“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:
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.
And then, a valley of clouds.
AND THEN SUMMIT WOOOOOOOOOOOOO
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.
This post took FOREVER. I AM SO PROUD OF MYSELF FOR FINISHING IT.