I just realized that I never ever talked about climbing Mount Toubkal! That is crazy… considering now that it was OVER 3 months ago.
Well first things first… for those that have never climbed a mountain before (and before this one, I hadn’t). It is THE* most physically challenging thing I have done, to date.
I went with 7 other fabulous girls and it was an ADVENTURE!
We all decided to go after our Mid-Service Training that took place at the end of June. From Rabat we took the train to Marrakesh, then a taxi from Marrakesh to Imlil. Our taxi thankfully dropped us off at our hostel, which was wonderfully comfortable and quaint. We were all soooo excited! We got up early the next morning, had breakfast, and began our trek.
on the train!
The guy at the hostel made a fabulous little map for us and OFF we went! We were so excited!!!! I remember that feeling of not really knowing what was coming and a little nervous but still thinking- this is going to be FUN!!!!!!
before the hike!
So as we were following the map, I didn’t realize that we had a small hill to climb before we even reached the base of the mountain…..so we start going up this hill and here I am thinking that we were already climbing the actual mountain- BOY WAS I WRONG!
breakin…walking up the hill!
We got to the river bed, which at the time I didn’t realize was the base of the mountain, and well, we took a well-deserved break!
Then as we started to really climb… we started to realize how serious it was. We were climbing a mountain- CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Woof! I remember someone telling me before we went that it would be a nice, lonnnnggg walk.
Well. It. wasn’t.
Now, I feel like I am climbin’ aboard the complain train. But, it was really hard, we climbed for 7 hours the first day, with food breaks and short water breaks. The lovely girls I was with- we made goals for ourselves… okay, make it to that rock, okay we will walk for 15 minutes, twenty minutes. It was crazy how difficult it would be at points to keep going, all I wanted to do was stop and take a break. Sit and enjoy the wonderful view….
this was actually on the way down, but more on that later
A very big POSITIVE, we saw a herd of mountain goats with their incredibly cute kids and by kids I mean, baby goats!
So we climbed and climbed before we FINALLY made it to the refuge!!!! Let me tell you, my dogs were barkin’- LOUDLY!
We had dinner and decided to head out at 6am! Fortunately for me, I was able to fall directly to sleep- um not. I actually didn’t get one ounce of sleep, which was to say, very exciting.
We headed out in the dark to get to summit… this was the most difficult part. If I had known about this part the day before, I might not have complained so much….might not have.
At one point, I could only describe myself as straddling the rocks like a frog, crying and saying…. this isn’t worth my life.
Mayyyyybbbbbeeee a tad dramatic, but have you even been on the side of a mountain with loose rocks falling every which way? Well, I hadn’t either.
After three hours of climbing almost straight up, we could finally see the top. These three hours included all types of climbing- big boulders, small rocks, loose rocks, sand…. ziggin and zaggin. I am sure that I was a sight at times, I remember another time where I wasn’t sure which rock to grab and I look over and several Moroccan climbers (who I am quite sure they had either rock climbing ancestors, related to spiderman or had more monkey in their blood than me) were jumping from rock to rock like it was an every day occurrence. Hmmmm….all the while, when I was straddling rocks holding for dear life, I couldn’t help but think about how the climb up the mountain related to my Peace Corps service.
Serving in Peace Corps is so similar to climbing a mountain, its pretty scary. With everything that someone goes through…. learning a language, adapting to the culture, leaving life behind, building a new life, leaving friends and family, building new relationships with new friends…. it is SO much! And is all really within a short period of about 3-4 months, it is necessary to know when you need a break but it is also really vital to knowing when you need to push through the hard times and just keep on going. The people that are there to support will provide words of encouragement or, it is just them being there going through it with you that is important. There were times climbing to the summit, we were quiet for hours (I know it is difficult for some of you to picture me quiet for more than a few minutes) but it happened! And it was going through it together that was important, it was being there at the top with others that made it feel that* much better.
WAHOO! we did it!
puffy fingers and all!!!!
Little known fact (to even myself before this), that I am terrified of heights. Completely and utterly terrified, I couldn’t really stand up on the top! Who knew?
ps, it was REALLY cold up there
So… after awhile, we started our descent! We were planning on going ALLLLLLL the way back down to our hostel in Imlil…. and all I could think was, here we go, this has GOT TO BE easier than the way up. Well folks, if you thought that too, then we were both wrong.
Also, I didn’t get that many pictures on the way up to summit- it is pretty difficult to take pictures when you are straddling rocks.
why yes! That would be grabbing onto rocks with fear of falling, on the way down. But again, even when sliding down on my hindquarters on slippery rocks… I couldn’t help compare it to my service. At the year point (our Peace Corps summit), I remember thinking… okay! It all gets easier from here right? I am integrated, I can somewhat communicate, I have everything I need!!!
Not exactly… the second year has shaped up to be a difficult time as well! Yes, I am integrated, yes I have completed a project, yes I have a schedule and people who know me, but* how do I really make my time here worth it? How do I get to know people better? How do I keep from going crazy with the prospect and excitement from going home?!?! I’ll let ya know as I am still currently on my Peace Corps mountain descent.
the refuge in sight!!! Note* this is still about an hour away
Well, it took us another three hours to climb down back to the refuge (a total of 7 hours). We had an hour break for lunch and then kept on truckin!!
just some fellow mountain climbers… with their chickens and sheep
I was hoping that the trek down would only take us 5 hours and we were really well on our way… until we got a little lost.
Which… I am sure is the way that I will feel when we have about a month left. Unfortunately, I kept insisting that we were on the right path… when in fact we were the complete opposite of being on the right path. Mer 😦 Fortunately, I was with really really forgiving people who weren’t mad at me for too long, I hope.
do you remember the first small hill? It was a glorious site!
With getting lost, we ended up walking for about an hour and a half extra…. so it turned into about 6.5 -7 hours… which if you were calculating that would be 14 hours of walking. After a day of walking 7 hours…. woof!
We literally collapsed when we arrived at the hostel. Thankful that it was over and in awe of ourselves that we did it.
I think maybe next time, it maybe easier to start with something smaller and not climb North Africa’s tallest mountain as a first mountain climb… but hey! Go big or go home right?
Our congratulatory McDonald’s meal
The most important aspect though, that both Peace Corps and Toubkal have shown me, is that I am capable of much more than I think I am. The human will is profound. When pushed there are soo many possibilities! There is an incredible amount of strength inside that sits stationary and quiet until it is tapped into. I am grateful for the opportunities to learn that about myself and consider myself blessed to be able to learn those lessons early in life.
Who knows what mountain I will climb next?!