Due to a deep 'kink' in the Jet Stream Morocco had experienced exceptional levels of precipitation in the weeks before we travelled which had led to some roads having been washed away in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and the unfortunate deaths of some people washed away in flood waters, it had also led to approximately 4 metres of snow fall high up in the mountains.
Arriving in Marakech on the Saturday afternoon we were told travelling to Imlil would be impossible that evening as rainfall had again washed part of the route away and so we headed to a riad in Marakach and spent the evening looking around the food market and medina. Travelling up to Ilmlil on Sunday morning damage from the recent weather was obvious though the road had now been repaired and we arrived after a couple of hours, as there had been a further half a metre of snowfall forecast for the mountains during Saturday it was decided that we would spend Sunday night in Ilmlil to give the snowpack time to settle before starting our walk up to the refuge Monday morning.
Monday - leaving Imlil after breakfast we set off to make our way up the mountain track that would take us to 'Refuge Les Mouflons' which would be our base in the mountains for the next week. Rising from Ilmlil at 1740m to the refuge at 3200m we would take the journey slowly to hopefully keep any symptoms of altitude sickness at bay. We found the snow line at around 2200m and the amount of snow on the ground quickly increased until we were following a track which was knee deep at the sides. The path took us under some terrain where there had been obvious avalanche activity with snow pack mainly in the form of 'sun balls' or 'point releases' ( where the sun had warmed rocks which had then led to a warming of the snow pack causing small slides) and we kept some distance apart from other member of the group whilst we passed these areas.
|They had had a spot of snow at the refuge!|
I then followed this by practicing building an emergency shelter as I will have to do during the Winter Mountain Leader assessment in February next year where a shelter big enough to provide protection from the elements has to be made within 20minutes using only an ice axe, I hope the snow is as soft in the Cairngorms as it is here this week and I have a willing client like Bob to try it for size. This simple scrape to 7minutes.
|Bit of a snow pit!|
|Mountain Rescue Rob and Rock Bottom Stuart battling the wind - I took that pic!|
Thursday - with a weather report predicting a further 20cm of fresh snow to fall over night Thursday the desicion was taken to head back to Imlil later that afternoon. A fresh 20cm of snow on top of the snow pack which was starting to consolidate and form a surface crust due to being subject to the strong Moroccan sun through the day and sub zero temperatures overnight could have caused us concern if walking out the following day. We spent the morning in two groups, one looking at and practicing ice axe arrest whilst the other group built a snow shelter. Leaving the refuge at lunch time we descended along the valley following the track through the deep snow and over sections of avalanche debris until we left the snow line at approximately 2350m near the shrine at Sidi Chammharouch and reaching Imlil 4.5hrs later, unfortunately our kit would be arriving the following morning!
|Siany practicing ice axe arrest.|
|Al gets cosy in the snow shelter.|
|Mountain Rescue Rob with compulsory 'man leg' pose!|
|Descending back to Imlil|
|Watch for this pair of characters in the mountains!|
It was pleasure to spend the week with Rob (Expedition Guide), MTA Bryn, 'Imperial' Bob, 'Rock Bottom' Stuart, Ady & Amy, Mountain Rescue Rob & Siany, Rich & Jo, Al, Dan and Steven.