Tag Archives: hiking

The Fellowship of the Robz, Part II: THE ASCENT.




“Crampon” is an unfortunate word. It sounds like a combination of the words “cramp” and “tampon,” which are hardly encouraging and bring to mind an altogether disagreeable set of ideas and images.

However, crampons are not some kind of alternative form of female sanitary product, nor are they any kind of torture device. They are, in fact, SPIKES THAT YOU STRAP ONTO YOUR OLD, TREADLESS RUNNING SHOES SO YOU CAN CLIMB IN SNOW AND ICE. I should mention that I left my hiking boots in the States, and decided to tackle the mountain in my old, gray running shoes. This information will be important later.

We awoke at around 5:15 in the morning, stumbled outside to strap on our crampons after a quick breakfast of robz and jam, and saw this:

I mean, nbd. Whatever.

Then, we cramponed ourselves (no, actually, it doesn’t sound better as a verb),


and set off up the mountain!

The highest peak I’d hiked before this was Mt. Tallac in Desolation Wilderness, California: the highest peak around Lake Tahoe. From the trailhead to the summit is a 3,250 foot elevation gain, culminating in a killer view of Lake Tahoe at 9,739 feet. The U.S. Forest Service has rated that particular hike “difficult.”

Our hike from Imlil to base camp, with an elevation gain of 4,813 feet, far surpassed my hike up Mount Tallac, and that wasn’t even the hardest bit! I’d only been as high as 10,522 feet in airplanes, which is even higher than you are now permitted to turn on any approved electronic devices. Whoa. So our night in the refuge, apart from allowing us to rest up for the next day’s adventure, also served the practical and necessary purpose of allowing us to acclimate to our rapid altitude shift.

So, to get from the refuge to the summit, we climbed another 3,149 feet, exclusively through snow and ice. I’m telling you all of this because I have time to sit around and figure it all out, and also so I sound like a badass. I’m no mountaineer, folks, I’m a recreational hiker at best, and this was by far the most strenuous hike/climb I’ve ever done. On a whim! No plans! Whoopee!

Real mountaineers, I’ve learned, have got to be really solid people. Climbing that mountain took some serious physical and mental stamina, much more than we thought it would. I sang halfway up the mountain to pass the time as, step by step, breath by breath, we slowly scrambled up the snowy passes to the peak. And you know what? To real mountaineers, perhaps Toubkal isn’t that big of a deal. Mount Everest is 29,029 feet, so if we’d climbed another 1,687 feet, we’d have scaled half its height. Mountains. Are. Big. We are badass.

And so we climbed! This is what I saw when I turned back to look at how far I’d come, about an hour in:

See the clouds? We climbed from below those. WUT.

It’s hard to capture how steep, long, and vast these expanses of snow were, but here’s an attempt or two:

Lookit how small the people are! We are small people. We are small, people. Mountain: You are small, people.

Eventually, we made it to the top of the pass, with about a half-hour, 45-minute climb left along the ridge to the summit. Catey and I stopped to take pictures.

Oh. Further information on my footwear: one of my crampons, the one on my right foot, broke about 4 meters from the refuge. We stopped periodically to makeshift-lash it together so it’d stay on my foot, and stay mildly functional:

I’m not sure if you can see it, but it’s tied firmly to itself in a valiant attempt to keep it from coming apart. My triumph thus far despite crampon mushkils and steeeeeeep inclines and snow and ice led to an exhilarated and victorious feeling on my part:

And then…well, we bagged a peak, as Seattle Guy put it! During this last stretch, I’d stop every so-many steps to breathe and snap a picture. Here are some of them.

A path leading off the edge of the world.

See the snowy pass in the middle? That’s where we hiked up.




And then, a valley of clouds.


VICTORIOUS! Unfortunately, Samewise Gamgee took ill halfway up the mountain and went back to the refuge to rest. We missed him. He probably had to go back through Moria and fight off a buttload of Orcs, because he’s awesome that way.

And then, Lord of the Rings sing-along.



The Fellowship of the Robz, Part I: ADVENTURES, AHOY!


Last Thursday after Arabic class, Catey, Rachel, Robbie and I decided to climb Mount Toubkal. So I threw the warmest clothing I had into my backpack, borrowed Allie’s hiking pants and socks, and set out for the train station on Friday morning. We met up and boarded a train for Marrakesh, with the following plan: Get to Marrakesh. Eat. Take grand taxi to Imlil. Find hostel. Sleep. Saturday: wake up, climb to Toubkal base camp at 10,522 feet. Sleep. Sunday: climb to the summit of the highest peak in North Africa, at 13,671 feet (4,167 meters), and then all the way back down to Imlil, take taxi back to Marrakesh, take train back to Rabat. YEAH.

And so off we went, exhilarated and excited! The adventures never end!

After a long train ride, a delicious tagine, and some confused navigating of Marrakesh buses and petit taxis, we finally crammed into a grand taxi and drove to Imlil. Imlil is a village in the mountains (elevation: 5,709 ft), and we found a hostel in no time, run by a guy named Hassan. In the morning, we asked him about hiking the mountain, and his eyebrows raised higher and higher as he learned of our plan.

“Do you have crampons?”

“No. But they’ll have crampons up there, right?!”

“…Do you have sleeping bags?”

“…No…But they’ll have blankets up there, right?!”

“……..do you have rain jackets?”

“YES!” we were jubilant at having answered a question in the affirmative. Whatever happened, we were at least prepared for rain!

We set off jauntily enough, after a dubious goodbye from Hassan, packs full of snacks, water, and hopefully enough warm clothes.

This is Rachel! This is what a Moroccan village looks like!

We walked along, down the path pointed by smiling Moroccan Mountain People, and saw a few curiosities, like this Pepsi Hanout sign:

The Arabic writing says "hanout." trololololol

And this helicopter taking off in the middle of rural Morocco:


But then we started up into the mountains in earnest, and it was freaking COOL:


Also, we saw goats. It was like Lion King but with goats instead.


We couldn’t stop making Lord of the Rings references throughout our trip, so we formed our own Fellowship. Let me introduce you!

Left to right: Pippin, Sam, Legolas, Aragorn. The Fellowship.

Crows flew overhead. I hid.


And we hiked!


And hiked…

Hey, Katie, do you ever get bored of taking pictures of people's backs and mountains? NO.

This one time I looked back, and the pass through which we’d come was shrouded in clouds. Wow.


After a good (how many hours did it take us? I don’t even remember) long hike, we made it to the refuge, Toubkal base camp!






And food. And we met some awesome people, like the brothers from Chicago, one who lived in London and the other a video game producer. They were cool.

I’m going to do another post to conclude this epic adventure, but here’s a link to ALL the photos: WOO!

Cool. I’m going to take a break and then regale you with tales of THE ASCENT.

Imi-n-ifri: a hike through Middle Earth


I’m going out of order catching you up on stories, but oh well. This is the story of our hike through Middle Earth last Saturday. After a Friday of NGOs in Casablanca and finding a Riad in Marrakesh, we piled into a pretty cheap hired minibus on Saturday morning to take us to Imi-n-ifri! This is what we saw on the way. Enjoy the not-super-interesting-out-of-the-van-window pictures to follow.

This is what the Moroccan countryside looks like sometimes:

But it sometimes looks more like THIS:

Other times, it looks more like this:


Sometimes, though, when we passed Amazigh villages, it looked more like this.


Also there was this:

After lots of that, we finally reached Imi-n-ifri, which means “grotto’s mouth” in Tamazigh. That’s the Amazigh language, I’m pretty sure. I’m also only pretty sure that that’s what it actually means; Allie’s guidebook said so, but guidebooks are wrong a lot. Anyway, we also drove through/briefly looked at the town of Demnat, which is known for its peaceful convergence of Jewish and Muslim culture. Cool!

And then, we hiked down 214 steps into a gorge, and discovered this land bridge/cave/stalactite/climbing galore/beautiful corner of earth:

I’m actually not sure if I captured some beautiful sunlight-art right there, or if my lens was just dirty.

We climbed all around under the drippy ceiling below this stupidly cool land bridge, and also climbed up the rather perilous and steep incline to the right in order to explore the small cavesinsidethe big cave. It was cave inception. It was quite fun.


So then we hiked, climbed, sang songs, ate pralinutta (not quite nutella), jumped, and had an all-around grand old time. These pictures are a combo of mine and other people’s.


Falling with style. Nice camera work there, Angela. Nice catching there, Nick. Hassan in the background looks really intense, like Jason Bourne.

We are all Indiana Jones!

Big Bird’s North African cousins are big.


So anyway, we hiked through Middle Earth last Saturday. It was an epic journey.

Edit: this picture is also great.