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Trip to the High Atlas mountains in Morocco in September 1982
Jeff South (Leader), Tony Ramsden, Alyson Jones, Christine Andrews, Tony Pain, Janette Pain, Robin Duff, David Stranger, Bill Coppock, John Fehr, James Robertson, Clyde Mayer and Jean Mayer.
Monday 20th September - Catch the train at midnight to London, get in at 3.35am. Wait for the underground to open at 5.15am. Take the tube to Victoria station and then a train to Gatwick, arrive at 7am. Check in and meet Robin and James. Catch flight BR345 to Casablanca. Arrive in brilliant sunshine, everywhere looks sand colour. Flight time was 3 hours, 10 minutes, see the rock of Gibraltar on the way. Change money at the airport, they would not change Bill's Scottish pound notes. Drive in a minibus to Marrakech. Stop at Satat for some real orange juice. It takes about three hours. Stay at the Hotel Foucauld on the main square.
Tuesday 21st - Breakfast of French bread and a strange coloured jam and coffee. Depart for Imlil via Asni. Meet Smit at the shopping centre, have some more mint tea. Carry full packs up to Aroumd, we stay at Larson's house. Village has about 300 people. The toilet is just a hole in the ground and a stick, the best one in the village. Our quarters are two rooms and a roof which has a table and two benches. Wonderful view up the valley to Toubkal. Mules bring up supplies form Imlil. At 5pm the clouds come down low and there is a heavy thunderstorm in the next valley, we get a little rain. Play cards and then sleep out on the roof.
Wednesday 22nd - Wake up with the dawn, have breakfast of powered milk and Alpen. Take a slow walk up the valley to Sidi Chamharouch - an Islamic shrine. We are not allowed to go into Mosques in Morocco or Saudi Arabia. Have plenty of fresh walnuts. Stop just above the shrine by a small pool. David and Chris go swimming, Jeff washes his shirt. Get quite sunburnt on my legs and body, very little sun cream left. Have dinner of un-leven bread, honey, Swiss cheese and apples. Stay for about three hours. Wander back down, see lots of people going up on Mules to make their pilgrimage to the shrine.
Thursday 23rd - Go out of the top of the village and climb to 8400 feet. Try uncovering flat stones to find a scorpion, Jeff finds one, about 1½ inches long. Scree down 2000 feet and go into a horizontal copper mine, disused. Come back via Imlil for a cup of tea, then back home. Decide that we will do two four day treks and have one rest day, sleep out again.
Friday 24th - Set off on our first trek carrying quite a lot of gear. The mules come with us carrying the food and cooking gear. Climb to Tizi-n’Tametert, for noon, rendezvous with the mules, they do not arrive till 2pm. Clyde uses his instamatic camera with three shepherd boys, they each want a picture. Leave packs and go up to 2724 m, 8900 feet with Bill, quite a lot of rock scrambling up to the ridge. By now there is no need for sun cream as my legs are quite brown. Come down very fast and meet the others in the bottom of the valley. Walk slowly to Tamguist, have tea on the way. Stay in the open in a corn thrashing area. John's 30th birthday, James cooks a special meal. Stay up quite late playing cards.
Saturday 25th - Rise with the sun, walk up to Tizi-nou Addi for dinner, 9700 feet. Same loafs for dinner and then up to Oukaimeden 10,700 feet. A steep climb with a long ridge going up and down with a lot of scrambling. Climb up with full packs, it takes me 65 minutes, Bill arrives after 95 and the rest nearly two hours. When the others get to the top the mist is just closing in, 4pm. Walk slowly down, get very lost in the mist. Get to the ski resort of Oukaimeden for 6.30pm. Have a large steak for tea and local wine. Stay at the Club Alpine Francais refuge for the night. Throw up in the night. Jean also gets stomach trouble.
Sunday 26th - Gentle walk to Ikkiss via Tizi-Tirateene. Very foggy all day. Go to the village of Amskere. Jeff approaches the first man he sees in the village and asks if we can have tea at his house. We all get invited in and have mint tea, walnuts and olives. Stop at someone's house in Ikkiss with a very nice garden. Sleep on the roof. Sing 'Green grow the rushes O' with the four mule drivers.
Monday 27th - Woken at 4am by people being called to the mosque. Sleeping bag gets soaked by the morning dew. Walk to Aroumd via Imlil. Go with Jeff and Tony R to look at the village of Imlil and their new mosque. Have an omelette and coffee at the shopping centre. Walk back up the west side of the valley to Aroumd. Bill finds a bath and has a wash. See two goats going to the butchers under protest, watch the butcher kill them.
Tuesday 28th - Attempt Hajj, 9600 feet, set off at 10.30am with Bill. Three French mountaineers died on it two months before. The only way up from Aroumd is to climb the front face. Walk up the steep valley until noon then scramble up for two hours and get to the bottom of a large chimney leading to the top. Bill decides to go round the edge but this takes too long. Have dinner at 3.30pm and then go back down. Islamic religious holiday, at 8pm the young people from various villages meet for an organised marriage dance till midnight. At 9pm the faithful walk through the fields in a large procession.
Wednesday 29th - Get up late and take a slow walk up to the shrine, carry all the gear that I took with me, very heavy. Buy chocolate at the shop and then carry on to the Neltner refuge, another Club Alpine Francais hut. Relax on sleeping bag in the afternoon. Bill and James go up to the Agrib Ouassif and look down on the lake. Other people do small walks. Have semolina pudding with coffee stirred in, very nice.
Thursday 30th - Get up early and Jeff makes porridge for breakfast, put honey on it. Set off up Jbel Toubkal at 8am. Bill and James set off at 7.45am but go the wrong way and end up climbing a large spur and have to come back down. We walk up the normal path. Me and Tony R get there first in 2 hours 15 minutes. Stay at the top, 13665 feet for quite a while and take photos. We can easily see the Marrakech plane, the Anti Atlas 30 miles away and the Sahara. We see a series of flashes from Jean back in Aroumd, Clyde signals back with a mirror. See sees us with her telephoto lens. View the computer generated panorama from the top of Toubkal. Me and Tony R go along a ridge and watch the others go down. Try to see the lake but cannot. Scree down 1500 feet and then walk back with Jeff and Alyson. Have physical competitions with the 60 year old warden. He can balance on his hands on the edge of a table and stand up from lying down without using his hands. We look at the log book and see lots of army groups and also Japanese, French, American and British entries. Sleep on mattresses as at Oukaimeden. Play cards till late with the warden watching.
Friday 1st October - Everyone else beside me, Jeff and Alyson gets up early. Have a late breakfast and then wander up the valley with Alyson. She goes up to the col to see the lake, I carry on and catch up with Tony R and Bill, walk up Ouanoukrim, the 2nd highest mountain in North Africa. Get to the top in two hours, have an hour at the top 13411 feet then come down on my own. Shout to Alyson from the top. Meet Bill on the way down and walk to the Neltner. Put on our full packs and walk with Tony R back to Sidi Chamharouch. Walk fast and feel very fit. Stay for about half an hour talking to the shop keepers. I end up buying a copper bracelet. Bargain for our boots and watches. They all have big digital watches. Walk back to Aroumd. Have a large meal for 50 Dirhams prepared by Larson's family. Start with a large plate of vegetables then a huge plate, 3 ft in dia, piled high with all the meat from two sheep. The meat is very tender and I eat more meat than ever before. Larson bring bags, blankets, djellabas and jackets to see. Buy a brown and yellow shoulder bag and a blue and brown woollen blanket, each for 100 Dirham. Last night at Aroumd so stay up late playing cards and finishing the beer.
Saturday 2nd - Get up early and walk with all the gear down to Imlil, have omelette and coffee for breakfast. Driven back from Imlil to Marrakech via Asni, stop for 15 minutes. We get besieged with traders, I buy a silver chain for 23 Dirham. Back to Marrakech for dinner, go out with James, John and David to a good restaurant. Have curried chicken and chips. We then walk round the souks all afternoon, get offered all sorts of thinks. Buy John a shave. After tea, Jeff leads the whole group round the markets, visit a large consortium selling carpets, silver, woodwork and leatherwork. Watch them making the carpets upstairs. See some chameleons for sale in a cage.
Sunday 3rd - Walk round the palaces of Marrakech with Mohammed as the guide. Dine in the same restaurant and then back to the hotel. At 4pm take a horse drawn carriage round all the gates of the walls and look at the gardens, see some six foot tall cacti and very thick bamboo. In the evening we go out to a night club to see singing, snakes, acrobats and belly dancing.
Monday 4th - Get up early, French breakfast, catch minibus at 8am, drive the 140 miles to Casablanca, stop at Setat again for fresh orange juice. A little late arriving at the airport. We get very thoroughly searched for drugs. Land at 5.45pm.
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