UEA Fell and Mountaineering club recently returned from their first ever overseas expedition to Morocco. Earlier in January, they successfully reached the summit of Jbel Toubkal, North Africa’s highest mountain, after four days of acclimatization.
Photograph: Charlotte Wade
Jbel Toubkal is part of the High Atlas range of mountains in Morocco that run from east to west. Although Morocco isn’t normally associated with snow and ice, the team had to deal with night time temperatures of -15 degrees centigrade and snow and ice on the paths. The challenging conditions provided the opportunity to develop winter mountaineering skills, using ice axes and crampons under the watchful eye of a guide. As well as the cold, the team had to deal with the sometimes debilitating effects of high altitude.
In addition to summiting Morocco’s highest peak, the group also had the chance to tackle the second-highest peak, Ras Ouanoukrim, at 4083m. The ascent was more technically demanding and involved the use of a rope on a few sections. Reaching both summits was a huge achievement for everyone and something that will be remembered for a long time.
Both summit days required getting up before 5am, with the aim of being out the door as soon as possible and returning in time for a late lunch. This ensured that time was available in case anything went wrong. There are no mountain rescue facilities in the High Atlas Mountains, and expedition groups must deal with any emergencies themselves.
The UEA team enjoyed a safe expedition without mishap, however a pair of girls that the group met were afterwards reported missing, though this later proved to be a false alarm.
Following five days of mountaineering, the group experienced Morocco’s hectic capital city, Marrakech. The transition was a stark contrast to the peace and quiet of the mountains; the hustle and bustle took the group by surprise, but proved a fitting end to the trip before flying back to Gatwick the next day.
Photograph: Abbi Forsyth
Members of UEA’s Fell and Mountaineering club were lucky enough to be looked after incredibly well by the people of Morocco; from the mules that carried bags up to the refuge, to the meals they received from the expedition cook, and the wonderful expertise and knowledge of guide James Kniffen.
The president of UEA Fell and Mountaineering club congratulated the expedition team, saying “it was a fantastic trip for everyone, and they achieved everything they set out to achieve and more.”
To find out more information about UEA Fell and Mountaineering, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.