College student treks Atlas mountains, part 4

College student treks Atlas mountains, part 4

Day 3 

Start point: Nelter Hut - 3206m
Camp 1: Nelter Hut - 3206m 
Temp: 10-15c 
Distance: 12km 
Time: 5 hours   

We left the Nelter Hut at 7.00am to begin a day where we would summit three peaks. The whole day was a scramble, using hands and feet to climb for hours, reduced to a crawl as the temperature began to drop. 

The wind was up, the clouds got darker, and I feared slipping on the rocks if it started to rain. But the views were amazing as we reached the top of Ouanoukrim at 4083m high. We made a short descent to push up again to Timzguida, where the guide encouraged me to try for one more: Akloud, at 4030m high. And bingo! Three peaks in one day! As the weather appeared to be rushing in again, our guide rushed us back, non-stop, to the camp – descending in just an hour, a climb that had taken 4!

Day 4
Start point: Nelter Hut - 3206m
Camp 1: Kasbah De Toubkal – 1740m
Temp: 5-10
Distance: 18km
Time: 8.5 hours   

Summit day! Leaving my tent at 5.00am, I could see the torch beams of other climbers picking their way through the faintest glows of sunrise. I’d had no problems with altitude sickness all week, and the guide encouraged me up the steep slope. I made the summit of Toukbal in just 2.5 hours, 1.5 hours head of schedule and a distance ahead of the first party of climbers – meaning I had an empty peak to record the event. It is the highest peak in North Africa at 4167m. The views were quite simply unbelievable. With clouds drifting in, it was cold and the weather over Marrakech looked terrible, and so we made our descent.

 

The route took in a aircraft crash site, and we ate a picnic – I was totally elated! We also summited Immouzzer on the way down, another 4000m peak. My sense of achievement from all my summits was sinking in – this felt special. 

I arrived back at the Kasbah just in time for a hard-earned cup of mint tea! The small things had definitely made a huge difference on this trip – trudging into camp at night at kicking off my boots to air my tired feet, and indulging some Moroccan Tea. The sweet taste of mint and green leaves, finished off with a few sugar cubes was the perfect ending to each day.
 

The whole trip had been a daily battle with altitude. My research had shown some Atlas Mountains hikers experience problems reaching heights if 4000m. Fortunately, our guides had years of experience behind them and knew the Atlas Mountains like the back of their hands. They encouraged me to walk at a slow pace, to push on to a higher altitude before making camp for the night, and most importantly to drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated. We were lucky not to experience any illness – we drank only the bottled water carried by the mules and avoided the mountain streams that cut into the mountains, which could have been contaminated by animals upstream. We had survived the scorpions which were lurking under the shade of every rock, and the odd snake, but insects had been prolific in the irrigated lowlands – flies and midges had plagued us along the way! 

 
The thing that kept me going? Sibling rivalry! Failure was not an option, considering my brother’s efforts at on their treks (one of whom had already climbed Mt Blanc and the other, Kilimanjaro). Coming back having failed would have been harder than the trek itself! It was an experience I am glad to say I won’t forget, and one that hopefully I will be able to do again. 

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