Much Better Adventurer Hannah Marshall and her best friend recently took on Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in Morocco at 4167m. And if that wasn’t enough, they decided to do the mega-epic winter edition, summiting on Christmas Day no less. This is Hannah’s story…

I booked with my housemate. I normally rope her into doing ridiculous adventures with me. She’s pretty laid back and usually agrees before she actually understands the task at hand so that was probably a good thing for this one.

Feeling slightly anxious but overwhelmingly excited, we set off from Newcastle to head to Stansted to catch our flight to Marrakesh for our short but sweet trip to Morocco and the Atlas Mountains.

I was worried about so many things. I was scared I was going to freeze to death as I was already freezing in northern England in December. I was worried I might blow off the edge and more than anything, I was worried I wouldn’t make it to the top.

After a weird and wonderful day of exploring Marrakesh, getting a candid henna tattoo and eating tagine, we met the rest of our amazing group, then got an early night before setting off to Imlil the next morning.

Even the lower Atlas Mountains were absolutely stunning, everywhere you looked was like a picturesque postcard.

Arriving at the refuge on the first day was magical, the hut is so interesting and like something off a film. There is a room with a massive heater where all congregated after staring at the glistening stars for as long as we could bear the cold. We shared stories and ate more food before filling up some hot water bottles and going to sleep.

After a night enduring the altitude, the cold, not much sleep and other people’s snoring, we woke up and got ready to take Toubkal. Setting off around 7 am, we headed out with head torches on, full of excitement and apprehension.

I was worried about so many things. I was scared I was going to freeze to death as I was already freezing in northern England in December. I was worried I might blow off the edge and more than anything, I was worried I wouldn’t make it to the top.

The summit day was one of the best days of my life and was so perfect in every way. We woke up around 6 am and had our usual feast of bread, fruit, eggs and our bodyweight in Moroccan mint tea. 

I live a busy life where I’m on the go all the time and I escape to the mountains for a bit of serenity and peace. I find that there is nothing better for my mental wellbeing than chatting, walking and taking in some beautiful views in the mountains.

I’d never used crampons or an ice axe before, so that was really exciting, getting ready to set off in the dark. I was wearing 3 pairs of gloves, 4 layers of trousers, a balaclava and basically my entire kit bag but I was actually too warm when we got going, to be honest!

When the sun rose over the range, it was simply breathtaking. I’d been looking at photos and videos on Instagram for months and thought it would never look that good – but it was everything I’d imagined and more. There were echoes of “ooooo” and “wow” and the odd swear word from everyone in the group as the views became more expansive and more beautiful every step we took.

The final push to the top was the only time I felt the altitude on my lungs. I wanted to get to the summit so much, I could see it within 50 metres, but my steps were slow and my breathing was heavy. When I touched the top, I was overcome with emotion and felt a surge of pride and joy, surrounded by 360-degree views across the snow-topped peaks, lower Atlas Mountains and even into the desert.

The guides whipped out some sardines, cheese and bread out of nowhere and we all enjoyed lunch on the roof of North Africa in perfect conditions. 

We were fed so well over the three days. I’m gluten free and need to eat a specialist diet and I was so well looked after and catered for and everyone was so kind as to not to dunk their bread in my tagine!

Sharing the experience with a complete group of strangers was probably the best thing about the whole experience. We had the most wonderful, eclectic group of people from all over the UK and it was great to actually connect with people, have genuine conversations about all things in life.

As the snow had started to melt a bit, the descent back to the refuge was long and involved many tumbles and laughs as people fell through the hip-deep snow. It didn’t matter how many times we fell as we were filled with joy and the sense of achievement and satisfaction from summiting. I really didn’t want the day to end.

We were greeted back at the refuge with more tea and another Moroccan feast. Some people went for a nap whilst others chatted around the fire, talked about our next adventures and reflected on how wonderful the day had been.

We were extremely lucky with the weather conditions on our summit day, with bright blue skies and zero wind it was just perfect in every way. I definitely didn’t need to be so worried. A couple of people from our group didn’t make it to the top because of pre-existing injuries and decided to stay at the refuge. I thought I’d be devastated if that was me, but they had an amazing experience and knew their limits… and without sounding too cheesy, sometimes it’s not really about the mountain, it’s about conquering something within yourself and getting outdoors and challenging yourself.

It gave me the confidence and motivation to book into a solo expedition in the future.

That night, on our return to Marrakesh – after being apart for all of an hour, the whole group was missing each other so much that we all met up for a leaving meal at a lovely rooftop restaurant in Marrakesh. It was so strange seeing everyone in ‘normal’ clothes, but so lovely to celebrate, wish everyone well and plan some future adventures with our new friends.

Myself and my best friend decided to book another day in Marrakesh before returning to gloomy England, where we bathed in a rooftop hot tub and enjoyed a deep tissue massage to soothe our tired legs, which I would definitely recommend.

Sharing the experience with a complete group of strangers was probably the best thing about the whole experience. We had the most wonderful, eclectic group of people from all over the UK and it was great to actually connect with people, have genuine conversations about all things in life. We had such a laugh and supported each other throughout. 

Some people had some incredible stories about their motivations for completing the trip. The fittest member of our group was a 59-year-old lady who’d ran a half marathon just the week before. It gave me the confidence and motivation to book into a solo expedition in the future.

If you’re looking for a sense of achievement, on a bit of a budget and have limited time then Toubkal is perfect for that.

I was really excited about getting some winter sunshine in Marrakesh after freezing to death in Newcastle Upon Tyne in December and I absolutely love olives, dates, mint tea and hummus – so I was in my absolute element in Morocco.

The guides were absolutely fantastic and ensured we were all comfortable, safe and educated us all about the mountains and the villages and the people of the Atlas Mountains, which was superb.

I really love pushing my body, physically and mentally to see what I can achieve and I enjoy enduring a bit of hardship so that I can appreciate the little things in life – like the first warm shower in Marrakesh after baby wiping in a mountain hut for two days.

I live a busy life where I’m on the go all the time and I escape to the mountains for a bit of serenity and peace. I find that there is nothing better for my mental wellbeing than chatting, walking and taking in some beautiful views in the mountains.

Everything from the weather, the group, the food, the organisation, the guides, the views made it just so perfect… and to share that with my best friend too, was quite special.

If you’re looking for a sense of achievement, on a bit of a budget and have limited time then Toubkal is perfect for that.

When you put a random group of people together in those kinds of conditions, everyone becomes very close and comfortable very quickly and there was a lot of hilarious conversations – combined with feeling a bit delirious at altitude it always becomes quite silly and sometimes you just have to laugh or you’ll cry.

One of the things the guides kept saying to use when we tripped over our crampons at dangerous spots or were finding it tough was, “Use your mind” in a really intense voice. It quickly became our answer to anything that happened during the trip “Just use your mind”.

Fancy following in Hannah’s footsteps? Check out our Mount Toubkal Winter EditionNot so up for the deep snow? Fear not, we have plenty of dates available to conquer Mount Toubkal during the summer, and you can even tag on a nifty camp in the Sahara