So after having quite possibly the worst experience ever trying to climb Mount Toubkal in March you might think it would be the last place on my mind for NYE…. in fact you’d be right because I didn’t come up with the idea to do it again; James did! Fear for me is making Kiss FM go silent for ages – I often wake up from that nightmare drenched in sweat! The fear of climbing this mountain again is ten times that!
It’s winter in Morocco so surely you’d think the weather would be worse right? That has been my argument against it all along – I wanted a beach in Miami or Dubai or Sydney or… I just wanted a beach. But, I was proven wrong. Even though the snow was deep we were blessed with pure clear skies, no winds and a beaming sun in our face! And, I still managed to nearly kill myself.
Let’s start from the beginning… We stayed in this beautiful Riad in the village of Imlil to help acclimatise. I didn’t have the greatest of sleeps. It all started when I awoke from a nightmare – no, I hadn’t taken Kiss off air – you know The Exorcist? Well, my dog Henry took the lead role as I dreamt he managed to completely rotate all his paws. Ahhhh! Once I was awake, I couldn’t get back to sleep. All I could think about was falling off the mountain because from looking at way too many photos and speaking to way too many people it had recently sunk in how steep this mountain can be. I can’t in my head imagine what going up that high is like or how we stick to the side of the mountain?
So we meet our guide at 9.30am and start the trek up to the refuge, it’s beautiful going through the village and being surrounded by nothing but nature. Any time you pass another group of climbers coming the opposite way you always ask ‘how was it?’ And you always get the same answer… ‘very tough, much harder than I expected, but so worth it!’
The first 5 hours went relatively quickly even though I’d been sweating it out in 20 degrees heat constantly walking in the same direction. Cut to 5 hours later and the temperature had plummeted, the ski jacket and crampons were on and just ahead I could see the refuge. I can’t describe how cold I was but as soon as I got in, I parked myself near the fire to warm up and downed a few glasses of Moroccan mint tea (minus the 12 lumps of sugar).
By the time you have dinner it’s like 7pm and you’re already shattered so you literally jump into bed straight after and walk for lights out! Roll on the worst night sleep I’ve had in my whole life… It’s freezing cold yet somehow I’m sweating inside my sleeping bag rolling around like a worm. I’ve got constant thoughts of all the bad things that could go wrong: it’s so high; it’ll be dark; what if I lose everyone; how do you get back down; vertical drops. Why was no one else scared about this? They were all so excited and eager to wake up at 5am!
I don’t like 5am as a time – who the hell does? – I’d much rather be fast asleep. I’d rather be hot than freezing cold. And I’d rather not fall down a mountain to my death. So is there any wonder why I didn’t have one ounce of sleep? I really needed the loo – probably an anxiety number 1 or 2. They were three flights of stairs down and they absolutely stunk! This is where we’d also be going to wash and shower; a minor worry in what was in store for the rest of day but a worry none-the-less. It must be the rich food? the amount of bread we all eat or the altitude that gives everyone the sh*ts. I’m not just talking about standard logs there are only two words to describe what’s going on here and that is SETH PLATTER, and we all know what rhymes with that? SPLATTER. I was adding to this endless stench-mound as I also had the runs. (Sorry all!)
It’s 5am. It’s -12. It’s pitch black. No sleep. No shower. No baby wipes. No breakfast. Two Imodium, hot water, crampons were on and we were good to go. Now I’m an ‘experienced mountaineer’ I apologise if I say something that I think you may know. A crampon is a posh word for metal spikes to go under your boots.
Our head torches were beaming a strong bit of light in front of us, however for a whole hour of us going up I dared not look anywhere but the guides heels. I had a cold sweat going on as this was the hardest workout I’ve done in a long time. I remember at one point seeing the head torch lights way ahead of us in the distance and there was a kind of warm reassurance that everything was ok because the people before you were ok.
You’ll understand that there was a lot of silence as you have to concentrate (especially if it’s your first time). It’s like every step you take, takes more and more out of you and the more I tried the slower I was getting?! It was more frustrating than anything!
The sun was starting to rise and we could see the mountain we were climbing, so I used this as an opportunity to take a break and sit on a rock, I looked down and thought ‘FRIGGING HELL THIS IS AMAZING’ quickly followed by ‘HOLY CRAP.’ I thought this is the end of me and I can’t go up and I can’t go down – I’m stuck! What do I do what do I do?!
After using every excuse I could think of to keep resting in that spot I got up and carried on for what seemed like hours, I had James behind me, full of energy and egging me forward every step. But every step made me feel like I weighed 20 stone. It got to the point where I was taking 6 steps then keeling over my walking stick! Combine that with a pounding headache and feeling sick I knew altitude sickness had began! The guide came with me and seeing that James was fine and surprisingly a real ball of energy, he shot off to find the group who had passed us 40 minutes ago when I was taking one of our many breaks. Just so you know James caught up with that group like Superman and made the summit! Although when he met me back at the refuge 5 hours later Superman was SUPERMASH UP!!
Going down was actually just as hard as going up! I know it’s all mind over matter but looking straight down and thinking that’s where I’ve gotta go made my stomach hurt, I felt like if I leant forward I’m literally gonna roll off this mountain! It’s so peaceful up there in the sky and even though I kept thinking I could die at any moment – I really did enjoy it! You’ll probably think I regret I didn’t make it to the top but actually I’m just happy I made it 3800m up! That did it for me.
Happy New Year!