Thursday, April 21, 2016

On Top of the World

Mount Toubkal: Located in Marrakech, Morocco. Altitude of 13,671 feet (4,167 meters). Tallest mountain peak in Morocco and North Africa. 2nd tallest mountain peak in all of Africa behind Mount Kilimanjaro.

September 2015: Picture this, my friend had a crazy idea to hike the tallest mountain in all of North Africa which was conveniently located in Morocco, just a few hours from our homestay city. Of course I agreed because, once in a lifetime chance, right? When was I going to be presented with this opportunity again? Realistically, never. So I did some research, booked a tour guide, and bought some gloves from the Marjane near Sale.

October 2015: I'm traipsing around a little Spanish territory in the north of Morocco with my friends. We're steady looking for the nearest pub that's open at 10 am (not much luck) and we walked everywhhheeerrreeeee. There were too many hills for my liking and I was lowkey pissed about the whole situation. I was hungry and wanted food. Every time someone started complaining, we'd all say, "This is your training for Toubkal 2015."

November 2015: THE MONTH OF TOUBKAL. Y'all, I knew I wasn't prepared in any way. I didn't have enough snacks, I didn't have the proper clothing attire to climb a mountain covered in snow. I packed for Morocco with the idea it was going to be hot because Africa, yeah? Sahara desert. Both are hot. I was so so so so wrong. My host family had the intent of making me fat while I lived in their home and they succeeded. I was so out of shape trying to climb a mountain over 13,000 feet above sea level. Sometimes I think I'm a crazy person but then I tell myself I'm just a person who takes advantages of her opportunities.

Here's a rundown of how the climb went:

Day 1. We wake up in Marrakech crazy early to meet someone who is going to drive us to the mountain for us to begin our climb. We were staying right in the medina of Marrakech so very much in the city. We get to the base of the mountain and start climbing. We had to pack our bags on the back of a mule which then took all of our belongings to the refuge we would be staying at for the night. The beginning wasn't too bad. I felt like I was just taking a walk on a slow incline. The beginning of our hike was ascending very slowly because we had to walk through the mountain range to even get to the base of Mount Toubkal itself. Let me just tell y'all. For someone who lives on an island AT sea level, hiking 13,000 feet above that is killer for the lungs. My lack of physical ability wasn't even the issue. It was my lungs never feeling like they had enough oxygen to keep going. We finally made it to the refuge at the base of Toubkal after 4-5 hours. The refuge was somewhere around 3,000 meters (idk what that translates to in feet)and it was freeeezing. A solid 30 degrees and the refuge didn't have any heat running through it or hot water so a shower was totally out of the question.

Day 2. We began our ascent up Toubkal itself. Talk about D-E-A-D. This ascent kicked my ass in the worst way because it was very steep and got that way very quickly. But I did experience a pretty magical moment. We had taken a break because I was dying and needed a second to breathe. I'm standing there, looked up, and saw a shooting star (my first one EVER) at 5 am and the sun hadn't even risen yet. I felt very free and so thankful to be literally exploring our earth. I was there, in Morocco, IN AFRICA for God's sake, climbing a mountain before the sun had even woken the earth yet. It was such a beautiful and humbling experience. The rest of the climb up Toubkal went a little like this: We climb for a bit, I was in the back, huffing and puffing away, taking a break what felt like every 30 seconds. I got so tired at one point that I literally just laid in the snow and told everyone to leave me there. I was so over it. I didn't want to climb it any more. I didn't care. I just wanted to die because my body was in so much pain, now because of my lack of athleticism and because my lungs were so confused about what they were breathing in. It sure didn't feel like sea level air anymore. We finally saw the summit and it was only a 15 minute climb to get there, but very dangerous because of the snow and the ridge was quite small. We finally made it to the top and I just collapsed in the snow and straight diedddddd. I have never in my feel felt so accomplished and proud of myself. I had finally made it to the top of a mountain I thought I would never be able to climb. It took about 4 hours to ascend from the refuge. We finally started going back down but we were going all the way back to the bottom where we started. In total, we spent 16-17 hours on our feet ascending and descending Mount Toubkal.

Mohammad, our tour guide. He nearly dragged me up the last part of the hike
and to him, I basically owe my life. I cannot say enough good things about this man and
how much he cares about each and every person he gets to share this experience with.
Mount Toubkal summit reppin' HPU

 Still to this day, my most proud moment is climbing that mountain because I never thought my body could physically do it and it did. I encourage each and every person to have faith in themselves no matter what it is because you can literally do whatever you put your mind to.

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