#ChallengeTim: Climb Something High
A few weeks ago as part of my ongoing campaign to challenge myself, I walked to the Mount Toubkal. At 4,167 m, it’s the highest Mountain in Morocco, and, in fact, North Africa. At 4000 metres, it’s a good deal higher than the next highest thing I’ve climbed – Ben Nevis (1344 metres) – the highest mountain in the British Isles.
To be fair, whilst this all sounds very impressive, I have to now put this all in perspective and explain why I don’t think it’s such a big deal.
Ben Nevis isn’t a very difficult mountain to walk up (by its easiest route!). It’s physically tiring if you’re not used to walking up things and that can be tough, but the main path is well made, well marked, relatively gentle and so long as you go slowly, the weather is good and you’re well dressed and determined you’ll eventually summit. It’s really that simple.
Toubkal isn’t quite that simple, but it’s close. There is a walk in from Imlil (or Aremd [2000 metres] where we’d spent the previous night), to Nehtmer where there are mountain huts and where most groups camp via a well marked, well trafficed (I mean, people, mules, goats etc!) path. From Nehtmer (3207 metres), it’s only about 2km/960 metres) away.
Think about that, Ben Nevis is 1344 metres and you climb it in one day, almost from sea level. With Toubkal you only have to do 960 metres on summit day, and perhaps 1207 metres the day before. Maybe think of it as two Ben Nevis’s on consecutive days.
Toubkal does have some challenges that Ben Nevis doesn’t: Altitude and Sun. On a lucky day, you might have an issue with sun on Ben Nevis, but on Toubkal, once the temperature gets up, it gets unpleasant. The altitude also starts to become noticeable. At “lowish” high altitudes like this, if you can expect a few things: you find it more difficult to breathe or you notice yourself being out of breath faster than you’d expect, and you’ll start to notice gentle signs that you’re high up. You can also expect to experience “gentle” mountain sickness symptoms if you’ve not acclimatised enough – in my case, mild headaches.
The cure to being out of breath is to walk R-E-A-L-L-Y slowly. The cure to mountain sickness symptoms is, well, in the short term, drinking lots of water. It’s a complex subject, but drinking lots of water makes a big difference. That was I think the only time I managed to completely drain my 3 Litre Platypus – everytime I noticed I had a headache, I drank. One of the other guys and I had quite a lot of fun singing acapella kareoke of popular songs on the way up this hill and noticed that, for me at least, the singing was keeping the headache at bay. I dread to think how much everyone else must have wanted to strangle us given they must have had rubbishy headaches and then had to suffer our rubbish singing.
To be honest, I don’t think “climb something high” was a very good challenge to set myself. Height in itself, is not necessarily very challenging, or very enjoyable.
I had a great time in Morocco, I greatly enjoyed walking through the mountains, I’m glad I reached that summit, but I don’t think the fact it was 4,000 metres high was what made it.
I’m going to consider this challenge done, but with a note to make sure that challenging things I do in the future are actually difficult, and don’t just sound difficult.