Climbing in the Atlas mountains in Morocco

Last week was spent climbing in the high Atlas mountains.  With Ryanair just starting to fly direct from Dublin to Marrakech it is a brilliant time to start exploring the delights of Morocco.

 We arrived into Marrakech airport on Wednesday evening around 8 and immediately got a taxi out to Imlil, sometimes referred to as the Chamonix of Morocco.  It is a town that has grown up around catering to tourists looking to hike up Jabel Toubkal the highest mountain in the Atlas range at 4187 metres.  Doesn't sound too high but when you live at sea level like most Irish people it takes time to adjust to altitude, due to the quick nature of this trip we didn't have time to adjust.  We overnighted in Imlil  and then set off first thing the next morning to head up the mountain.  It is a relatively well trodden path and we took our time to soak up the location and ate lunch along the trail.  We had our first experience of Moroccan hospitality that day, very friendly when they are trying to sell you something but at other times they just ignore you.  In Imlil they are all trying to get you to buy mule transport to carry your bags up to the refuge and saying you need crampons, ice axes etc.  We had done our research and felt that we could get away without these tools due to the state of the  weather on the mountain and our experience levels.


   On the Thursday night we planned to overnight at the Club Alpine Francis refuge at 3200 meters, our first night at altitude and we all felt relatively fresh apart from John who was suffering from the effects of the height we had gained.  The refuge was an interesting mix of nationalities from French to Spanish, Polish, Moroccan, German and a few Irish!  Although due to the early start in the morning and the distinct lack of any alcohol we were all in bed by 9.30, as we remarked the earliest we had been to bed in many a year. 
 Summit day kicked off at 5.30 the next morning, breakfast of a bar and an orange set us up for a quick departure and we were on the mountain by 6.00.  What followed was a hard slog up the mountain, we had to cross 3 snow fields but with previous days climbers leaving a path we were justified in leaving our crampons at home.  If we had been a week earlier we might have struggled but for the weather we had no issues.  While the climb is relatively straightforward we were all feeling the effects of gaining a lot of height relatively quickly. After almost 3 1/2 hours of climbing though all was rewarded with a stunning view from the top.  We could see the Sahara away to the West with Marrakech and the Atlantic away to the East.  We spent about 1/2 hour on the summit messing around before the long way down.  Heading down with only a brief stop in the refuge to pick up gear we had left behind we were back in Imlil at around 4 in the afternoon. 


 From there it was a taxi into Marrakech and a quick trip around the Markets here, we also started taking photos of the presidential palace before being told off and moved on.  After the Atlas mountains it was a different kettle of fish and took us a while to re-adjust to the different pace of life.  Then on Sunday it was back to the airport and journey home.  Due to delayed Ryanair flight I only managed to get back to Killary at around 4 in the morning quite tired but somewhat refreshed and ready to go for a busy summer.
 Back in Killary now and we have a very busy month coming up with the Connemara Adventure Challenge on the 10th and lots of Schools coming in.  To work our way back into it gradually and to take advantage of the good weather last night a rake of the staff took off to Carrowinsky beach last night to avail of some waves.  Perfect conditions and a little barbeque to finish off meant it was one of those magical evenings where life on the West Coast is good.


Until next week


Shane


P.s.  If anyone is interested in going climbing in Morocco I am happy to give you some advice on how to do it and what you need.

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