“Why are you going to climb North Africa’s highest mountain?” was the question put to each courageous soul at dinner on the first night of our fully-supported adventure. Fourteen women ranging from their 20’s to their mid 60’s sat together around a long table in the village of Imlil sharing conversation over couscous. Each strangers to one another, they had what transpired to be one thing in common; life stage transition.
Stories were shared about creating closure on life chapters, the end of romantic relationships and the distracting effects of travel, life-changing illnesses that had been endured, a simple escape from family life to feel like oneself again, as well as career changes; Art Director to Wellness Professional, Chocolatier to Nutritionist. Getting to the top of a 4000m peak started to feel like a short, sharp reminder that you really can do anything you set your mind to!
As someone with a fair bit of mountain living and solo travel under her belt you might be surprised to learn that in the lead up to the trip I felt nervous. That heady mixture of anticipatory nervousness, which simply means you care enough about something, but also that old familiar ‘what if?!’ nervousness reared its head. ‘What if I am not good enough, or fit enough?’
I vividly remember sharing in the Adventure Queens Facebook group that I was ‘hovering over the book button’, until someone asked what was stopping me. It was a good question, because the answer was simply, myself! Leave aside that I was made redundant a few months prior and that I’d be using savings to pay for the trip. That didn’t matter, I could pay in instalments, and life is best when lived.
One of my pre-trip purchases, along with warm Merino wool garments, was a pair of stiff soled B2 boots, suitable for the crampons we would be hiring. Brand new boots meant potential blisters… cue more anxiety! As fortune would have it I chose correctly, after a reassuring chat with Sue at Adventurous Ewe, and trying on a few pairs. Inner confidence is fantastic, but this will soon wane if you don’t feel the same about your kit!
Walk 13km from Imlil up to refuge Toubkal Les Mouflons (3207m). The pace set by Abdul, our local guide, was really comfortable and as it turned out perfect for acclimatisation (and chatting). Upon arrival I had a little bit of a headache, but this was quite ordinary the group leaders suggested, and nothing a good meal of delicious Moroccan food and plenty of water couldn’t sort out.
Mountain skills practice under the watchful eye of UK Mountain Leader Jo Bradshaw. We learned to ice-axe arrest and glissade down the mountain (aka slide down on your bum). It was really fun, but learning new skills in a group is very interesting because you get to see how different personalities react. Moral: don’t be too hard on yourself, walking up a mountain is hard enough!
Summit day! We had a very early breakfast ready to depart under the moon at 4:30am. It was cold and plenty of layers had been encouraged at the briefing the evening before. Jackets soon came off however after the steep pulse raising start – leading on to a beautiful sunrise. 5.5hrs later, after multiple photo and snack breaks we’d zig-zagged our way 916m to Toubkal, the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains (4167m).
The feeling of summiting with a group of female adventurers on International Women’s Day was really special, and honestly watching the memento video AE produced – the sheer joy on our faces – is enough to send shivers.
Each woman was there for her own reasons – mine were related to closure. I was there to teach myself, after living in the Mountains of Trentino Italy for nearly four years, that there are other mountains to explore, new adventures to seek, friends to make, skills to learn and cultures to experience. This trip gave me all of that, and more. I will certainly return to Morocco for it’s one of those places that just stays with you. In just under a 4hr flight from the UK it feels incredibly exotic, which adds to the feelings of adventure. Plus, who could resist cultural highlights like haggling in the Medina, staying in a traditional Riad or learning a bit of Arabic.
‘Bnin’ means delicious, which certainly describes the food!
It’s normal to feel anxious about the unknown, but let me leave you with this…
Know that what happens on the mountain stays on the mountain. Any problem you face, be that internal or external will be dealt with, simply because it has to be. You can’t walk in snow with a light foot, you have to be decisive and let it know you are there. Step by step you’ll walk with a lighter heart and a refreshed approach to life, until you need to recharge your batteries again.
That’s where Adventurous Ewe come in! Whether you want to do something bigger, better or just different give them a shout. They provide extraordinary adventure travel experiences across the planet in a safe, sustainable, meaningful, and fun way; with real connections to the people and places along the way. They dream big, aim high, inspire others and believe…..#ewecandoit
It’s not all about tough mountains, arguably the toughest mountain is you!
Don’t believe me? Read this…
“Booking onto the trip was something of a leap for me and I don’t think I would have taken that leap without the support and guidance AE gave me.
The information and detail provided before the trip was fantastic and although I was anxious, I felt totally prepared for all weather possibilities. On the trip I always felt that I was in the best of hands with Sue, Jo, Abdul and all the local guides and porters.
I know this trip will inspire me for years to come, and I hope our paths will cross again in the future”.
Mel, 2023 Mt Toubkal team member
Brought to you by Adventurous Ewe & Adventure Queens, in celebration of International Women’s Day 2023.
Written by Jennifer Doohan, jdoohancreative.com, 2023 Mt Toubkal team member
Everyone’s journey starts somewhere. Don’t let the “what if’s” hold you back from taking your first, second or even third step on to an amazing mountain trek. No matter how big or small, how near or far, join us on next year’s Mt Toubkal trek for International Women’s Day. There’s plenty of support, encourage and guidance waiting plus what you learn and experience during your trip, goes far beyond the trek itself.
This blog post has been reposted from the Adventurous Ewe blog.