Luke, Steve & Tom Summit Mount Toubkal!
THERE AND BACK AGAIN – Summiting Mount Toubkal
The time had finally come for the big trip!. From around the world, the three friends assembled at Stansted Airport with one goal in mind – to climb Mount Toubkal, in Morocco. Towering at 4167 metres, the mountain claims the title of being North Africa’s highest mountain.
Luke Davey, Steve Wade and Tom Savidge, three close school mates, had long discussed taking on a challenging adventure, in order to raise money for WONDERWorks wonderworksasia.org a charity which focuses on helping impoverished and exploited young women in Nepal. It was with this worthy cause in mind that the team set off on their adventure.
Arriving in Marrakesh
After a short flight to Marrakesh, the team arrived. Battling their way through hectic customs, eccentric taxi drivers and snake charmers, the team reached their hostel, situated next to the main Souk in the old town centre, and settled in for the night. Before heading to bed to get some rest, Luke decided to check his supplies for the following day, only to find – a purple hair dryer! Not known for his fashionable hair styling, realisation hit – he had picked up the wrong bag!!! Luckily he managed to make it back to the airport, shortly after 2am, and exchange it for his own (identical) luggage.
Hostel in Marrakesh
The hard work begins
The following morning started with a one and half hour drive to Imlil in the Atlas Mountains, where the hiking would begin. With temperatures soaring to 40 degrees centigrade, the boys began the long hike to base camp, 2000 meters above sea level. They were led by their trusty guide, Muhammad, and pack mule, Katrina, who carried their big packs and water supply. Despite the heat the scenery was fantastic, passing through dried up river beds and over mountain passes, stopping in any available shade to rehydrate. After seven hours of hard trekking the boys made it to the refuge. They placed down their tents in the shadow of the mountain, which was a constant reminder of the task at hand.
After arriving at base camp and setting up the tents for the night, it was a good time to unwind and get ready for the following day. Tom had spotted a stream and suggested it was a good opportunity to freshen up and clean off some of the dust from the days trek. Little did they realise at the time, that the water running down off the mountain was melted snow and ice! Safe to say it was freezing but, with an audience of mountain goats, they took the plunge!
After been fed copious amounts of mint tea and tagine, made up of goats meat and vegetables, the boys popped their altitude sickness tablets and turned in for the night at 7pm, ready for the 3am bid for the summit.
Wanting to arrive in time for sunrise, they woke up at 2am for a 3am start. Their strategy was to be the first group and to stride up the summit quickly, so they wouldn’t be stuck behind a human traffic jam. A few things soon became clear; it was very cold and very dark, despite a clear night with the stars (including shooting stars) out in full force. Armed only with head torches, they followed their guide Muhammad who set a fast pace as he tried to keep them on track for a quick ascent. The effects of altitude were imminent however; shortness of breath ( with 50 percent less oxygen than that at sea level) and a rapid heart rate. For the first hour they made good time, spurred on by Muhammed’s comparison to mountain goats and the sight of a ridge, close to the submit. After reaching the ridge it was evident that they were no where near the top and that this was the first ridge of many, with daunting ice covered boulders ahead. Steve and Tom dealt well with the pace. Luke on the other hand had picked up a nasty cough before the trip and was struggling to breathe, but with a few extra pit stops on the way he managed to keep up. After another hour or so they were informed that they would be able to see the summit in the next twenty minutes, which was a relief as the wind had picked up and the cold was hitting home. Placing one foot in front of the other in the dim glow of their headlights, the boys surged on until they made it to the final ridge (the Hillary Step as it was nicknamed, in honour of the final ridge on Mount Everest). With the summit now in sight the team pushed on. With strong winds threatening to blow them off the mountain, they shuffled along the final pass which had shear drops of over a mile either side and set foot, thoroughly out of breath, onto the summit of Mount Toubkal!
The team reached the summit at 5.30am, in pitch black and extremely windy and cold conditions (estimated minus 10 degrees C) a far cry from the 40 degrees C down below during the day. Sitting on a cliff, trying to shelter from the freezing cold and finding it hard to breathe due to the altitude, the boys waited it out until the sunrise at 6.20am, much to the amusement of their guide who casually lit up a cigarette at the top, having no issues with the altitude at all. It was worth the wait! The views were incredible, scenic mountains on one side and a view of the Sahara desert stretching as far as the eye can see on the other. Basking in the glory of the mountain and the little warmth the sun provided ( Luke was especially cold, as living in tropical Hong Kong hadn’t given him the same resistance to the cold as his northern English companions) it was time to head down. It was immensely satisfying reaching the summit and also looking below to see that the next team of climbers had only just begun!
Their euphoria was short lived as their guide reminded them that they were not even half finished with the days trekking, with three hours down to Base Camp and a further seven back to Imlil. The boys set off down the mountain, slipping and sliding as they went through rock and sand. About half way they bumped into the first signs of life in the form of another trekking team, with a member who couldn’t manage the climb, so they escorted her back down. The team made it back to base camp but there was no rest and after half an hour and some more mint tea, the team continued until they were finally back at Imlil, after eleven long hours of trekking, since 3am that morning. Immensely satisfied but exhausted, the boys eventually arrived at their hostel in Marrakesh.
Sitting on a roof top in Marrakesh the following day with a well-deserved beer in hand, still feeling winded and sore, the lads were happy with what they had achieved and agreed that another adventure would have to take place the following year – watch this space! The climb raised more than 1,100 pounds (nearly US$1,900) which was well above their target and would go a long way in supporting WONDERWorks on their mission to improve the lives of young women.
The trip was a great success and the team would like to thank all those who sponsored them, really making the climb worthwhile. After the usual Ryan Air delays they made it back to London and drove through the night back to Leeds, with the mountain still on everyone’s mind.
Until next year,
Luke , Tom , Steve