I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I had some interesting projects lined up this year, and this is one of them. I have had North Africa in my mind for a while now, but was not sure exactly what I wanted to do- trek from country to country, from sea to summit, cycle? There’s so much potential it took me some time to narrow it down. Eventually I narrowed down my plans to a short and sharp trip up the high Atlas Mountain range this winter. This would fulfil my desire to get into the mountains, without being of expedition length, plus it will be my first real challenge of 2013.
The plan is to train hard in the UK over the next six weeks. Then, in the third week of February, fly into Marrakech, then immediately transfer to the village of Armed at 1900m above sea level. After a good night’s rest we will head up the Mizane valley, past the shrine at Sidi Chamharouch and ending up at the Neltner refuge at 3207 metres above sea level. Unlike my last trip to altitude, there will not be time to climb high and sleep low.
The following day is Toubkal summit day. We will arise early, progressing over steep snow-covered ground until we reach the summit of Jebel Toubkal, the highest point in North Africa. The terrain has potential to be covered in deep powder which will be exhausting work, but it’s hard to tell this far ahead what weather will be in store for us.
The final day is our contingency summit day. Our ambitious plan, assuming that we have already summited Toubkal, is to ascent the second and third highest peaks in North Africa – the Ouanoukrim twins. The route up from the refuge involves a few hundred metres of scrambling as we ascend the summit ridge from the Tizi n Ouagane pass. We will then beat hasty retreat back down to Armed for swift exfiltration back to the airport and on to England. Ironically, this day has potential to be a longer day walking than the summit day if we get the opportunity to bag Ouanoukrim.
I’m psyched about this trip: to visit North Africa for the first time, to be climbing in the High Atlas mountains in winter, to experience Moroccan culture, plus it has given me bags of motivation to get out into the hills to train!