Uckfield and Crawley Sqns have just returned from a two week expedition to Morocco thanks to kind sponsorship from the Ulysses Trust, the RAF Charitable Trust, and the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals. The trip had two main aims, to summit the highest peak in the High Atlas Mountains, Jebel Toubkal at 4167m and to help the local Berber Community in Aroumd build a water tank to enable them to irrigate their orchards in Summer to bring an income for their community.
Unfortunately on arrival the team found that they had already lost the Toubkal Summit as early season snow meant the route required crampons, however they headed up to Imlil regardless, hopeful of finding an alternative peak. An acclimatisation walk helped the team adapt to the altitude before heading up to Neltner Shelter, a climb of 1200m. The night that followed saw heavy rain followed by clear skies and freezing temperatures, and the team woke to find other teams heading down to the warmth of the valley below, even though they had stayed in the shelter and our group were preparing for their summit bid.
Soon into the trek it became obvious that what had fallen on us as rain was snow high up on the mountain, and the snow covered summit of Toubkal seemed to watch us in defiance as we slowly gained height on the opposite face. After about two hours of ascent we reached the snow line at 3500m where we had to take care on some frozen sections that had spread across the established paths. A short climb later we reached the col below Aguelzim Peak 3650m which gave amazing views into three different valleys as well as over to the Toubkal Massif in the distance.
Back at camp after a rewarding day we awoke the following morning to sub-zero temperatures and icicles hanging from the shelter. This made the walk back to Aroumd more challenging until the sun came out, but a six hour climb was re-traced in just three hours.
Back in Aroumd we checked back into our gite before being taken to a local Berber House where we were introduced to Berber hospitality, fresh mint tea and taken to a local primary school where the team were able to do some teaching and play games with the schoolchildren.
The following morning saw the team start the community project, which saw four days of hard labour moving over 6 tonnes of ballast by hand over a 300m uneven path in short relays to a flat section near to the river. As we delivered the locals converted the ballast into concrete and slowly we saw a concrete box rise from the floor. By the finish of the project our efforts had furnished a 15m2 concrete water tank some 2m deep –which when calculated if full equated to some 100,000 gallons of water to feed the communities orchards over the summer months. As we left the locals had started on the water channels to deliver water to the tank and then feed the immigration ditches in the orchards below.
Finally we returned to Marrakech where the team had 24hrs to sample the local cuisine of the Jema el-Fnaa market, browse the endless souks, avoid snake charmers and sample some of the history of Marrakech. A highly rewarding trip where we tested ourselves, left a legacy and maybe most importantly got to immerse in what is the real side of Islamic Culture.