We made steady pace stopping occasionally for dates, chocolate & water. The higher we get the slower I get, breaking to often isn’t too helpful as it breaks momentum & to be quite honest I would be more than happy sitting on a ridge half way up the mountain admiring my surroundings. As we hit about 3800 meters the peak is clearly visible, we are way above the clouds at this stage (in more ways than 1).

Final break at around 3800 metres gazing Eastward – Sahara

The last approach is tiresome, I slowly make the last few hundred meters while Saeed is racing ahead, as reaching the top I am welcomed by other walkers congratulating. I take my jacket off to lay on the floor, perch myself up in silence for a couple of minutes and soak up the Atlas to the North. It is surprisingly warm & still, no wind really. I would stay here all day but there is another 6 hours walking back to Imlil and Saeed tells me there is bad weather coming. I’m think to myself really? but there’s no clouds really… Oh well, we stick around for a big, I watch the crazy Berbers climbing the triangular structure on the peak.

Final approach to summit

The walk back is interesting, who would have thought running down mountains covered in snow would be so much fun… Not sure how safe it is though. It is hard on the legs going back down, different muscles are worked and my crampons came off at 1 point. Soon as they did, Saeed came over to help me sort it out, I felt like a child having my school laces tied for me. As we proceeded further down, we were strolling with some pace and stopped off at the refuge to pick up all my belongings. As we continued Saeed said something to me which warmed my heart, it was nothing big or anything like that. Something very simple, he turned around as we were walking and asked me ‘Are you okay’? I answered yes I am, thanks. He than responded ‘my friend, if you are happy, I am happy’. I nodded in agreement, with the words likewise being put across in my expression. We both smiled and continued to walk back to Imlil. We went back to a Imlil Refuge in the village sat and drank Berber tea with his friends. I learnt Saeed actually means happy in Arabic. Sitting here drinking tea once again with these Berbers, I feel the love. They are wanting to know more about me , my stories, my adventures & I want to know more about they’re way of life. There is a fair exchange in conversation, and it becomes apparent I am with good people. It seems Arab hospitality has stole a piece of my heart once again….. Hiking abroad isn’t just about walking through hard terrains exerting your body, no it is much more than that. It is showing appreciation for a new place, my travels always reaffirm, go with love & it is that you shall receive. Enter any land with a pure heart and a pure heart will meet you. Until my experience shows me otherwise, I will continue to move through different lands with these ethos

Me & Saeed on Toubkal

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