Sunday, 7 August 2011

Day 8 brings Jebel Gueliz

Same prep for Mojo as previous day (very little), breakfast on the roof, quick dunk in pool, get changed and off.

Nine o'clock and another eagerly awaited ride ahead, Jebel Gueliz, a mountain right on he North West corner of Marrakech, it's quite old school in having a military installation situated on it's summit, surrounded by a huge wall.

I was beginning to feel at home on the roads now, so with compass, map and common sense, I began to traverse through Marrakech unhindered and enjoying the new sights.

As there are very few, if any at all highrise buildings i
n Marrakech, the Jebel was on the skyline permanently and growing ever closer, which was relieving as the roads were boring me.

Ready as ever.
View east over Marrakech
I reached the area and climbed up the slopes to just beneath the military installation wall on the North East side as it was easiest to ascend, this gave me views out into desert with a huge mountain backdrop. I skirted around clockwise and eventually ended up with a view of Marrakech in it's entirety whichgradually disappeared into heat haze as it topped 40degs.

The trails ahead.

There were trails spotted all over the place and I decided to start the fun, ripping it up:) this was going to be different again as the rocks were smaller, enabling me to carry more speed.

Going down.

I ended up crossing over to the top of a massive cliff face and riding the spine, it was a touch nerve racking, but hey, that's what it's all about. Check out the link below.
This is the footage going down onto trails followed by riding a close to 150m drop as possible!

I eventually descended to street level and began my trip back to Riad Jona, some 6kms away. However!
The souks were to tempting for more footage :)

Re-entering the Medina (old town) I realised that no night footage had been taken yet! So after my evening meal which was roof top over looking the main square the choice was made, night ride. Check link below for footage.

Another night in massive bed.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Day 7 continued on the trails

Still good from the buzz of finding some trails (albeit quite dangerous) I made way to the Jardin de la Palmeries. After a short execution back on the roads, I turned off and greeted instantly by the mass of palms covering the horizon. Entering the beautiful and relaxing jardin, I began contemplating the ride that being provided by the Mojo HD.

The HD is really proving itself to me as a dynamic steed because during the trip so far it has covered:-

  • Biblical climbs.
  • The most technical descents I’ve ever ridden.
  • Fast, swooping trails.
  • Dirt style trails.
  • Street riding.
  • Lengthy commutes to locations in Marrakech.

Good boy.

Now this may just seem like a list of attributes to you guys, and it is, but when it comes down to it. The HD is very competent at all of them without the need change anything, simple adjustment of parts onboard and bosh, job done J remarkable.

Anyway, back to the riding I hear you say.

Perfect road surfaces weave around area between the hotel sites, which a little bit of fun with the drainage ditched along their flanks, but this is the kind of stuff you can ride anywhere in the world. So I headed further in until I caught view of some camels that were ferrying punters around designated routes, well trodden….?

Site arrival.

Ready to go.

Bingo! All around the same area is the tracks used by quad bikes, time to get jiggy again. Pulled up beneath the shade of a tree (36deg) and applied some sunblock. These trail were quite similar to the earlierone apart from not having gaping holes on them, making them very ridable.

After some two hours at this spot, I called it a day and headed back, this time facing the road madness that happens in the cool of the late afternoon.

Back to Riad Jona via the Souks :)

Evening meals and chill, with sun bathing in the late sun......bliss.

Tomorrow is going to be my attack on Jebel Gueliz, the only mountain in Marrakech!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

News alert!

Hey peeps, Brad here.

Don't worry, we have loads of footage to download, so it will be hitting your screens soon :)
Band widths ect over here ain't too good :(

Anyway :) going solo now in Marrakech, which is an unbelievably mental place and simply does not stop!

Itinerary :-
  1. Relax and find peace, as this trip has been long awaited.
  2. Find some riding around/near the city in a way that only Brad can ;)
  3. Check out some of the history surrounding this mecca.
  4. Go out dancing!
I'm staying once again at Riad Jona which is unbelievably tranquil in this melee.
My suite is huge and I've even got Mr Mojo staying with me.

King sized bed :)

sweet en-suite bathroom.

After quite a late night chatting on the roof with Mohammed '1' and a couple of Australian girls (thought the sound of Oz had gone home with Jase). I still managed to get an early start, and got preped for my recce of Marrakech with online research and maps thoroughly scanned. Breakfast, kit check and go!

I hit the streets and OMfingG! the roads in Marrakech are basically a battle field where it is survival of the fittest.

Moped everywhere.

Absolutely everywhere.

The HD was set up with 45psi in tyres, forks locked out, and Propedal set up to firm, perfect for giving the manoeuvrability needed for street life, forgot to grab Jase's 'Mule' bell when he left.

After 2km, I was skirting passed the edge of the new town and buildings were thinning out. Then quite unexpectedly, barren desert type pockets popped up.

Beginning of open land Gradually becoming trail material

And then! low and behold. two straight km's of rolling dirt trail coming right down to the road that I was travelling along, win :)

See what I mean :)

On and on.......


I was all set up and ready to roll, however, I'd noticed some little holes dotted about the direct trail line, they are obviously deep wells for water and since they are about 5m's deep! I kept them in mind......

No thanks...

The next few pics are still from the GoPro footage (full footage available when back in blighty).

Seeing them now and watching the footage on my laptop gives me a tingle in the back of my neck,

Mama mia!

This link is the footage of the trail

So close : / totally amazing ride though.

Ace locaion.

I continued towards Jardin De la Palmeraie which is a huge area on the north eastern corner of Marrakech, where exclusive hotels, quad bike tracks and 1000's of palm trees dot the landscape. And that is where I will pick it back up.

Also to come is reviews on all kit used, do's and don't's and essentials for similar trips

ps. I've just had the most amazing filo wrapped sea food Moroccan dish with mint and turmeric ;)

night night, Brad

Morocco Day 5. Part 3 - Toubkal Refuge - Imlil

Lets head back :)

A small crowd had gathered at the top of the steps at the refuge to watch us leave. It was evident that what we were doing was something that was pretty rare, and we were filled with a new excitement, one of hitting some great singletrack, all 9km of it, and then a nice Tagine and shower at the end. After the disappointment of not reaching the summit, we were due some payback for all the pain endured and energy spent climbing this mountain.

So, without further ado we cranked down the stairs of the refuge and onto the singletrack. All was going fine for about 300m until I came down pretty hard on the back of my saddle and the saddle fell off. When we stopped for a look, we realised that the saddle cluster that holds the saddle rails in place had been bent, along with the saddle rails. We packed the rails up with tape and reassembled the seatpost but it only stayed in place for about another 100m. So, the final 9km with no seatpost. Great. I didn’t expect to be sitting down much anyway, but it’s always nice to have a rest when you can.

About another 500m on I noticed that there was air escaping my rear tyre. There was a huge dent in the rim, but after sloshing the tubeless liquid in the tyre around a bit, it stopped hissing and we re-inflated the tyre and pushed on. I'd been running about 30psi in the rear due to the loose dusty trails the day before so I put in about 35psi to deal with the sharper rocks on today's descent.

This trail was rough and rocky. Very rocky. In fact by far the rockiest trail I have ever ridden, and as we had come up the same trail in the morning, we knew that this would continue all the way to Imlil.

Then Brad crashed. Again. This was crash number 3 of the day, following the 2 on the Toubkal summit descent. Over the bars and down the side of the trail. A little shaken and with bruised confidence (not to mention body) we pressed on. After crash number 4 he realised his fork was still set at 120mm, instead of 160mm! The less said about that the better…..

As we lost altitude the temperature slowly got warmer. Our speed however remained painfully slow as we picked our way through rock garden after rock garden and walked over the nasty bits. But we remembered that the trail smoothed out somewhat after Chammharouch… Out of the valley the white boulder of Chammharouch slowly appeared and we couldn’t wait to see the other side of this halfway point in our journey. It was clear by now that we would struggle to make it back to the Riad by sundown.

LINK:-Some footage of descent.

Thankfully the trail grew a little wider with more line options so the speed crept up a bit. Now the riding was becoming enjoyable. If only we could have started this downhill section fresh rather than struggling with dropping energy levels and fading light. Down we went until we saw the river bed that marked the end of the descent proper. Now we had to ride across this river bed of baby head sized loose stones, but surprisingly the Mojo’s suspension dug in and found grip where I didn’t think it would be possible and it was almost ok. If I had a seat it would have been better….

Now there was just the walnut groves to negotiate, however the light had dropped significantly and under the trees we couldn’t see a thing.

We stopped at a Gite to ask for directions and were directed to a dirt road down to Imlil (about 4km) and would then have to ride back up the hill to the Riad. I had seen the road from our Riad before and knew that it switched back down the side of the mountain on the other side of the river to us. But with no knowledge of any further junctions, and the fact that it was now dark, I made the call to get a taxi. The bartering began. 600 Durhams for a taxi for the 2 of us to get home. £60! I don’t think so. So I started at 100 and eventually settled on 250Durhams. It was after all now 21.15, 13 hours after we started our ascent, and we were knackered. Absolutely knackered. There is no better word to describe how we felt.

What it's all about.

We got back to the Riad just after 21:30 and by 22:00 we had a huge bowl of lamb coucous in front of us and some soup. Houssine and Abdul had outdone themselves once again. Food first, then Houssine offered his private Hammam to relax our tired bodies. Bliss.

Tomorrow we would do nothing we vowed. Absolutely nothing.

All I remember after this was my muscles protesting loudly as I turned onto my side in the night, after waking Brad with my snoring once again.

Morocco Day 5 - Part 2 - Refuge to the summit and return to the refuge

Looking up from the refuge at the steep scree slope that was the start of the ascent really brought home to me the enormity of the challenge ahead. We couldn't really see beyond this but if this was 2-300m of the climb, with a further 700m behind it, then it clearly was not going to be fun. Just to make it clear - I HATE pushing mtb's up hills. Hate it. And in front of me was the biggest push I had ever seen, and was likely to take 4 hours. And to top it off we were at 3200m and climbing - not that much oxygen up there.

Most of the climb was like this and the link below.

Just after the scree slope ended, the boulder field started. Clearly none of this would be rideable on the way down. Every 10m or so of ascent (vertical) we had to stop and suck in deep breaths to keep the oxygen coming in and slow the heart rate down.
Camera shot perfectly horizontal!

As gentle as it got.

In between the boulder fields, there were small slivers of singletrack that were declared "rideable" which added some sensibility to our challenge. I mean, why carry/push a MTB up a mountain if you can't actually ride it down? Right? That would be crazy!

A little info on climb.

On and on it went. Walkers coming down were all telling us we would die etc etc. One guide told ud it was impossible and during the 10 years on guiding, he had never seen a mtb being carried up the mountain. By this point we could well understand why. It was torture. Pushing, carrying, cajoling, we moved up towards the summit.

The summit in sight, Mmmmm?
After almost 3h we caught our first sight of the summit. Yes! It was within reach! We could also see the enormous scree slope leading up to the summit that all of the walkers had been warning us about too.

At this point we were approached by 2 guides who told us we had at least another 2 hours to go until the summit. What? Hang on.... but having seen the terrain ahead, and the scree beyond we realised this was reality. If we continued, it would be at least 5pm before we reached the summit, and then another 2 hours to descend again. And only about 5% of the descent actually rideable. And to top it off, there were dark clouds approaching rapidly across the peaks. Time for a team meeting.

Thick cloud coming in at a fast rate.
The Facts:
  1. We would not reach the summit until 5pm, leaving only 2-3h until darkness for the descent. We therefore would not make it back to Imlil for the night and would have to stay at the refuge.
  2. There were some dark clouds rolling in and we were at altitude
  3. While descending, we would be the only people on the mountain.
  4. We would be riding the most technical terrain either Brad and I had ever ridden, and we would be attempting this after 5 hours of extreme exertion climbing/pushing mtbs 1000 vertical metres.
We discussed abandoning the "up and down in a single day" part so we could summit and stay a night at the refuge but this still did not cancel out facts 2-4. After a very painful discussion we decided that it was not safe to continue and we would try and descend as quick as we could so at least we could get back to Imlil in time for dinner.

Time to head down :(

Yee haa! for about 200m.

the top run, about as long as they got!

Insanely difficult.

Clearly this was a low point. So much preperation and planning had gone into this moment and we were not able to continue. However, the mountain would still be there should we wish to have another crack at it another time. We needed to make sure that we also would still be around...
The last gap coming into refuge.

So after something like "lets get of this *&&king mountain" we armoured up and started descending. For about 100m. Then it was off carrying again down the boulder fields and scree slopes. Of the 2km climbed, we could only ride about 200m, however we managed to get down to the refuge by 17:45 and agreed that we would set off at 18:00 for Imlil. It was only 9km and we had seen the route from the back of the mules. Even at a slowish pace of 9km/h we should do it in 1h. We might even be home for tea. Too easy!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Day-5 Part-1 Imlil to Nelter refuge

Yesterday was an epic day of 13.5 hours that went well beyond our planned journey. So, to space it out a bit, we'll be writing it up in 3 parts. The 1st is below.

Plan! early start, mules to Nelter refuge at foot of Toubkal, summit with bikes, back to refuge with bikes, ride bikes back to Imlil.

05:30 and alarms are ringing! time to get up and after 5-6 hours sleep the two previous nights, we're feeling quite blunt, but hey ho, the mules and muleteers are arriving at 06:00. We had already prepared our day packs on Wednesday night so we just put on our riding kit and headed outside. Problem. The door is locked and the rest of the dar are still in dream world, including Abdul who sleeps outside next to the kitchen. We consider climbing around from a balcony to the top of the stairs, but low and behold 'clip, clop' the mules arrive and instantly wake up Abdul.
We head down and dismantle the Mojo HD's so they can slot together in the saddle bags that hang either side of the mules. Keeping the height down was key as being too high would cause instability for the mules. Eventually they slotted together in a loving embrace and very secure.
 Loaded and ready to ride

 The sun creeps down the mountain side in the early morning. Omar and Hussan take a break.

Jase and I were then allocated our mules, the Berbers don't name them and just refer to them collectively as what sounds like 'dissidents' so we both decided to name our steeds! Cookie and Snowflake.
We headed up and over the hill that skirts around a place called 'Around' (1830m). The path through the walnut grove was quite rocky so we started subconsciously locking in lines for our descent.
The mule directly in front of me seems to have  bit of an 'ass' thing going on as it kept on farting and dropping load after load with Jase oblivious up top.
As soon as we left Around we had a view down the valley across a huge dried river bed covered with loose rocks about the size of a baby heads. We travelled the length of the dried bed to what looked like the beginning of the mountain side trail. The trails were dry and dusty with a small amount of rocks - like ever other trail around here it seems.....
River bed
Brad digs a rock from a mules hoof with a 5mm Allen key
Brad feeding "Cookie" some Orange skins - they love it

We gradually climb for another 2km before catching sight of Chammharouch (2350m), which featured a huge white boulder that's rolled down from the mountaintops and the tiny village has been built around it. Passing through quickly to avoid delay and the inevitable bartering with sellers, we started climbing switchbacks out of the village which began to get quite hairy and loose. The bikes on-board the lead mule where staying secure and we were having to manoeuvre back and forth on the mule backs to stabilise them as you do in the saddle of a bike, bonus!
We jumped off and walked for a while to stop any unwanted stiffness in our legs and to have a chat, this also gave Omar and Hussain (muleteers) to ride on the mules for a while.
The roughness of the path and the small rock gates became much more evident now and Jase turned to me with the comments 'this looks ridable!' Little did we know how hard this trail was going to be.
Still looking swoopy with the odd rock in the way, we tootled along. Omar and Hussain seemed to be have an easy time of it having jokes and laughs along the way. In the busy season, they make this trip of 9km each way climbing from 1700m to 3200m 3 times per week!
Azib Isougouane n'Ougounss (2986m) was passed leaving only 1km to go. We passed a few campers in this section and also had view of the snow patches dotted around the mountain sides. The trails here seemed very fast and swoopy.
When we were about three hundred meters from the refuge, Jase pointed and said 'look, people coming down the scree slope". Holy £^%!', there were tiny little red dots that were people coming down an incredibly steep slope approximately 400m high!
The refuge appears, and so does the impossibly steep scree slope up to the summit on the left.

We arrived at the refuge and dismounted the mules to be greeted by loads of smiley faces and better still, food before heading to the summit.

Staring up at this steep wall of scree, and the visible rock traverses above, the toughness of what we were about to undertake started sinking in. However, we were still on schedule so at 12.00 we started our ascent.

Herds of goats near the refuge