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Winter Mountaineering in the High Atlas, Morocco....

Updated: Feb 22

As many of you know, I had a significant foot injury that kept me off the mountains at the end of the summer and to be honest I did wonder if I would get to travel to the High Atlas this Christmas. Given the ok to get back into the mountains gently mid Nov I took the advice of the Consultant and Physio properly and actually only climbed 1 mountain before my departure, so I was a little apprehensive how I would cope. However because I had followed a very ‘back of a fag packet’ fitness regime, I felt fit and managed to bag a very healthy number of 4000m peaks, with no impact on my foot…happy days!

In all 12 folk came out for some winter mountaineering in the High Atlas this year and we successfully (and tactically!) summited a handful of peaks over the 2 trips. There were so many high points, many of which are obviously only relevant to those that were there, but the blue skies, great company and the Berber hospitality must surely rate highly…..and maybe the Belly Dancer!

Last year they had received a considerable snowfall the week before we arrived which made travelling in the mountains very tricky, some slopes were dangerously loaded and we witnessed a number of avalanches. With some careful planning we were lucky to be able to reach a summit. This year it looked like that volume of snow had been dumped in the Alps, so whilst conditions on the tops were thin, it did mean we could travel around safely and allowed us to reach all our objectives. It also exposed all the ice, which got most of us pretty excited about the potential here….(watch this space on winter climbing in Morocco next Christmas!)

Walking up a 4000m+ in winter conditions is a huge effort, it is not easy. There are some simple rules in this environment I work against to help us achieve our desired outcome, but at the end of the day it still requires you to slowly put 1 step in front of each other. It’s like walking up the Watkins Path on Snowdon, in winter and with nearly 50% less O2, sounds easy reading that I guess, but it’s hard to truly explain until you reach that point where you have to dig a little deeper with each step. Reaching the summit is only half the journey and funnily enough the next part is the most important to me, getting down safely with enough daylight time to deal with problems.

This year I saw some tremendously motivated folk battling inwardly to reach the summits, it was emotive and rewarding to watch. I often think of this quote by Kurt Hahn (Google him if you’re not sure who he is - he’s certainly influenced me over the years!) at times like this

‘We are all better than we know. If only we can be brought to realise this, we may never be prepared to settle for anything less’

I think the phase sums up the tenacity and determination of folk on the summit days perfectly.

Beyond that we then technically ‘legged it’ for Marrakech for a little pampering and some last minute Christmas shopping. I work in the mountains, I’m not a tour guide, but these trips are more than just the big spiky bits of rock, this is a opportunity for me to share the culture of this fascinating country, to give you a flavour, a snapshot (running out of cliches!) with the hope that you’re inspired to revisit the place one day.…..

Enjoy the video...

(Dates for 2018 -2019 will be out in the next few weeks…let me know if you’re interested.)

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