Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Magical Adventure in Morocco

After our "Top to Bottom" tour of Jordan, we headed west to a country that we have wanted to visit for years - Morocco!  We arrived in Marrakesh on May 23rd and have spent the past week enchanted by the Arab and Berber people and their exotic kingdom.  The main square of Marrakesh is called Jemaa el Fna and is a circus-like atmosphere complete with snake charmers, acrobats, storytellers and a large souk similar to what we experienced a few years ago in Istanbul at the Grand Bazaar.  After 2 1/2 days exploring the city and sampling the Moroccan cuisine, we headed south towards the High Atlas Mountains and our objective, the 13,671 foot Jbel Toubkal, the highest peak in Morocco as well as the highest in North Africa.  

We met our guides Mohammed and Omar in the tiny village of Aguersioual and began our trek at 5,280 feet. After 7 1/2 hours taking in the sights and mountain villages along the trail, we reached the refuge beyond Tizi Oussem at 7,425' and spent the night.  

Early the next morning we were treated to views of several beautiful waterfalls and later tormented by 99 switchbacks painstakingly taking us up to the Tizi Aguelzim Pass at 12,045 feet.  It was here where we caught our first glimpse of Jbel Toubkal and then began our descent into the valley down to ~10,500 feet.  We arrived at our campsite near the
Toubkal Refuge approx. 9 1/2 hours after our trek for the day began and just as the afternoon clouds arrived as well.

At 3:30 AM on day three of our trek, our alarm woke us signaling the start of a long and taxing day.  Along with our headlamps the stars and moon illuminated our route.   A cool breeze motivated us to keep moving upwards toward the point where the rays of the sun finally reached us and began to warm our chilled bodies.  

We eventually reached the summit of Jbel Toubkal just after 9:15 AM on Memorial Day in the U.S. Mon. May 28th.  We proudly raised our Challenged Athletes Foundation banner after high fives all around with our team for a successful summit of the highest peak in Morocco!  

The hike back down to basecamp and eventually to the village of Imlil totaled a bone jarring and muscle numbing vertical descent of over 8,000 feet.  By the time we reached our hotel for the night we had been on the move for more than 15 hours and were ready for a long overdue shower and a return to sleeping in a bed.  As tired and depleted as we felt, it made us appreciate the strength and fortitude of our guides Mohammed and Omar who were fasting from sunrise to sunset the entire trip as Ramadan continues.  Yet again traveling to a new country as unique as Morocco and experiencing this adventure has broadened our horizons and reinforced our gratitude for our freedom and ability to explore mountains around the world to support the mission of CAF. 

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