10th June 2015 – the highest men in North Africa – Jbel Toubkal

The last few days have worked out well! After free camping and getting no sleep on the edge of the Atlas mountains I drive into Ansi, and then Imlil.

My rough plan was find a campsite to sleep at, and and organise some time in the High Atlas mountains.

Imlil is a base for anyone trekking parts of the Atlas mountains and is well geared up for tourists. Seems really easy to get things arranged here.

As I arrived into Imlil I pull over to let a car past me, its pulls over and out jumps Mohamed. It turns out Mohamed has a campsite, and also offers touristic support for Imlil  I follow to his place.

There are a group of UK soldiers camping there who are on an exchange programme with the Moroccan army, I get chatting to them and they are all friendly and good fun.  They tip me off on Mohamed being a local don of the village, and tell me he has some astute negotiation skills and give me some tips on how to handle him!

Within 20 mins I am sitting round a table with Mohamed drinking the usual mint tea talking about treks and food and guides and once I decide on what I want to do he comes in at at price. I go in at a third, and we more or less meet in the middle.  From 1700 Dirham to 900 dirham for 3 nights accommodation, food, a guide to climb Jbel Toubkal, and a night in the mountain hut seems OK to me.

The trek starts on Tuesday, and normally you walk up to 3000m, sleep in a lodge, then summit in the morning with all the crowds. My guide Azdoul had another plan!

After we reached the refuge, he suggest we continue up, I feel strong enough and other than slight headaches nothing altitude related yet. So we continue and it is tough, a mixture of the heat, altitude and semi scramble really did test me, and there were a lot of  moments where I thought why didn’t I just do what everyone else does, and stay at the hut, relax and do it tomorrow…..but we were committed.

Azdoul was good, and did offer a helping hand once or twice, and eventually after 3 hours (plus 3 hours earlier) we summit at Jbel Toubkal.

What was really cool for me was the silence and to think about it, we were the highest men in North Africa at that moment, a little cheesy perhaps, but also very cool!

We scramble down just in time for dinner as the sun sets, and sleep in the mountain lodge / refuge.

The next morning I hear all the other climbers who sleep in the same room getting up at 3am, 5am, 6.30am to do the summit. I stay in bed feeling broken but happy that we did do it yesterday after all!

Overall a good experience, not a technical climb but a hard scramble, perhaps better suited over two days if I am honest, and really easy to arrange here in Imlil.

You also seem to meet generally nice people who are also climbing.  I chat with a doctor from Norway, a couple from Amsterdam, and lots of people from France.

I also find the locals really friendly, and its good fun trying to speak with a mix of English, French, Arabic, and Spanish. I tend to revert to hand signals.

My bargaining skills are getting better, seems like a good tactic to look shocked at the first price, go in low with a smile, and meet somewhere between.  Just never lose your cool….

Having massive issues with internet uploads, so have tried to link back to Instagram for some shots!

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