Throughout my four months in Morocco, I have had the opportunity to travel to cities all across the country, every weekend brought another adventure. But my most memorable experience was climbing Mount Toubkhal. Located within Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, it is the highest peak in North Africa, totaling almost 14,000 feet tall. The trekking tourism website described the hike as a ‘mild walk’ – this became a running joke as me and ten of my friends’ ascended the mountain, it was anything but a ‘mild walk.’
After taking a five hour train ride from Rabat to Marrakech, and spending a night in a hostel, we were picked up by a bus early on Friday morning to drop us off near the trekking company’s shop. Here we put all of our bags on mules, laced up our hiking boots, and rented gloves, walking sticks, and other equipment. At around 9 am we started our ascent, going along the non-existent path, avoiding boulders, mud, goats, and donkey carts along the way. After nearly eight straight hours of hiking through fields, valleys, mountains, and streams, we made it to the base of the mountain. This is where we found our basecamp, where we slept for the night. It was freezing, and the altitude made many of us sick, dehydrated, and weak.
We had to be up at 4am to start hiking to the summit at 5am. After putting on even more layers, and stuffing bread and hardboiled eggs in our mouths, we started again. It took five hours to reach the summit, and since it was 5am, it was pitch black outside. Since none of us had headlights, we used the flashlights on our cellphones to scale boulders. It was even more difficult the second day, we were already sore and the altitude wasn’t getting any friendlier on our lungs. After hours of scaling rocks, avoiding boulders, and trying not to freeze to death, we finally made it to the top of the mountain.
It was honestly one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen. We were all in disbelief that we had actually climbed the tallest mountain in the MENA region. However, descending the mountain was even more difficult. On the same say that we had summited, we walked down five hours to the basecamp, had lunch, then walked another eight hours back to our bus. Over the course of the two days, we had walked over 32 miles, or about 70,000 steps. Needless to say, waking up the next morning was not fun.
None of us anticipated that it would be so difficult, but it stands out as a story that shows who I am as a person. I always find myself in strange and unexpected situations, but somehow manage to make it through. While we may not have ‘enjoyed’ the experience while we were climbing, summiting Toubkhal is an experience I will never forget.