Friday, December 05, 2014

Atlas Mountains of Morocco

LThis week has been spent in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Three days before we were due to leave the UK I had an email from my operator to say there was 3metres of snow at the high mountain hut we were stopping at, did I want porters rather than mules? Long armed porters were duly hired and the weather forecast checked, another 1.5 metres of snow was forecast for the day we arrived! 

All this weather meant that the road into the mountains was closed and so our first night was spent in Marrakech with the main aim of avoiding getting people ill before the trip began. On Sunday we were able to forge a path to Imlil where we decided an extra day of letting the snow calm down was in order before our walk in to the hut at 3200m. 

Our walk up to the hut on Monday gave plenty of opportunity to discuss the Avalanche hazard, I have never seen so much snow here and the mountains were absolutely plastered. We had a lovely day of light snow showers and sunny spells giving some fantastic light and atmosphere. 

Having seen the forecast and conditions I had arranged for each of my clients to bring snowshoes and so Tuesday was spent acclimatising, practising snowshoe use and teaching Avalanche avoidance. The reports had not been exaggerated and we found a consistent depth of 3-4 metres of snow, with 2 metres of wind slab on all aspects and lots of natural Avalanche activity.  

Wednesday dawned another stunning bluebird day. Parties were attempting Toubkal but were floundering in the deep snow. I have had fellow instructor and friend Bryn working for me this week and we took the team towards Ras and Times Guida in the hope that the ridge leading up would provide a safe haven from the avalanche conditions. Unfortunately we weren't able to get that far, stopped by the huge amounts of windslab that were visible on the approach to the col. Nevertheless we enjoyed a beautiful snowshoe journey, managing the avalanche risk by travelling over rolling terrain and being very aware of what was above us. 

Thursday was a similar day, blues skies and sunshine and massive amounts of snow! By this time we had all relaxed into the trip and the cards we had been dealt and spent the day looking at winter skills and shelter building whilst topping up the tan and then Friday back to the bright lights of Marrakech. 

This was one of the most challenging trips I have run in terms of the conditions we faced and it's testament to the clients open minded and relaxed approach that a great time was had by all, safely. 

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