I’m sorry if you’ve tried to be in touch this last week, I’ve been in Morocco on a climbing trip. My brother (Dan) and a good friend, Chris decided we wanted to take some time out to climb one of the highest mountains in Africa. Jabel Toubkal is the second highest in the whole of Africa at 4,167 meters above sea level, it’s no mean feat. Many of the people attempting it end up with various symptoms from altitude sickness and some people don’t even make the top because of them! So when we say this isn’t just a walk in the park we mean it seriously.

That said the climbing/walking was simple and although we were out of breath very quickly at those altitudes our legs were strong enough to keep going, despite the lack of oxygen, we got to the top.

Our guide Ibrahim, a local, thought it was funny that 3 young(ish) fit adults were struggling to breath. While we were regularly asking for a breather just to catch our breaths, he on the other hand was very much acclimatized to the altitude and seemed to be totally unaware of how little oxygen there was. He would regularly run off to chat to a fellow local heading in the opposite direction, or hang back having a chat to a drink seller, letting us plod on, and then a few minutes later jog briskly past us back into the lead as we stared on in amazement.

We were very relieved to see the ‘refuge’ and base camp appear around the corner of a mountain as we slowly climbed. At 3200m the refuge was surprisingly comfortable, it even had a European style toilet, running water (from the river) and electricity (also generated from the river)! I for one was happy. We were camping just outside the refuge, as the warmer days meant that inside the refuge surrounded by snorers and people running to the toilets in the middle of the night, we wouldn’t have got much sleep.

After one night at the refuge, I awoke with a resting heart rate of 90bpm…not great, but apparently that’s normal, between the nerves of climbing such a high mountain and the altitude my body was under some stress. My phone pinged as I turned it on informing me that I had a new nephew (Eden) who had been born at 4am that morning, I was so excited I shouted the news to my brother in the next tent, he didn’t hear as he was wearing ear plugs, and didn’t find out till we were half way up to the top.

An hour later we left our tents and the pack mules at base camp and headed for the summit, which to my dismay wasn’t the closest one we could see but the one behind that (which when we saw it dwarfed the smaller col) But as before Ibrahim, our guide, set a good pace for us and we headed up slopes which to look at you’d say were dangerous if not un-climbable. Four hours later we reached the summit. It was stunning, and surprisingly crowded, with views of Morocco going for 50miles in every direction (only spoiled by the haze) we spent about 20mins at the summit before Ibrahim announced we were taking ‘the fast way down’. Which meant the scree slope down the back of the mountain.

Terror set in, soon turning to joy as we practically ski’d down the mountain dropping 200m in just over 5mins (200m up took about an 1/2hr on the way up). The rest of the decent was a little more sedate, and we got back to camp exhausted from the nearly 1000m climb but elated to have made it to the top. That elation was soon sobered up when a couple we had spoken with at the summit were rushed off the mountain, the husband suffering badly from the effects of altitude sickness.

After that we knew everything was going to be ok, for us at least, it was all down hill and back to Imlil (the trip’s starting point)