Most Inspirational Moment
It's tempting to say getting to the top, and that was a wonderful moment after the effort we had put in. But equally, bonding as a team so that we all got to the top together meant a great deal to me. Getting through the tough descent back to Imlil was, on reflection, an achievement that I was proud of, too.
Thoughts on Group Leader
Youssef was knowledgeable and informative from the start. By the time we'd reached the mountains and completed the winter training, we trusted him so that when he said that we couldn't summit because the weather was likely to get worse, we knew he was right (and he was subsequently proved right). We learnt a lot about the country, the culture and beliefs, and the way the trekking business worked from him.
Advice for Potential Travellers
Make sure you have the right kit. For the winter climb, your boots must be able to take proper crampons and be worn in. Mine were, but I still developed blister as the crampon straps tightened the boots slightly differently. Take plenty of plasters! I wish I'd done a little more aerobic/gym training instead of concentrating on hill walking. I've done Everest Base Camp and Kilimanjaro but this is different again - the ascent comes in short, intense bursts so that extra fitness is worth having so that you can enjoy the trek. In cold conditions, the drinking tube of a bladder system can freeze, as can the bite valve. Blow the water back out of the tube after you've drunk and tuck the bite valve under your armpit or into your jacket. Or take a smaller water bottle and keep it inside your coat. Horde your small change. In the mountain villages and refuge, there is next to no chance of breaking a 100dh note for single bottles of water or snacks. Similarly in Marrakech, I found the shop owners (even the supermarket next to the hotel) extremely reluctant to take larger denomination notes for small purchases. Jemaa el Fna is a fantastic place but is best visited after dark, when the square fills up and the food stalls are out. It's busy, noisy, chaotic and fun and not as intimidating as you may first think. Local families got here. But be sensible with your valuables and watch out for kids who crowd around you trying to sell you little glow sticks - it's a distraction while they go for your pockets. It happened to me and I felt two hands unzipping my jacket pockets. I just managed to stop them taking my camera and phone. Don't let this put you off. Just keep everything in inside pockets and be a little wary.
I found the food in Morocco wonderful. I have a problem with spicy food, which tends to upset my stomach, but this food was fantastic and I didn't suffer any problems at all. The food in the mountains, cooked by our own trek chef, was excellent and always fresh, surprising given the location. I didn't want to rely on bottled water because of the lack of recycling in the mountains, but it was the only practical way of getting enough water. I brought the bottles back to Marrakech with me. Take ear plugs for the refuges in the mountains, and prepare to share dormitories with the whole group. Crocs or waterproof sandals for the showers will make life easier. Go with an open mind, prepared to change plans at short notice, and you will be rewared with an excellent experience.