College student treks Atlas mountains, part 3

College student treks Atlas mountains, part 3

Phase 2  - Toubkal/Ouanoukrim Grand Atlas Occidental

The Kasbah de Toubkal is a showcase development for sustainable tourism in a fragile mountain environment. The product of an imaginative Berber and European partnership, this authentic eco guest house is not a hotel, more an extension of the hospitality that stems from the home of the Berbers who run it.  

After arriving late afternoon, weary, hot, dirty and exhausted, I sank into the steam room to release the tightness of my legs.  After a lovely dinner of tagine, a sleep of the dead and a sumptuous breakfast I reported to my new guide for Phase 2 of our adventure.   

Day 1
Start point: Kasbah De Toubkal – Imlil – 1740m
Camp 1: Azzadem Valley – 2250m
Temp: 20-25c
Distance: 14km
Time: 4 hours

In comparison to the terrain of our previous trek, this part of the Atlas Mountains was much more steep and rugged – a long slog of pure endurance. We climbed 2684m up the Tizi Mzik pass and then descended into the Azzaden Valley for lunch and camp. During our interesting route through the juniper forests, our guide taught us about the history of these forests and the medical remedies it’s used in. Later, after a rest and some lunch, we walked to the head of the valley at Tamsoult to shower in the waterfalls and swim in the plunge pools.  

Day 2 
Start point: Azzadem Valley – 2250m 
Camp 1: Nelter Hut - 3206m
Temp: 15-20c
Distance: 12km 
Time: 4.5 hours   

The days climb was hard going, clambering up a steep gradient using both hands, but we eventually summited Aguelzim N at 3547m high.   

The guide was eager for us to leave (the weather looked ominous), so we didn’t have long to enjoy the amazing views of the Imlil valley and the Toubkal range of peaks. With luck, we arrived back at camp just hours before the weather broke. I was resting in my tent when I heard, and almost felt, an almighty crack of thunder. Lightening created a light show behind the tent’s flimsy red outer layer, and it shook as the storm threw enormous hailstones the size of golf balls. Water dripped from the wet seams of the tent. The tent zip was wrenched open with a huge show of force, and I was hauled from the tent, grabbing all the warm clothing I could thrown on as I went to take refuge in the Nelter Hut. The guide urged me to run quickly to avoid the forked lightening. I pushed against the Nelter Hut door with the wind behind me, to find a room full of bedraggled trekkers sitting in the gloom. We remained there all night, sleeping back to back, sandwiched between my fellow escapees. It felt strange, after the isolation of Mgoun, to be in with other trekkers, who tend to be drawn more to the Toubkal region.

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