Here is my report of our adventure training at Altitude on the trails in the Atlas Mountains.
Arriving into Marrakech, it was evening time, and it was time to eat. Aka, Carb load. It was great to see Nikki, and to catch up with Chamonix friends and new faces. We were buzzing, and a lot of expectation was in the air. Would it be sunny? How far down would the snow line be? Would we be camping mountainside? These thoughts were briefly distracted by a magician producing a tomato out of a tumbler, but that’s for another story..
The next morning, after a good hearty breakfast and being good to go in running apparel, we got in the bus and headed to the Imlil Valley. It takes a good hour or so to get there, so we chatted about the trails and discussed the considerable white covering of the mountain profile in front of us. On our recce the snowline was fairly high, but this seemed much more substantial. After sorting out our bags for the mules, and a brief mint tea, we got going.
The trip was broken up into a shorter warm up day, followed by a longer trail and greater elevation gain on Day 2, before a glorious route returning eventually to the Kasbah du Toubkal on Day 3. When it came to the trails, there was a bit of everything. Day one had us descending a deep snowy couloir after some long trails up. Quick feet, rock jumping and lots of the white stuff gave the group energy and high vibes for the days ahead.
On our second day, we descended, ascended, traversed, cooed over a lonely baby goat rescued by our Berber guide, got our trainers covered in deep snow (as well as some interesting ground consistency in ‘poo alley’ past the goat herds), were run at by very protective goat guarding dogs (the situation handled expertly by Hassan our guide) and were thoroughly bronzed (the red spectrum on this significantly varied - my face a key example). All in all, this running was becoming a new way of living for these days and we were loving it.
While in the mountains, the decision was made, due to the sheer quantity of snow, to stay in local Gites rather than camp. While Gites themselves might appear initially fairly minimal, they represented a collection of some of the most warm and welcoming walls I have resided in. We were overwhelmed with delicious warm bread and tagine, sweet Moroccan tea, and lots of good chats and laughter. Both the Gites we travelled to were exceptional places for bringing together friends and and all round sense of community where we were supported so well by the Berber community. There were a lot of laughs too, from the girls setting up their additional room ‘WC’ (special mention goes to Ali for providing the, erm, equipment to make this feasible!) to our infatuation with this chocolate spread called ‘Sergio’…
For me, the most memorable moment of the running was the ascent on the final ‘more substantial’ run day. Again, another day of bright beautiful sun, and a long, slightly technical single track descent. Those moments when you shout out in the revelling of a moment – arms out, feet moving and you just - move- go-run.
What we loved about this place, was the way it took us out of ourselves, our normal existence, our normal thought patterns and our need for the regularity of what we normally know and do. This sounds fairly over-romanticsed, but it is really true. Maybe a better way of saying it – is that on each day, we all gained some new perspectives. There were aches, there were difficult and more challenging moments, but there was team work, achievements and some pretty big smiles too.
A mention goes to our guides Hassan and Abdul, who between them made sure everyone in the group was able to experience these mountains fully and safely. We are also very grateful to the team at the Kasbah du Toubkal, who literally and metaphorically swaddled us in comfort after our running. As I have written before from our previous recce trip, the Kasbah is a truly magnificent place, and our final base point here felt a real reward after some harder running days.
We were also really grateful for the support we received from Salomon Sports with some trail shoes, and for the helpful team who are always on board to offer assistance and advice at Outside Shop.
There it is - a summary of some really exceptional experiences, in a fairly remote and truly special part of the world. Here is a video which gives a further glimpse into our awesome trip. If you can, do go, and walk, run, immerse and embrace those mountain trails.