“"it was bloody hard but incredibly satisfying!" ”
Michael Whitfield - Chairman BRFC
1 down 2 to go!
So that is the first challenge done, I climbed Mount Toubkal on the 7th and 8th May and I can honestly say it is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. It has taken me a few weeks just to let it sink in. I know it is not Mount Everest or Kilimanjaro but for me it might have well have been them.
I walked 25 miles up over 4,000 meters....it was relentless, it just went on and on and on.
On Day 1 we climbed in gorgeous weather for 7 ½ hours to a dark and chilly refuge at 10,000 feet. The terrain was mainly loose rocks and shale, so you were never sure of the placement of your feet, so you had to be cautious as you placed step after step on the uncertain ground – one step too close to the edge and I would have been plummeting downwards a lot faster than I climbed up! The danger was very real with people going past us being carted off the mountain on mules with bad injuries from broken skulls to broken limbs, it made very grim viewing for the climbers!
Thankfully I managed not to fall over but I had the most excruciating bot of cramp in inner thigh which just locked up tight and took about an hour of painful walking to walk off. But day was done, thank God when we reached the refuge.
At the refuge what awaited me was almost as much of a challenge as the climb itself...a night in 3 small bunk beds alongside 2 other chunky props, including Jason Leonard OBE, whom it was, of course a privilege to sleep alongside and rub cheeks with
The 3 of us formed a formidable 60 stone front row and the noise was deafening, a cacophony of snoring, belching and other unmentionable eruptions drowning out the howling gale outside. I hardly slept and at 4am it was time to get up and face the climb to the top.
After a night of not much sleep, and so cold that the inside of the windows froze in our snug room, we were woken by the light turning on automatically at 4am. Bleary eyed we headed for the summit. It was steep, snowy and icy and incredibly windy (on the mountain and not just in our room!). In short, horrible conditions, even for experienced mountaineers, let alone the ramshackle bunch we were. Around the summit itself there was sheet ice and howling gales so after a brief visit it was home James and don't spare the horses, I am not going to lie, when our two intrepid mountaineers said it was time to start the descent I was a very happy man!
With all of the focus on ascent we hadn’t really thought much about the descent and as we set off from the refuge again the prospect of getting to the bottom as quickly as possible was a welcome thought.
The first 3 hours of the descent were almost enjoyable, and I saw things that I never knew existed on the way up (it is difficult to see anything head down looking at your toes every step of the way!). However, as we entered the last two hours of the descent it is fair to say that my normally strong rhino legs began to feel very tired indeed, in fact it felt that someone else had kidnapped tem from the thigh down!
The final hours were spent splashing along a rocky wide river bed, not deep (and obviously not steep ) before the last leg-straining and steep final climb down to Imlil, the village we started out from two days before....and then a very quiet two hour coach journey back to Marrakech before a night of well-deserved celebration.
It was an extraordinary few days, which I can hardly yet believe that my battered old body had lasted through.
People have asked me “did you enjoy it”. I have to say that enjoyment was not high up there on the list of objectives I would use to describe the experience, but I do have a growing sense of pride and achievement , of that there is no doubt at all!
And as I pack away my walking poles and rucksack there is another worrying thought nibbling away in my mind...would I enjoy it more if I did it again now I know what to expect? I know I definitely don’t fancy anything higher but maybe..now I have all the kit....I should give it another crack for fun!
There are a few pictures on the link below to my Just Giving sites, and a massive thank you from me and my two charities, Jason’s Atlas Foundation and Great Ormond Street, Hospital for Children, you have already helped me raise over £12,000 and with two more events of my triple challenge to go over the next 4 months I am confident of hitting my £20,000 target.
The second challenge has come around all too quickly, it is the Blenheim Triathlon on this Saturday 4th June when I complete the cycle leg for my over 50’s relay team, The Odd Treble. Having only just recovered from the hike up Mount Toubkal I may be a little unprepared .
The good news is that if you haven’t donated you still can...click on either of these links and they will take you to the donation website.
To donate to Jason Leonard’s Atlas Foundation please visit my page here:
To donate to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children please visit my page here:
Thanks again for all you help and encouragement!
Updated 21:37 - 31 Aug 2016 by Russell Barnes