15 km – with Prasana, Bonnie and Mohammed.
Christmas 2014: no tree, no turkey, no presents. Therefore mint tea, tajine and trekking.
Our plan: to climb North Africa’s highest mountain Toubkal (4167m) in Morocco’s Atlas mountains.
You need: a monstrous backpack and itchy feet.
After spending a few days in Marrakesh to indulge in food, people and the buzzing vibe of the city we were picked up on Monday morning at 8.30am to be driven to Imlil, the starting point of our Christmas trek. Imlil is a little mountain village (1740m), 1,5hs by car outside Marrakesh. It’s a dead end for cars and for most people the start of the climb of Mount Toubkal.
We booked a guide for our trek, who accompanied us for the next few days. Mohammed lived in the mountains all his life, climbed Toukal for the first time when he was 11 and has been up there about 500 times since. (Funny, I never asked him about his age ;-).) Amazingly, apart from Berber, he speaks French, English, Spanish and Russian, just by picking it up from the tourists he guides through the mountains.
It’s my first time winter climbing and I really can recommend a guide. Even if you’re experienced a guide is well worth it. Apart from the fact that he knows the terrain inside out, he takes care of your safety and makes your trek more comfortable just by shifting your luggage, advising on crampons and ice axe, binding your crampons, and even when your stomach literally goes down the drain twice within one hour he’ll offer to carry your monstrous backpack for you, despite the fact that he’s carrying his own already.
So we walked from Imlil up to the Toubkal Refuge (3207m), or base camp, passing Sidi Chamharouch after 7km. It’s a very! very! small settlement built around a Muslim shrine where we had lunch. After that it took us another 8km to get to the refuge and is a very comfortable climb. No signs of altitude sickness yet. Goooood! Altitude sickness usually kicks in only over 3500m when the air gets thin and the body can’t absorb enough oxygen. Symptoms are headache and nausea, however severe altitude sickness can be life-threatening when water gets into the lungs. More on altitude sickness here.
In the late afternoon we arrived at the refuge. No tent. A building built of stone with a heated common area. What a luxury. It’s so silent up here, you can hear the sun setting on the mountains.
Tomorrow: Toubkal. Yalla!