Morocco 2009

Morocco 2009

Morocco 2009

I never got around to doing a full write up of our little expedition to Jebl Toubkal back in 2009. I spent the months after creating a photographic memory in the form of a blurb book. Its still available and when I get a minute I will convert it to an ebook!

Click on the book to take a closer look and preview the first 15 pages.

As Winter approaches, I have noticed more and more articles on visiting the fantastic Atlas Mountains so I thought I would complete a quick write up and drop a few piccies on here to tell our tale!

The tagline to one of the photographs in the book is, “the escape from Toubkal. 6 went out and 6 came back”.

I am not exaggerating when I say that the six hours spent trying to get down back to civilianisation was in some of the hardest mountain conditions I have have experienced. It really was a true adventure.

We were met at the airport by our minivan driver, all pre arranged through Mohamed Aztat. http://www.atlastrekshop.co.uk/

He not only sorted our logistics up to Imlil but also put us up the night in his guesthouse in Imlil. Dar Adrar is in a fantastic location, high up in the village at the start of the path leading into the mountains.

Inside Dar Adrar

Inside Dar Adrar

The hospitatilty, food and drink was fantastic. A word of warning though….This was February – there is no heating and no hot water. Be prepared! The only good thing is that it will get you used to the cold – as it may get worse!!

The trek up towards the first rest point was glorious. Sidi Chamarouch is at 2340m. We left Imlil, at 1740m, two and half hours earlier and the mint tea and rest was well earned.

Walking into Sidi

Walking into Sidi

A well earned break

A well earned break

Onwards and Upwards!

Onwards and Upwards!

We now had 7km to go but 1km in height gain. Slow and steady was the name of the game. With heavy packs and the sun beating down it was to be an unrelenting climb up to the refuge.

Just another day in the mountains!

Just another day in the mountains!

We had decided to stay at the Refuge du Toubkal. There is another hut next door, Les Mouflons.   The reason for one over the other was mainly down to the fact that in winter – both had a huge range of reviews ranging from very bad to acceptable. To be honest, the guardian during our stay could not have been more helpful so in retrospect – it was the right decision.

Refuge Du Toubkal 3207m

Refuge Du Toubkal 3207m

The following morning dawned with thick cloud. Time to rest those legs after the slog up yesterday. No sooner had I made myself comfy, all wrapped up in fleece and down, when someone ran in and disclosed a temperature inversion had occurred producing a 6-8 hour weather window prior to a storm. Time to go bag a summit!

Just keep going up!

Just keep going up!

Hardly taking a break we made the bowl before the long summit ridge in good time. The wind was increasing but from the views over our shoulders the sky’s appeared clear.

Keeping one eye on the weather

Keeping one eye on the weather

As we made our way onto the ridge, the wind started to bite. Thank god for the full Buffalo suit. Its days like these where the Pertex and fibre pile stuff really shows its strengths.

Buffalo Hood getting velcro'd on...but freezing my hands in the process!

Buffalo Hood getting velcro’d on…but freezing my hands in the process!

Cloud brewing far below

Cloud brewing far below

We made it. Bloody knackered but what a view!

Arriving at the summit

Arriving at the summit

After the obligatory summit photos, it was time for a speedy descent. We knew that the weather was turning but were happy with the knowledge that we had grabbed the big one in superb conditions.

The weather report was correct. the storm did hit later that afternoon. Unfortunately  what it got wrong was how long it was going to last. Our plan when travelling to Morocco was to summit 2 or 3 peaks. There are loads within easy distance of the refuge so, given the right conditions, this is pretty feasible.  We had given ourselves 3 mountain days with an exit down to Imlil on the fourth. We had used day one grabbing Toubkal.

Days two and three were a write off!

On day two we attempted to get out and up into one of the valleys opposite. Nearly 2 feet of fresh snow had fallen and we backed off from attempting the gully route in due to dangerous snow conditions. The wind was still strong and the snow was getting heavier.

By day three, we didn’t even venture out the door. Some of the outbuildings were completely buried. By the morning of day four – the day we had to leave, we were digging out the kitchen with snow shovels!

Going, going...gone - Buried in the snow!

Going, going…gone – Buried in the snow!

Contemplating the great escape!

Contemplating the great escape!

Going out into that storm was pretty nervy. There were times that even with the goggles on, i was struggling to see. The snow had drifted so high in places that we had to traverse them up and then back down the other side!

The escape down Toubkal

The escape down Toubkal

Nearly there!

Nearly there!

Unbelievably, there were a couple of people still selling mint tea in Sidi! We spent around an hour there, knowing that the worst was over but it was still in the back of my mind that there was another 2 hours to go before Imlil. The past 4 hours really had been hell!

Any excuse for a rest!

Any excuse for a rest!

You can imagine that Dar Adrar was a welcome sight! That night we were really looked after with a huge Tagine and plenty of hot drinks.

As per is the norm on Spreadys Tours – the storm blew itself out and the following morning dawned perfectly! It was time to say goodbye to the mountains and spend a little recuperation time in Marrakech.

Looking back to the Atlas Mountains

Looking back to the Atlas Mountains

Time to sort the gear out

Time to sort the gear out

Enjoying the sun on the roof terrace

Enjoying the sun on the roof terrace

Riad Amira in Marrakech provided us with a great location to chill out, clean up and then explore the city before our flight back the next day.

What an adventure!

Before I finish off, here are some details that may assist you if venturing over there.

When you fly, try to get near the front of the plane. The passport controls are slow and after 3 planes landed within 10 mins, the queues were awful. Mohamed also has a gear hire shop and can arrange for Berbers or mules to assist in the trek up the valley to the refuges. E-mail – aztat.trek at gmail.com. Prices: (2009) Minibus to and from Marrakech, 2 evening meals (excellent..and loads!) 2 night accomodation with great breakfasts, bottled water = 450E (75E Per person)

Refuge Costs (2009) 4 nights Half Board, Use of Gas when needed, a few snacks and drinks, about 20 bottles of water all came to 740Drms each. This equates to £59! The hut is cold – VERY…Water bottles were freezing in the bunkroom and the windows don’t shut properly that let the snow in! There is no hot water for washing in the winter. It does have electric though and you can get a mobile phone signal. The matresses beds are slighly damp but we prepared for this by placing silver survival blankets between the bed and the sleeping bag. Kept the damp and cold away from the down bags. I did visit the Mouflon whilst up there, this is the hut next door. Seemed very nice but during the storm they had no Electric, which meant no lights. It would appear that they run on Solar power whilst the CAF place has a water turbine in the river below the hut.  Things may have changed now so please dont take all of this as current.

Keep on climbing!

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