Daniel and myself returned last week from a successful trip to Morocco to climb North Africa's highest peak - Jebel Toubkal. We are also pleased our efforts managed to raise £1500 (so far) for MacMillan Cancer Support.
Having been concerned for some time about hiking up a mountain in the considerable summer heat of Morocco, I was relieved to hear that the forecast for the trip was 44c with a wind chill factor bringing it down to a cool 42c. Nae bother, I thought. Friday
We abandoned the luxury of the moving oven (bus) when we were all 'well done' and the road ran out at the mountain village of Imlil, some 1700m high in the Atlas mountains. I passed up the opportunity to have a mule carry my guitar as I decided that just wasn't in the spirit of the event and I felt sure I'd be spurred on by my fundraising promise to carry the guitar to the top. As we hiked up through the village, passing numerous stalls selling rugs, trinkets, shoes & tagines, the views steadily improved, from terraced slopes of herbs, spices and walnuts giving way to cooler air and the dry rocky valley walls of Toubkal National Park.
Sweating our way up the long twisting path, passing various fuelling stops where local Berber people squeezed the most refreshing orange juice into a glass for about 20p. My favourite being the Charles Bronson look-alike's O.J.
Our guide Aziz led the trip with a steady pace up to the packed Mountain refuge (10,000ft) where an army of locals threw much needed pasta at us before we spent the night 'acclimatising' or rather just passing out.
The 5am alarm hit like double decker bus, marking the start of what was to be an extremely long day, so I downed my high energy shot of caffeine and other 'stuff' to help me up and away. So with guitar strapped to my back and cloaked in darkness we tackled the steepest section of Toubkal. The problem with the caffeine shot and the burst of energy it unleashed was it caused me to talk at 100mph and that it lasted for 5 hours oh and I had 2 more bottles of the stuff. There was nearly a mutiny.
As we neared the top the cloud broke and the sun and blues skies spurred us on. There was a party atmosphere as we reached the summit of Toubkal 4,167m (13,671ft), with bottles of Irn Bru being fizzed up like formula 1 winners and bodies lying crashed out all over the place. Once I got my breath back I played the song I had penned for the trip 'Call Me A Doctor' and then savoured the views as Andy Robbie of Glasgow band, The 4/5's took a turn on the guitar with a few tunes which was much appreciated by all.
By 6pm the group of weary souls and soles had reached our beds for the night at the spectacularly located village of Armed. Not even a huntsman spider stalking the bedrooms prevented me from getting any sleep - the spider was in someone else's room.
A casual morning stroll of about 2hours the next morning took us through the village and back to the bus-oven, which in turn took us back down into the inferno of 52c of Marrakech where the sweat started all over again...
A brilliant trip, with a great team of people so a big thanks from both Daniel & myself for all those donations.
Next year - hillwalking in the Netherlands.