12 – 16 October 2011, Morrocco
Present: Claire (organiser), Alan, Paula, Bruce, Keyna, James, Belinda, Marion, Mark
Location: Mount Toubkal, Morocco
A very early morning flight from Gatwick got us in to Marrakech and zooming up into the Atlas Mountains on some scary precipitous roads by mid morning. Our minibus dropped us off at Imlil where we were met and escorted up a mountain trail – just a 10 minute walk we were informed – up to our lodge just outside the village of Aremd, where we arrived about an hour later! We were delighted with this attractive little lodge with a sun terrace providing stunning mountain views up and down the valley, and proper flush toilets (though no loo roll – so commencing the struggle to survive on so little supplies). It wasn’t long before our first of many mint tea (or berber whisky) arrived on the terrace, and a sumptuous lunch of bread and salad. We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, and then our berber guide Larsen arrived and took us on a walk around the village and to get our first views of Mount Toubkul. Another fine meal in the evening, and then it was an early night.
Our walk today took us over the pass of Tizi n Tizikert (2,930m) where we had lunch and met our mules, muleteers, and cook. Then we contoured down and round Aguelzim and back up deep into the valley of Azzadene where our small refuge was nestled at 3,000m. Along the way some doubters saw with their own eyes goats climbing trees! The Tazarhart refuge was full, which we were sharing with 2 Scots and 4 Catalans (who spent most the night planning their revolution – we think). A ladder led up into the attic where we slept, and it took some time before some of the group were brave enough to make the journey. Mark ended up sleeping next to the hatch and had the joy of bright torch light in his face every time someone ventured up or down. But with the grim toilet being outside and down a steep bank, not much liquid was consumed that evening.
After a breakfast of pancakes, it was an early start on this crisp morning. Today we crossed over Aguelzim (3,520m) and back down to the Mizane valley, which consisted of 93 zigzags up to the pass (so we were told – we didn’t count). We had great views from the top, looking down to the sandy plains and up to the 4,000m summits including Toubkal. We arrived at the Toubkal refuge (3,207m) for lunch just as the rain (later snow) set in, and spent the afternoon relaxing and playing cards, before our evening meal and early bed time – though Alan tried to keep the team awake for as long as possible with word games.
A 4am rise, but we didn’t start walking until 5.30am following many phaffs! With the bright moonlight and fresh dusting of snow it was a cold start (well below freezing) and some of us were taken by surprise by the cold. Poor Paula was suffering with berber belly which was slowing her down somewhat, so after about ½ hour walking we left her with Mohammed to take her time whilst the rest of us pushed on ahead. We got to the ridge and into the sunlight at about 8am – and much to our delight and surprise, Paula caught us up here, so we were all able to arrive at the summit of Toubkal (4,167m) together just before 9am. With the clear blue sky and dusting of snow the mountain views were incredible. After time for the obligatory photos we started the long walk down, stopping first at the Toubkal refuge for lunch, and then again at our lodge in Aremd for tea.
We were back in Marrakech by 7.30pm (after an even scarier drive in the dark this time), feeling exhausted, but after a quick shower it was out into the square to avoid the snake charmers and find food and drink – though luckily the food and drink found us through a couple of “locals” with the promise of taking us to a restaurant with good Moroccan food and alcohol!!! A few alleyways later and their promise came good, and we were able to celebrate our success and reminisce on our great few memorable days in the Atlas Mountains in true NMC fashion.