We were awoken by Mstafa at 430am and quickly layered up expecting a chilly climb up the mountain. Breakfast was a quite nervous affair and then 5am came and we were off.
We left camp, crossed Danger Beck and picked up the trail to lead us up the mountain. Once again wE adopted a steady poly poly pace led by Mstafa and everyone was climbing well and smiling (well I’m sure they were, was just a little dark to see!). The first section was quite rocky, large boulders so involved some clambering. Here we were overtaken by a couple of groups, storming ahead but huffing and puffing their way up, surely not a pleasant experience. We let them go – no prizes for altitude sickness!
Top of the rocks smiles
After passing through the rocks we climbed into the corrie section of the walk. Here much smaller rocks and scree. Much tougher to climb up, would be interesting coming down!
After a good hour or so zig zagging up the scree, warmed by Ians enthusiastic ‘I’m loving it’ we reached the col from where we could see the summit properly, the rocky ridge to lead us there and the huge drops to the other side!
Ian was much less enthused at this point but after a quick pep talk by Colin from the office we continued on. The climb here was a rocky path just below the ridge with a fairly steep drop to our left but not too exposed. We continued up here for around 30 minutes before we were in real sight of our goal and the fight to reach the top began. Mstafa was fantastic and let Ian lead the way to the first of the team to touch the highest point in North Africa!
We’d made it, brilliant team effort, a walk in the park!
I was a little disappointed to be let down by the Suunto showing 4100m some 71m short of the new official height of the mountain.
After the customary hugging and hand shaking, photos and celebrations Mstafa pointed out the route we’d followed over the previous 4 days and then about 40 minutes later we began the long descent. I wasn’t too keen on the ridge section, much less frightening on the way up than down, but followed Mstafas lead and we were back to the col. Unfortunately a group of charity climbers from Liverpool were well settled on top of the cache so we were unable to retrieve. We continued slowly down the upper scree section with a few slips and slides and hairy moments before we hit the beck and a steeper path down. Here Keith took a very nasty slide off the path and ended up with a bloody elbow and hand. I didn’t see the action but was told later he was very lucky and could have slid for miles!
We carefully and patiently continued down until finally we escaped the sliding death zone and were back into the big boulders. It was quite remarkable we only climbed this section a few hours earlier yet most of us had no recollection of the route! Ian had a quick look for another cache in this zone but with time against us and the very unhelpful clue ‘under a rock’ we failed again.
Finally we were in sight of the refuge and the path back down to the tents and a well needed sit down.
After another great salad lunch and presentation to the Muleteers (and giving them the cooks tip too!) most of us changed back into shorts and we began our ascent accompanied by an old school friend of Mstafas who will himself be a qualified guide in a weeks time.
The path was reasonable but busy with mules, tiring after our exertions earlier in the day and hot hot hot. We passed many people heading up the mountain, a good feeling knowing we’d already conquered, and a number of drinks stalls to quench our thirsts. One such stall was slightly alarming as Keith dropped his rucksac down next to what we later found out to be a Atlas Mountain venomous viper!
After 2 hours 37 minutes (I only know because of what happened next!) we arrived at the bar above the hamlet of Sidi
Chamharouch where a huge white coulder marks the spot where alledgedy the body of the Saint Chamharouch lies, the brother of the chap buried at Lac Ifni.
We stopped for a drink all tired and weary by now and unfortunately Mike was pretty sick. The conclusion was he had a touch of sunstroke having not drunk enough on route so after a short time we continued the descent very slowly.
The valley was beautiful but unfortnunately we were all really too tired and a little concerned to appreciate at this point and it was head down to our goal. At one point Mike took a turn for the worse at which point a mule evacuation was suggested. He was less impressed by this….his ‘there is no f’ing way I’m descending on a donkey’ had the rest of the team in synmpathetic stitches!
We eventually reached the river bed and contninued across the gravelly but flat section into the first town of Around. Weird feeling seeing real civilisation! We continued through another couple of villages, Tagadirt and Targa Imoula, our gite getting ever closer but still not there!
A least we were entertained on the way!
Eventually we bottomed out on the paved Imnil road and had a short walk up hill into Ait Souka, and then across the valley bottom river before finally reaching our destination.
What a feeling – nearly as good as the summit! We ditched the boots and lay in comfort on beautiful settees before being shown to our rooms. Ian and I had our own room on the top floor (obviously not so good) but with a huge balcony with fantastic views across the mountains.
We were able to shower and then all sat down for another great tangine meal and the opportunity to relax and share in the success of the day we’d had (all except Mike who was dead to the world in bed!)
A couple of hours earlier we’d all moaned about the walk and said we’d rather have stayed another night at the refuge camp, I think beds, showers and the comfort and relaxation of the gite changed most minds.
About 1030 we all head to bed for a very good nights sleep.
A monster day walking!
Summit trek – 7.32km, 987m ascent and 7h52m walking – the link to our route is here.
Walk out trek – 10.78km, 1312m descent and 5h47m walking – the link to our route is here.
Prior to our trip I’d found this link to a blog written by a lady who’d been on the trip. It didn’t mean too much previously but having been on the trek ourselves now it certainly does!