Emer Boothman is an Australian living and working in London. Following a stint as a maintenance rigger - climbing on ropes to fix industrial worksites and offshore rigs - she now works as a UX designer. Emer has always been a keen adventurer, be it surfing or climbing, and decided to take on Morocco's Three Peaks Challenge. This is her story...
Our three peaks challenge would see us attempt to scramble to the top of Mount Toubkal (4167m) and reach the double summits of Mount Ouanoukrim - Timzguida (4089m) and Ras (4083m). With fresh socks and some waterproof gear, we were ready to hit the trail.
The weather was grey and wet on the first day but considering it would be all uphill, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Our guide Ibrahim was great at pointing out things of interest along the way, and on entering the park, in front of the layering mountains, we stopped at a sign written in Arabic, Berber, French and English for a photo opportunity.
I'm still in the process of putting together a full wardrobe of outdoor gear, but after this trip, I’ve definitely bumped waterproof trousers and gaiters to the top of the list. The rain meant that some of us had to dry out before having mint tea - with a mandatory sugar cube - in one of the various teahouses we passed on the way up.
That said, the weather turned on our second day for the ascent up Mount Toubkal, and the sunshine broke out over the mountains. We followed it up the climb, and before we knew it, we were high. It was actually the highest altitude I'd ever reached, and Ibrahim set a good pace, with lots of stops for bread, cheese and snacks, which I absolutely was not sharing with the local birdlife, as beautiful as it might have been, soaring in front of the fierce mountain faces.
As well as being an excellent guide and photographer, Ibrahim was a great singer. When I'm in the mountains I sometimes get the urge to shout 'McGregor!' (probably from watching too much Braveheart), but in the Atlas Mountains, Ibrahim told us that they're singing for joy and thanks across the peaks. It's truly wonderful.
Day three saw us head into the ascent of Ras and Timzguida. We started at 4am with head torches lighting the snow and the stars sparkling above. There are always lovely people on Much Better Adventures trips and this trip was no exception: my new pals and I hiked through the snow with a beautiful sunrise backdrop.
We climbed the two peaks, which are also above 4,000m, in one morning. As we got nearer to the top, there were some really fun and dramatic parts to the climb and some rocky scrambling - as well as improvised skiing on the way down.
I try to take the big camera that I inherited with me whenever I go to beautiful places, even if it takes up more space and weight in the rucksack. It makes the photographs even more special. I'd never been anywhere in Africa before, and judging on the views, I reckon Morocco was a great place to start.
We hiked back to the refuge for another excellent lunch and more mint tea, then continued out the valley. We were grateful to be going downwards in the heat and relieved to find shade in the beautiful walnut groves on the outskirts of Imlil. As always, I finished the trip wishing it could have gone on for longer.
Inspired? If you too want to take on three of the biggest peaks in the Atlas Mountains, check out our 3 Peaks Challenge in Morocco.