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.
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.
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!
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.
- 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.
- There were some dark clouds rolling in and we were at altitude
- While descending, we would be the only people on the mountain.
- 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.
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!