FRIDAY: Arrival into Marrakech
After months of fundraising, planning and training, the day had finally come for our team of 15 graduates to jump on a 3-hour flight from London to Marrakech. We were greeted by a local host upon arrival into the airport, who drove us through Marrakech’s Medina – which is an old walled town with a busy and exciting atmosphere. This led us to our traditional ‘riad’ accommodation, in which our rooms circled around a beautiful central courtyard.
The majority of the first day was spent exploring the city’s market ‘souks’ which was very atmospheric to traditional Marrakech culture. We went around the local market stalls, and even went to the ‘Jemaa el-Fnaa’ which is the main square in the old town. We then decided to take a break from the busy market stalls and sit down to try some of the local cuisine, this consisted mostly of olives, spicy couscous, soups and kebabs. After a traditional Moroccan feast, we managed to find
our way back to our ‘riad’ and all headed to bed ready for the early start the following day.
SATURDAY: The trek commences…
We were woken early, for the 1.5-hour drive through the countryside that led to the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. From here we journeyed to Imlil, a small traditional town in the mountain where we
met our guide and support crew.
It was a dry, sunny terrain of about 30 degrees’ heat, but nonetheless we were now as ready as we could be to begin our trek. We gradually ascended the Toubkal Valley with our eyes on the mountain – its huge presence seemed almost intimidating as it loomed over everything. However, we enjoyed the scenery whilst passing through traditional agricultural Berber farming villages where we were able to stop to enjoy our lunch.
After a quick break and a bite to eat, we continued the ascent throughout the afternoon. Once we reached around 3,000m up, it suddenly became harder to acclimatise due to the air being extremely dry. This made the climb much more challenging, but we carried on and eventually made it to the mountain refuge at 3200m. In the small mountain hut, we had the opportunity to meet other hikers and hear all about their experiences which was interesting and created a strong sense of community amongst ourselves. That evening was spent, refueling and enjoying a dinner cooked by our support crew.
We were very tired from our first day hiking up the mountains, so we all settled in straight after our meal at around 8pm. We had a shared dormitory room between all of us, which made it quite difficult to sleep along with the altitude and thin air.
SUNDAY: Mt. Toubkal summit
We woke up in the early hours of the morning at around 3am whilst it was still dark, to have breakfast and prepare ourselves for our day of trekking ahead. We started climbing just before 5am in the pitch black. It was two hours of very steep rock climbing before the sun came up at 7am out of the valley.
There was great excitement amongst us all as we reached the top of the mountain at 8am, just in time to watch the sunrise of a lifetime. We all had a rest, refuelled and managed to take some time out to get some good pictures from 4,167m high! The temperatures at the top of the mountain were freezing and the week before they had their first drops of snow. We were lucky that the visibility at the summit was good, this offered amazing panoramic views over the surrounding High Atlas Mountains and out to the Sahara Desert in the far distance.
With our spirits high, we began the long descent back down to the mountain refuge for lunch. But 3 hours later from the top and 6 hours almost solidly climbing since breakfast, we were definitely ready for a break. The journey down was a lot harder than we all imagined as you have to really concentrate on your footing down the mountain – and after hours of hiking, your legs feel like jelly!
After lunch at the refugee and a lot of blister plasters – we said goodbye to Mount Toubkal and began the lon
g walk back to Imlil. It was hard to adjust to the different temperatures throughout the day as the walk back was about 36 degrees – a huge contrast from the freezing conditions at the top of the mountain.
After 97km (or about 60 miles) in total of walking, we finally made it back to Imlil where we drove back to our Riad in
Marrakech. We found a restaurant in the square for ‘tajine’ which is a local delicacy similar to stew, quickly ate and then
collapsed into bed.
MONDAY: Final day
We enjoyed our last Moroccan breakfast, before having a final wonder around the market stalls full of jewellery, textiles, music, and local artwork – a great opportunity to buy some souvenirs to take back home. And we were then met by our host who transferred us back to the airport to catch our flight home.
Overall, we managed to raise £12,700 for Heads Together which made it all worth while. We are hoping this will combat the stigma surrounding mental health. We would like to thank Colliers and all of our sponsors for supporting us on the trip and everyone who has donated.