Heights have never really been my thing, but I like walking and I really really like Moroccan food so when the chance came to jump on an aeroplane and explore the Atlas Mountains, I didn’t really think twice.

For someone who feels at home in the salty sea air with sand between her toes, the dry heat of the Moroccan mountains was the perfect opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, forget the stresses of the everyday and embrace something a little different.

Having not travelled since Covid and going alone to meet a group of people I’ve never met before meant my anxiety levels were pretty high. However, I arrived safely, extremely tired, hot and sweaty. It didn’t take me long to realise that being somewhere that wasn’t Bournemouth would take some time to get used to.

Did I wander out into the hotel corridors in the middle of the night in my pyjamas looking to find the ‘shared toilets’ that actually didn’t exist? Yes. Did I pack the right walking shoes or any walking poles? No. Did I survive mostly unscathed? Yes. Did I grasp that I would be climbing to the summit of the highest mountain in North Africa? Not until it was too late. No regrats (those who know, know) though.

I was extremely lucky with the group I was trekking with. There were no loud snorers, no moaners, no stressed Tesses and no negative Nancys. Instead, I was surrounded by a group of interesting, funny, and inspiring people of all ages from across the UK and America. Everyone had a story to tell and they were all such good company. For those reading this, thank you for looking after me and putting up with my awful jokes (there were many).

The climb

So I knew the people were lovely, but what about the actual trek?

I’m not going to lie, I started off being pretty cocky that I wouldn’t find the walks too challenging. I run and go to the gym regularly, so what’s a little stroll around some mountains? Gosh, I was wrong. There’s a walk and then there’s an Atlas Mountain walk. You had to concentrate for every step as the ground often wasn’t stable. Place your feet in the wrong position and you could be flying down the mountain, taking the rest of the group down with you in a domino effect (this did happen). There were some extremely steep ascents and descents and I was hopeful that by the end, I would have legs and an arse like Madonna.

The first part of the trip was tough but manageable, with gorgeous views, great chat and delicious food cooked for us by our travelling chef. I now know that tajines need to be a constant in my life.

On the penultimate day, we woke at 4:30am with head-torches, wrapped in multiple layers to climb to the summit of Mt Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa at 4,167 metres. This was the bit I was most scared about.

After a few wobbles, hilarious (and scary) slips, many snacks and heaps of support, we made it to the top of the summit in around 4 hours. Needless to say, the views were amazing and it was worth it. The summit was the perfect place to eat some fresh Moroccan bread and Laughing Cow cheese before braving the steep descent.

My takeaways

In addition to some sweet nut blocks (which NO ONE in the office apart from me and Rhu has touched) and some little souvenirs from the medina in Marrakech, I took so much more back from my mountain excursion. I now appreciate hot showers and my own bed so much more. I also have realised how lucky I am to have such supportive people around me – not just in the mountains, but also in work and at home. I’ll always love a good view, and although steep climbing scares the **** out of me, I know now that I can do it.

For anyone who’s thinking about visiting the Atlas Mountains, or anyone who’s thinking about going solo to join a group tour. I couldn’t recommend it more. If worst comes to worst, I’m sure you’ll have some funny stories to tell and look back on.

Imi Byers