Mt toubkal.2

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My latest trek

Text of Mt toubkal.2

  • 1. Mount Toubkal A Short Trek by Jayant Doshi thth(from 30 September 2012 to 5 October 2012.)I read the email and my first reaction wasthat I must do this I have to go. Threedays trek seemed very short compared tomy other treks I have done, but a chance todo another trek and to raise funds for acharity were good enough reasons for me tosay yes immediately.I left home before 3.00 a.m. (soon aftermidnight) to catch our flight from Gatwick toMarrakech. I had already met seven of thenine participants in practice walk a month early and I had done two treks before withsome of them. Our group of nine was a medley of different ages and professions. Out ofnine, three were ladies. Age wise, two had just crossed 30, rest, with exception of two,were in the 45 to 55 age range, while onehad just crossed that range and myself. Thegroup had one solicitor, one barrister andpart-time judge, two pharmacists, onedentist, one financial adviser, one mechanicand a good cook, a reporter cum journalistand a retired businessman.The trek was in Morocco on the Atlas rangeof mountains, and specifically to conquer thehighest peak called Mount Toubkal. Moroccois a desert area with very little greenery andthis was reflected on the mountains. UnlikeNepal and Everest area, there are no local people living on the route. The mountains lookedbarren, and surface dry and dry soil covered the surface of the mountain. In Himalayas Iwould take hundreds of photos of lovely scenery. While here the scenery was picturesque -it was not comparable.We managed to take some sleep in ourthree hour flight. Our hotel or Riad was inthe old town of Marrakech traditional typeof Moroccan house which was convertedinto a simple but very comfortable andpleasant place of residence for us. We wereserved with breakfast in the terrace. Afterlate breakfast we walked around the oldtown and the square which was buzzingwith activity- from fruit juices to food, fromsnake charmers to palmists, and withthousands of local people and tourists the

2. square was alive with life. Next morning we embarked on our trek after breakfast. We were driven to the village of Imli where we were served with tea. We started our trek at 11.20. Morocco is a desert area and this was reflected by the terrain on the mountain. All houses were in sandstone colour whether this was to camouflage in the surroundings or because it was more convenient and economical is something I am not sure of. On our trek, there was very little greeneryto see. Our path was covered with either huge rocks, stones, pebbles, dust and balls ofdust. It made walking bit tricky as the loose soil and rubble moved with the steps. Westarted from Imli at 1750 metres, climbedup to 2469 metres and then came down to2300 metres for our overnightaccommodation. At times we faced somesteep climbs and coming down in loose soilwas tricky as one could slip easily. The skywas clear and the sun was on us for thewhole day. It was hot and my shirt andvest were drenched in the sweat.Our overnight accommodation was awooden building with some rooms, andeach room had many bunk beds. Luckilywe were all in one room with no one else to share with or worry about making ourtalking and snoring less irritable to outsiders. I did not sleep too well may be because Iwas too tired or I could not adjust to the environment. There was hot water showeravailable at a cost, and the water came out in a trickle, but it was still nice to have ashower especially after walking in the sun and the body drenched in sweat.We woke early, had our breakfast and left for our trek soon after 7.00. We had been warned today was going to be a long and difficult trekking day. We started at 2300 metres and were to climb a mountain with a steep slope that would take us to 3600 metres, and then we would come down to 3200 metres to our overnight accommodation.Climbing up a mountain slope and coveringalmost 1300 metres in height in one daywas difficult. The slope must have a 60 to70 degree gradient. To make the climbeasier the treks take a zigzag shape acrossthe slope to reduce the intensity of the slope 3. and the gradient. We were told by theguide that he had counted and was certainabout it that there were 89 such loops onthe slope. For the young and fit this did notpose much problem. But with less ability tostore oxygen in my system I faced huffingand puffing in my breathing as I climbedup the mountain - and I had to stop moreoften to fill up my lungs. Shilpan wasfacing similar problem and we kept eachother company. At the end of every loop,and at times even before, we had to stop torecover our breath. But we kept plodding and ultimately made to our overnightaccommodation. I was tired but I did not have any pains and aches which wasencouraging. Nor did I face any knee or ankle pain - which was a relief. But I did feel tiredafter long day of difficult walking and perhaps that gave me sound sleep.Like the previous night, we were in a wooden house with lots of bunk beds and today alsono one else was sharing with us. Our toilets were filthy and doors could not be closed or locked. The hotel had another building which had showers and better toilet facilities which we were allowed to use. However it was inconvenient to go to the other building at night in the dark and the cold. I slept well this day though I had to wake up once to use the toilet.The group had jelled well in spite of the agedifferences. Evenings were spent talkingand laughing and overall the six day tripwas great fun. During our six daystogether, during our spare time in hotels, during ourmeal times and during walk about in the town,conversation flowed as if we had known each other foryears. Jokes and laughter was common and overallenjoyment was great.Next day was going to be long. We were to get up andbe ready by 5.00 a.m. and after breakfast we were toleave by 6.00. Two of the party had decided that it wastoo difficult and they were not going to even attempt thewalk. Just the fact that in one day we were to walk upto 4167 metres from 3200 metres start point, and comedown not only to our Tuesday night camp site, nor toMonday night campsite but right up to our start point ofImli and then drive to Marrakech on the same day, wasa scary thought for those not that fit or experienced insuch trekking. We were to walk up 900 metres and 4. walk down 2500 metres and that withintime constraint. We had to be in Imli beforedusk so that we can be driven on toMarrakech. Everyone was well wrapped inthe cold temperatures but I knew that afterlittle walking we would be warm so I put onthe minimum to contain the cold. The start ofthe walk was on plain path which slowlyled up to the start of the mountain. Once westarted the climb up the steep surface itbecame clear it was not going to be easy.The surface of the mountain was scatteredwith large and small rocks, stones, pebbles,small mud balls, loose gravel and soil and icy patches. We had to use our hands at timesto push the body up a steep and rocky patch. Three guys and one lady had moved up fastand had disappeared from our sights. But i together with two ladies struggled but keptgoing up slowly. Very soon we started seeing patches of snow and it felt that the snow will not bother us much as it was old and in patches and perhaps we could go around it. But we were proven wrong. Soon we were walking on those snow patches and being there for a few days snow had turned to slush or ice and made walking difficult. Our shoes kept slipping on such surface. My walking sticks helped me a lot to maintain balance and to lift my body up. I was with two ladies Daksha and the young Gurpreet. After about three hours ofwalking Daksha decided that she could not carry on any further and announced that shewas going back. The chief guide had gone with the other four. We had one guide and onecook with us. So the cook turned back with Daksha. Hardly had Daksha gone, and whilestill in our sight, Gurpreet decided to turn back. We were going up snowy patches and itwas getting difficult. And soon we found outthat going down the slope was going to bemore difficult.Gurpreet found it difficult to walk down theslippery slope covered with snow. Sheslipped and almost fell or lost balance, andthe guide decided to carry her over the trickypatch. The guide had asked the cook to waitfor Gurpreet. Daksha and Gurpreet startedwalking back to our hotel while the guidecame back to join me. Gurpreet at somepoint twisted her ankle. The guide started 5. convincing me, almost persuading me, to turn back. He said we did not have time and I amwalking too slowly to carry on to the top.But I was determined this time that I willnot give up that easily. I gave my rucksackto the guide and started walking. I keptgoing up. I could see the rim of themountain we were climbing it appearednear but walking up was not. The gradientmust have been around 70 degree and thistime there was no zigzag walking to easethe slope. The guide kept telling me to turnback and I kept saying that I will turn backonce we reach the rim. At around 11.00,after almost 5 hours of walking, I wasthere. I was informed that I had climbed from 3200 metres to 4025 metres and only(though very tough) only 142 metres to climb to reach the peak of Mount Toubkal. At thatpoint I saw the group of four who had gone up coming down.Physically I could have completed that Iwas sure of but time wise I would havestruggled. For my sake other eight wouldhave to wait at Imli or make alternatearrangements. It was very unlikely that Iwould have gone up and down to Imlibefore sunset. Had I given some thoughtto this earlier I could have spent one extranight and completed my trek to the top ofMount Toubkal. But now it was too late tothink of that. I was disappointed but Idecided to turn back from that point. Eversince I broke my wrist by slipping and falling, I had that inherent fear of slipping. Andwalking down stones, rocks, gravel, dry soil,mud balls and