Not more snow!
I’m writing to you from my kitchen - a room which is slowly but surely starting to look like an actual room of the house, not a garage. Doing up a house is like a game of Tetris that you’re obliged to live inside. But it’s also amazing what a bit of paint and a new set of handles can do.
You’re probably wondering what happened to me in the past few months. And the answer is simple: I got back from Morocco and proceeded to be very very ill. But I’m better now and spent April running around like a crazy person, because of Ten Tors. Not least because the event was a week early this year.
Here are some things I’ve been up to.
Third time lucky, but I did finally make it to Morocco and up into the High Atlas mountains at the end of February until early March. We were there for just over a week with the aim to climb Toubkal, Ouanoukrim and any other nearby peaks or gullies we took a fancy to. ‘We’ being friends from the Mountain Rescue team I’m in. I missed Catie by a week and left just before Jo arrived. And couldn’t quite fix logistics to break away from my group and meet up with Alice (next time!).
There was a huge amount of snow in the mountains compared to previous years, with snow in Imlil itself (village at about 1300m) the week before we arrived. Luckily, we were allowed up on the mountain (there are police checkpoints, so it can be considered closed). We flew into Marrakesh early and stayed a night in Aroumd (a place which seems to have a hundred different ways of spelling its name) just outside of Imlil. Then we walked up to the mountain hut the next day, in horizontal snow, with a couple of tea stops along the way. I tragically dropped my Insta360 Go2 camera bumping into someone and it was buried and lost before I realised. Gutted.
There are two huts at what’s being called “Toubkal Basecamp” at about 3100m. We spent 5 nights there, with days out making the most of the conditions. That included the summit of Toubkal (see compulsory summit photo) which we were very lucky to even see - we were in cloud until the last 50m. But there is nothing quite so elating as expecting disappointment and having the clouds lift at the last moment.
There is so much to write about this trip and all will be told on the blog eventually. But what really surprised me most was the sheer number of people doing this as a “long weekend” from Marrakesh. Going from zero to 4100m and back down again in two days. This is not safe, regardless of how its sold by tour companies or indeed the media (watch this, were were on an entirely different mountain to the one portrayed here). And the reality was people showing up at the hut in 1s and 2s at gone 7pm from Imlil. People throwing up and fainting in the hut. Leaving at 5:30am with almost no sleep to get sunrise on the summit and have time to descend again. We had an impromptu mountain rescue incident when a lady descending fell unconscious at our feet as we were climbing Toubkal. And all this appears to be the norm. Please: it is NOT a long weekend trip. Respect the mountain.
After a great time in the High Atlas, with less than perfect weather but fun had all round, we descended to Imlil, drove to Marrakesh and spent the afternoon there before an early flight back the next day. The medina at night was best.
(I then proceeded to get giardiasis, which I’m fairly sure I got from washing my hair in the hotel in Marrakesh. Will never be doing that again. Thank heavens I only started being ill the moment I got home, not on the plane.)
A pootle along the Dartmoor Way
Way back during Covid, I tried to do the newly launched Dartmoor Way in four days. I got 3 days and maybe 80 miles in before I had to concede defeat to my ankle. Still no idea what happened there. But the trip did the trick: making me very happy to spend another lockdown on the sofa.
When Alex Roddie said he was coming down to do the Dartmoor Way for a book project, I immediately agreed to going along too. The Dartmoor Way and I had unfinished business - it would be rude not to.
Although we had a much wetter start to April than normal, we got away with the weather very well, going anti-clockwise around the route. Highlights included churches appearing in time for rain showers, finding a wooden spork in the Co-op in Mortenhampstead and making up legends about pretty much everything we passed. Because all the folklore I know is about the actual moor and the Dartmoor Way walks the perimeter of the national park, barely touching the moor.
You’d think it would have given me a better appreciation of the place I live. But it turned out only a very small section between Chagford and Okehampton was new to me. Still, it was very interesting going with a non-local. By the end of our long wet day, where everything was descending into hilarity, I couldn’t help giggling at Alex taking photos of walls and getting excited about bog standard bits of Devon woodland. Makes me very glad I grew up here.
And with that, I shall make a neat segway from adventure to writing because BLOG POSTS ARE COMING. In fact, they are here! Specifically about my John Muir Trail plans for the summer and the story of getting my US passport renewed after 28 years. The High Sierra had a record snow year so looks like I’m not done with snow yet this year… BUT, I have booked my tickets and I’m getting quite excited about the prospect of actually seeing America whatever that journey ends up looks like.
Also you may have missed a quick via ferrata hit list that autoposted itself by accident and a couple of gear reviews: Hanwag boots and adidas mountaineering trousers. And on the off chance you know anyone who’s just finished with Ten Tors and is wondering what to do next, here’s the blog post I wish someone had given me at 18: “I’ve done Ten Tors, now what?”
As for other published work, I’ve had a few routes in TGO that will continue throughout the year. There is a very exciting project coming too that I can’t quite tell you about yet but definitely can next time!
I’m also doing a bit of project work for Secret Compass and of course there is a new Sidetracked Magazine coming out soon that I’m sub-editing at the moment. But currently trying to focus all of my energy at finishing writing up my BOOK! I know I know, I feel like I’ve been saying this forever and it is dragging on. Maybe a sprint to get the final draft done and typed before I go to the States?
And one more thing…
Some things I found useful/interesting this month:
I’ve started giving myself a quota of how many days a month I spend doing side quests with other people. I normally give myself two half days a week but hadn’t been tracking properly and just saying yes. In April, I tallied them all up on my calendar and was horrified to see 18. No wonder I felt so busy and couldn’t find time in the day to write!
I have finally started reading Dune thanks to a friend. Will keep you posted on how that goes.
For the entrepreneurs or the curious in the room, I rather enjoyed this podcast episode with Alex Hormozi.
If you ever want to get your ear into another language, you can find Peppa Pig on YouTube in most European languages. I used it before I went to Spain (although the only thing I really learnt was “Dinosaurio!” which has arguable use…) Either way, I’m currently watching a bit in Dutch every now and again.
And so, that brings me to the end of this update. Except to say that I had quite a busy Ten Tors doing rescue cover and thoroughly enjoyed the four hours I spent sitting in the mist on Chat Tor on the Sunday. Maybe that miserable tor is growing on me :)
You will get another update before the US, so have a lovely month and I’ll speak to you soon, when hopefully everything is in place for my first genuine adventure of a lifetime.