Date: 14th Jan 07
Location: N of Tahzoute
Weather: Clear, Blue Skies and the warmest morning of the trip so far!
Status: Ben – In need of recuperation by the ocean, Colonel – moving again
Blimey what a rollercoaster of a last week it’s been!! Started it feeling the worst and most tired I’d felt in 10 years and now finish it sat once again by the Atlantic Ocean basking in the wicked sunshine soaking my aching feet after the exertions of climbing a mountain!! JJ
Once Jenny and Colin had finished the last bit of their fish lunch and headed north for their village fiesta my stomach hadn’t felt right, I spent a complete day holed up in the tent doing nothing apart from run to the loo and then we had to head to the Atlas to prepare for the first of the challenges – Toubkal, great!
After a good drive through Marrakech, again in the rush hour but safely navigated, we drove up to the mountain road to find the quiet village of Imlil; the base camp for summer and winter ascents of the Atlas range, four of which peaks are over 4000m.
When we strolled into the Café de Soleil after sundown we met another truly great character and big part of the trip so far, Alex our French/living in Wales guide and instructor. We all immediately hit it off and shared the same approach to the situation “How are we gonna get Luke up and hill instead of Owen?”…simple, off dashes the hotel owner and brings back a pair of boots in the right size and a set of crampons, couple that lot with the other bits I’ve got and there he is….Luke the intrepid mountain explorer!
After a cold nights sleep we rolled out of our freezing rooms and got the kit together to start the three day journey to scale Mount Toubkal. They’d be split into one hard day and two easier with the worst of it coming first as we try to cover most of the distance while feeling fairly fresh at the start. A long 6 hour trudge up to the refuge at 3140m was made a damn sight easier by the addition of crampons for the first time in the mini-adventure and together with it the joys of trying to walk with your knees ALWAYS slightly apart to save from tripping up and heading off down the sheer slopes before you’re meant to.
Was wasn’t making the trek any easier, was that every step we were taking nearer to the refuge our task was becoming harder and harder as the air thinned and oxygen became more precious causing our hearts to beat faster to compensate, not so bad in the early stages but by the time we’d got to the last hour of our efforts we needed to stop every 2 mins to get our breath back. Makes you feel really, really unfit and it doesn’t matter how fit you think you are it still gets you big time, Luke meanwhile with his literally minutes of preparation for the climb, wasn’t really looking forward to day 2.
Up bright and early for the assault on the summit and it was ‘Another shit day in Africa’ again – clear blue skies, sunshine and about -8°c in our rooms (honestly) as we scraped the frost off the inside of the glass! After stuffing down some breakfast and making my final unscheduled visit to the toilet we headed outside full of expectation and aching feet to crampon-up. The ascent was only around 1.5kms away but up gain of nearly 1km so some serious thigh work to do if we’re gonna make it! 3hrs later we’d made most of the distance up and the climb stated to level out so the ice axes became more like weapons and the summit finally showed it face over a ridge at which point Luke decided to break into a sprint to be the first there….and made it in superb American sport jock style……YEAH!
A more-than-Titanic struggle to get there but oh so worth it, the huge amount of huffing puffing, not changing for 4 days, wind-chapped face, blistered feet feeling it was incredible. Challenge one complete.
Back at the refuge that night we were enjoying the last of the afternoons sunshine, last being about 16.00 as the refuge is deep in a valley, getting sunlight for about 6hrs a day before dropping back into the sub-zero zone, when along rocked a bunch of four Catalonians to join us for the night! Later that evening, even though the language gap as a bit of a barrier, the rules of Shithead (card game) had been swapped and battle commenced!
Most amusing part of the trip so far? Watching Daphne (the female member of their troupe) pick up the complete set of rules in a game and kick Alex’s ass straight away afterwards….”But I never loose” he said!!
Next day, yesterday, involved travelling down from the mountains to Marrakech to drop off our good buddy Alex, then headed west as far as you can go and back to the coast!
So that’s exactly where I’m writing this from now, the beach, with the sun hitting my right shoulder so much I’ll have to turn around soon and a set of achy, tired and bruised feet but a very contented and satisfied head! Doctor’s orders are as follows: sunshine, relax and let the blisters recover before in 10 days time they have to get moving again to run the streets of Marrakech and the first marathon of the trip.
Signing off for now…..Ben & Luke
End of day location: on the beach at Tahzoute
Distance covered: 353kms