JEBEL TOUBKAL, MOROCCO ~ NOVEMBER 2013
Another successful climb, climbing North Africa’s highest peak! Jebel Toubkal – 4167m, 2,200m elevation gained in 14km.
I made the decision to climb this mountain on my own without a guide to save a few $100. It was quite easy to arrange solo. I took the local buses to Imlil and trekked out there alone to the lodge at the base of the mountain. It was a little confusing finding the initial trailhead but I met 3 young boys from a nearby village, who showed me the way. We could hardly communicate to each other because they didn’t know English and I didn’t know French or Berber but they were really sweet kids and they felt compelled to keep an eye on me taking the same route. They had a mule with them that was carrying propane for one of the lodges, each taking a turn riding the mule, often offering to have the mule carry my bag or myself. But I kindly refused thinking in my head that it was a form of cheating.
I made it to the base of the mountain for the night and met a lovely group of Moroccan women at the lodge that evening. In a muslim society, it is usually frowned upon women to be traveling unaccompanied by a man let alone attempting to climb North Africa’s highest peak! They were certainly not your typical Moroccan, muslim women. They were liberal, well-educated and proactive with women’s liberties and rights in the country. Some were actresses in live theatre and all had lived and worked in Paris and spoke French as if it was their native tongue. They had movie star looks and exuded class, even in their trekking boots and jackets. They were also very friendly and after chatting with them, they invited me to join them to summit the following day.
Sofia and Sarra were not feeling well and they stayed at the lodge so the three of us Imane and Insaf and myself, set out at about 2 a.m to summit before sunrise. Insaf had climbed this mountain 4 times prior so she was the experienced one in our group and knew the route quite well. Imane had never climbed a mountain before so this was a huge undertaking for her. Half way up, Insaf was not feeling well at all. She was clearly suffering from altitude sickness but was adamant about pushing on. It was getting to the point where I had to step in and tell her we couldn’t continue. I convinced her that she was risking her life and as well as ours if something happened and we had to bring her down on the icy sections. She reluctantly agreed but refused to have us take her down, insisting that we continue climbing. We eventually did continue up but I regret doing so now because she could have been in danger. I was in awe of this little woman who epitomized Shakespeare’s words: “Though she be but little, she is fierce”. She was an adventurer and a risk taker, she sky dived solo many times! She was determined to prove to everyone and herself that she had the ability to do anything she put her mind to. And I respected her for that because she mirrored my character in so many ways. But altitude sickness strikes without prejudice. It can happen to anyone, even athletes or experienced climbers and Insaf made the right decision that day.
So, it was just me and Imane, the girl who had never trekked before. It was not an easy climb, but I was determined to get her up there. Slowly, with a lot of encouragement and a few white lies (I would keep telling her that we were almost there, even though we weren’t evenclose to keep her motivated) And finally made it to the top! I was so proud of her!I was more excited about the fact that this girl who had never climbed a mountain before in her life, just conquered North Africa’s highest peak, than me reaching the summit!
Another life lesson: Happiness is more meaningful when shared with others…