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

No comments:

Post a Comment