You know the feeling, you have itchy feet and want an adventure, but you only have a few days holiday to spare and not much available cash. This was my situation when I started a random Google search looking for some inspiration and a way to escape my humdrum office life for a few days. My search meandered and eventually settled on a mountain climbing adventure travel website.
I had always assumed mountain climbing was a time consuming and expensive affair, and I had never set foot on a serious hill, let alone mountain, so this was not a natural place to find myself. But Mt Toubkal in Morocco seemed interesting and ticked all the boxes for my short, cheap adventure.
Moroccois served by all the budget airlines, so if you are organised (or lucky) you can book return flights to this amazing country from as little as £65. Better still, Mt Toubkal is located only 85km from Marrakech, meaning you can go from cosmopolitan city, to standing on top of the highest peak in North Africa (4167 metres high) and back again in just three days.
I booked my flight with Ryanair, and I booked the climb with Pillow Adventure Travel, and promptly set off for my first mountain climbing experience. I flew to Marrakech, which alone is a magical destination where Muslim, African, European and Arab influences all collide in a melting pot of mosques, monuments and markets. After a brief taste of city life, I was whisked away along twisting mountain roads to the village of Imlil where I would start the climb.
Within 10 minutes of walking, I was in a different world. Suddenly I was surrounded by Berber villages and small farms which had not changed for hundreds of years. We passed an old man shepherding his 30 to 40 goats, and then stopped at a small café to buy a can of Coke, which was being kept cool by the ice cold water from a nearby tumbling waterfall. Just 24 hours earlier I had been sitting at my desk inLondon, I don’t think any two days could be more different.
I was trekking with a group of nine people, and we set off the following morning at 3am to try and reach the summit before the midday heat kicked in. The climb was exhausting, and reaching the top felt like a genuine achievement. I reached the summit just as the sun was rising, and looking down over the clouds and seeing hundreds of lower mountain peaks is a sight I will always remember. There was also a genuine camaraderie with the other members of the group, we had only met 24 hours earlier, and we all managed to summit and share this amazing experience together.
In truth, this is not climbing a mountain. We never even saw a rope, let alone needed to use one. I would describe climbing Mt Toubkal as a very steep walk, which anybody who is relatively fit can do. However it’s also an amazing adventure and because you have to work so hard, there is a genuine sense of achievement if you get to the top. We were soon back in bustling Marrakech, and as I made my way to the airport to return home, it felt like I had been away from home for much longer than 4 days. I also had a strange contented feeling, after all I had tested myself to climb a famous high mountain and succeeded, and that felt really good! As our excellent mountain guide Mohammed put it, “you have been bitten by the mountain climbing bug, your next one will have to be higher!”.
James Morris travelled with Pillow Adventure Travel Company Ltd, for more information about their Mt Toubkal climb, and their other Morocco tours, please visit their website at Pillow.co.uk