On the 3 June 2015 I will be part of a team which will attempt to summit the 4 Highest Peaks in North Africa on a challenge titled the ‘High Atlas Three Peak Challenge’.
The challenge takes place in Morocco and will be at high altitude in the Atlas Mountain range. The challenge will be to summit Mt. M’Goun (4068m) fourth highest, Mt. Ouankerim (4089m) "sister peaks" the second and third highest, and the highest mountain in North Africa Mt. Toubkal (4167m).
To add to the challenge of climbing not one but 4 mountains, the trek will take 9 days, includes over 70hrs of walking at altitude, will be done in high temperatures and with a total ascent climbed of 6300m, 400m higher than the height of Mt. Kilimanjaro (5895m).
I will be keeping a diary of my progress on this page and hopefully uploading some pictures via instagram if I have reception.
The challange is raising money for The National Autistic Society.
If you would like to support my challenge, please donate here My Just Giving Page
Sunday 31st May 2015
I decided to start my diary a few days prior to departure tio Morocco to show my prepartions.
I woke up at 6am in the Hamptons to photograph the pink bear in the pool. Once the shoot was over, we had a yummy BBQ then headed to Unlimited Earth Care to create the artwork on Fredericos plant pots for a competition he was entering. I then caught the Hamptons Jitney back to New York City to meet Whisbe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to do some final street shots of my bear and his. The results were pretty cool.
Monday 1st June 2015
We didn't get finished till 3am and I needed to get my Uber at 5am for my Virgin Atlantic flight, so there wasn't much point going to sleep. I think I slept maybe an one hour if that. Once back in the UK I got a cab back home, ordered some Chinese food and threw my laundry in the washing machine and finally climbed into bed at 1am. So as you can it was quite an intense last two days of my NYC trip. 37hours without sleep!
Tuesday 2nd June 2015
I woke up at 8am hung some more laundry out and headed into the office still feeling pretty knackered. I had a few things to sort out and needed to collect some last minute hiking clothes for the trip, including my sleeping bag. I left the office at 5:30 and had a few drinks with my team as a bon voyage before heading home to pack. Again it was a late night, I think I fell asleep around 2am.
Day 1 - Wednesday 3rd June 2015
I woke up at 9:30am still feeling tired and jet lagged from New York. My train to Manchester Airport was at 11:20am, but everything was packed so I wasn't in much of a rush. I did my final checks and headed out. I grabbed some food from M&S at Euston then boarded my train.
I arrived at Manchester to meet one half the group i would be trekking with. I could tell it was them as we all had the same bag from Adventure Peaks.
Once on the easy jet flight I had sweaty bacon sandwich. Though not the best, it was much better than a Ryan air hamburger.
We collect our baggage and take a short mini bus ride to the hotel where we are staying tonight.
We join the other half of the group. There were a few comments about me arriving as they had all been wondering why I hadn't taken the flight from London. So I explained that this was the only option as I had joined the trip late. The tour leader made a joke about me heading back to Geneva or somewhere else next to keep people guessing.
We all take showers, then head into the centre of Marrakech to get some food. Feeling brave and wanting to try something new we all ate in the Medina at one of the food stands. I could tell everyone was a little worried about getting upset stomaches...including me!
Day 2 - Thursday 4th June 2015
We take a group photo at the hotel all looking cheerful and optimistic. Let's hope this mood remains for the duration of the trip. We then get in the mini bus for a 5 hour transfer to the first gite. I managed to sleep most of the journey as I was lucky enough to get a front seat where I could stretch my legs out a bit.
We drop our bags in the room and have a traditional mint tea with lots of sugar. Then head out to stretch out our legs with out first climb. It's amazing how much harder it is to breath at this altitude. This site is approximately the same height as Val Disere. 1800m. The hill is 200m heigh with quite a steep incline. Lots of loose rocks that keep giving way. I didn't bring any walking poles which has certainly made it trickier. I need to keep an eye out for a good stick. Once at the top we get told some local history about the area and what the building at the top of the hill was once used for. A few of the group decided to climb it and got told off as its a protected building with historical significance.
We head down the other side and walk through lush fields. Not what I was expecting at all. The locals tending to their fields which alive with colour. Yellows, blues, red from the poppies. Babbling streams criss cross between the fields providing water for the crops. The locals are always waving as we pass them with big smiles on their faces. They seem very content and happy.
Once back we have our first dinner as a group cooked by our chef which will be with us for the trip. Chicken. Not bad. No paprika!
11 of us then play killer pool for several rounds. Really great way to learn everyone's name. Something I'm terrible at. Then sleep.
Day 3 - Friday 5th June 2015
Today was our first proper hike. I woke up early to have my last warm shower for the next 3 days as after this we would be staying in tents to scale our 1st mountain.
The sun was shining when we set off at 8:30am. The temperature was perfect, not too hot. The ground was a steady incline for most of the day as we headed through one of the lushest landscapes I've ever been through. We also went through some traditional villages which felt very much like they were out of game of thrones or Lord of the rings. Timber construction with straw & clay.
We arrived at the camp around 1pm for a veggie curry lunch.
In the afternoon some of the group headed off to check out a gorge, others chilled at camp, myself and a fellow trekker decided to climb some slopes close to the camp. This proved to be the most challenging climb of the journey so far as it was very steep and the ground and rocks would slip out from below our feet. The mountainside was covered in old pine trees similar to the ancient bristlecones I visited in California a few years ago. Small twisted trunks that had survived in a harsh environment. About half way up we started to question if we should go any further as it was only going to get harder. We summoned up the strength and pressed on till we reached the top. We took some photos then headed back down listening to am/fm radio on my iPhone podcast. The descent was much harder, rocks were slipping and sliding below our feet. At one point I suggested sliding down but then I grazed my hand. So we had to go slow and steady, making sure each step was firm in place. What was supposed to be a quick climb ended up taking 40 minutes each way.
In the evening we all had dinner together in a large communal tent and sung happy birthday to the trip organiser. The guides sung a few traditional songs and roped the girls into dancing with them. It was very funny.
I'm now in my sleeping bag and it's midnight. The first time since I went back packing in Portugal with Holly in 2007. How time flys by.
Day 4 - Saturday 6th June 2015
I spent the whole night tossing and turning and couldn't fall asleep. The rain had been hammering against the side of the tent and the strong winds were shaking it. Even though I had ear plugs in I could still hear it.
I think I probably had an hour of shallow sleep as I had vivid dreams. I can't recall the details, but all dialect in the dream was gibberish, probably due to the extent of my tiredness.
At 5am the wake up call went out around camp. I really didn't want to get up as I was only just starting to drift off and felt knackered. I dragged myself out of my sleeping bag and started to pack everything up. It was really hard to focus on packing my gear away neatly whilst needing a número uno and the deuce, but it needed to be done first. Breakfast was porridge and tea, I wasn't really feeling it but forced it down as I knew I needed the energy.
At 7am everyone was ready and we set off for the first Sumit base camp which was a 6 hour hike away. The sun was just starting to rise over the mountain tops & dancing in the surface off the stream running through the valley. It was beautiful.
We continued to trek higher and higher as we needed to climb 1000m today to then drop down into the valley below the mountains we'd be scaling on Sunday. We passed a dead camel near the top and snow was still around from the winter. I understand the snow being there, but had no idea how the camel had arrived at this point.
Once we reached the peak we took a group photo and started our descent into the valley below. The view was breath taking, snow capped mountains, deep valleys with shear drops, and a long flat grassy area. I took this as an opportunity to lag behind and have a bathroom break in privacy.
Everyone was eager to reach camp and have some much needed rest and fuel as we had been told Sunday would be a 10 hour hike to the Sumit and back down.
Everyone chilled this afternoon in the sun then we took some shade in the communal tent to play "shit head". I think we must have played about 10 games and luckily I was never the "shit head". Whilst we were playing I set up a time lapse of the valley and managed to capture the dramatic changes of light in the sky and the landscape. At one point it felt like we were in a dream as the dramatic grey clouds broke to reveal a blue sky and full rainbow crossed from one side of the valley to the other, to top it off a white pony (though probably a mule) came majestically prancing through the herd of sheep. If this had been a unicorn then I would have know for sure I was in a very vivid dream.
The day was topped off with a lovely meal of a deconstructed lamb tagine. Best meal of the trip so far.
I retired to bed at 9pm hoping to catch up on some sleep as we've been told we have a 4am wake up call.
Day 5 - Sunday 7th June 2015
I woke up at 2am to the wind howling and the rain slamming against the side of the tent. The tent was being shaken so much I thought it was going to collapse in on itself or take off.
I laid in bed for two more hours. I had really bad gas from the tagine the night before, I think this woke my tent buddy up. Though we did laugh about it.
At 4am we were told to wake up for breakfast and needed to be ready for 5am sharp.
The rain has stopped but the wind had picked up. We all set off as a group at a slow but steady pace in the pitch black only with our head torches to see where we were going. With the wind chill it was bitterly cold. I was glad to have a full gortex outfit on as this really helped block the wind penetrating.
The sun started to rise as we climbed, it was a beautiful site to see but it didn't warm us as we were in the shadow of the mountains. This meant it would be cold throughout the entire ascent to the Sumit and we wouldn't feel the warmth of the sun till we were much lower and on our way back to base camp.
As we got higher we had to cross beds of ice and snow which were still around from winter due to the extreme temperatures. These were particularly tricky as there was very little grip.
We reached the summit around 11am, the view was breathtaking. We took some group photos, congratulated each other then headed back down. The wind at the top was some of the most powerful wind I've ever come across. If I hadn't of had my walking pole I believe there were a few times I'd have been blown over. As we descended the first part many people fell over and found it tricky. This was causing large stones to displace, one nearly hit a fellow climber which would have meant the end of his trip.
We dropped a little further then had a bite to eat. After this a few of us were wanting to get down at a faster pace so we separated from the group and ran down the mountain and slide through snow beds. This was great fun. I used my walking pole to help guide me in the snow. We managed to get down in under 45minutes. The rest of the group arrived back at camp over an hour later.
In the afternoon we chilled in the sun again and played more "shit head".
I'm now in bed at 10pm 18hours after waking up.
Day 6 - Monday 8th June 2015
Woke up at 4:30am, wake up call at 6am. Left camp at 7:30am the head back down the mountain to the original gite.
We separated from the main group again to go at a faster pace.
Went through old village, saw old ways of living.
Rockeries and thunder mountain
Arrived at gite at 3:30
Bag arrived 5pm
Day 7 - Tuesday 9th June 2015
Woke up at 7am after more vivid dreams.
8am and time to pack and leave.
8:40am set off
6:45 arrive at gite
Filmed stars moving
Bed at 11pm
Day 8 - Wednesday 10th June 2015
Woke up at 6:30
Had a dream I got engaged then was getting married.
Left at 8:20am to head up to the next base camp.
Arrived at base camp 3:30
Did a time lapse of the valley
Day 9 - Thursday 11th June 2015
Woke up at 4am for toilet
6am wake up call
7:15 am headed up mountain
Climbed two peaks
Slid down in snow
Went in freezing waterfall
Set up another time lapse.
Laying in bed early at 9pm as we have 3am wake up call for final day climbing largest mountain.
10pm try to fall asleep. The clouds have moved in, so I'm guessing it's going to be a cold morning.
Day 10 - Friday 11th June 2015
Awake at 2:30am
Out of bed at 3am
3:20am I have really bad diarrhea this morning, I think it may have been the meat last night.
Walking and thinking
Flash of sun made me smile
Made it to the top
Headed back down
Out for dinner 7:20pm
Pacha till 5:30am
Time lapse taken from base camp of Mount Toubkal