Students from King's Bruton in Somerset on challenge of a lifetime in twin summit expedition
PUBLISHED: 12:08 05 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:30 20 February 2013
A team of fourteen boys and girls from King's Bruton are embarking upon what for most of them will be the greatest challenge of their lives to date. Read on to find out more...
Students from Kings Bruton embark onMt Toubkal Twin Summits Expedition. School Chaplain Rev. Nigel Wilson-Brown tells us more...
With public exams successfully despatched most pupils will now be breathing a relaxed sigh of relief and heading into a peaceful and well deserved summer holiday. Not so for all. Our team of fourteen boys and girls from Kings Bruton are instead embarking upon what for most of them will be the greatest challenge of their lives to date. Having signed up for the Kings Gap Year Programme which ultimately will take them to serve in one of Indias largest orphanages, our team begins its summer with a sponsored ascent of the two highest peaks of North Africa.
Mt Toubkal, in the High Atlas mountains of central Morocco, rises to an impressive 4167m above sea level. We intent to summit this peak and its majestic neighbour, Mt Ouanoukrim (4088m), on consecutive days in order to achieve a fundraising target of 2500 per pupil. The challenge is tough but certainly achievable as previous Kings teams have demonstrated. The trek begins at Oukaimeden, a picturesque winter-time ski resort, but in July our blisteringly hot high altitude set-off accompanied by two qualified Berber mountain guides and a train of mules and muleteers. Trekking for 5 to 7 hours a day we will make their way through the regions stunningly beautiful valleys and passes with regular ascents and descents for acclimatisation purposes. Acute Mountain Sickness, although more serious at higher altitudes, can be a problem for climbers at any height over 3000m and wise route planning will give us every chance of acclimatising well.
After three days trekking we reach the Neltner base-camp where we set up home for the next three nights. Home means small domed two-man tents dotted around the barren, arid and rocky landscape surrounded by 4000m-plus peaks. In the evenings after enjoying wholesome Berber cooking, we exchange songs in the small mess-tent with the muleteers. They offer us evocative and timeless shepherding songs, whilst we reply with The wheels on the bus and other great British classics!
On summit day we will rise early and set off up the vast scree and boulder field that all Toubkal summiteers remember. Then its up, higher and higher, to reach the ridge from where we make our final drive for the summit. The air is thin, temperature cold and the ground underfoot very unstable. At the summit, after congratulations all-round, well sit and remind ourselves of the orphans in Tamil Nadhu for whom we reached our goal. Then, if the haze is thin, well gaze in wonder at the view south, all the way to the Western Sahara, and north as far as the Mediterranean Sea. The descent via the North route then takes us back to Neltner base-camp past the famous wreckage of a post-war aeroplane which crashed carrying gold bullion, and the scant pile of stones through which climbers can still see the bones of the pilots where they were laid to rest so many years ago.
Mt Ouanoukrim, the second highest peak in North Africa, is our next days goal. More of a technical ascent, and frankly more frightening, this will be a particularly challenging day offering the reward of a breathtaking view across to the Toubkal summit we will have reached the day before. An optional third peak branching off from the descent may well attract many in the team, but anyone declining will do so having accomplished more than enough already. The following day we make the long and tiring descent to the beautiful town of Imlil where we bid a sorry farewell to our team of muleteers and board our transport back to the enchanting city of Marrakech where we enjoy a rest day and the sights, sounds and smells of its famous market square, the Djemaa el Fna.
We will be bringing you regular updates direct from the students up the mountain in a blog, so watch this space...
Rev. Nigel Wilson-Brown:
Im so very proud of these boys and girls who are willing to set their sights on greater things. Each tired and blistered step on the mountain will be another step forward for the orphanage. I love watching the growth in each pupils character and maturity almost day-by-day on this challenge and cant wait for the time when they head off to the orphanage after leaving Kings. Its one of my greatest joys and privileges to be able to be there on the station platform in Salem, Tamil Nadhu, bursting with excitement as they arrive with the prospect of the most extraordinary two months ahead of them on their journey that began in the foothills of the High Atlas mountains in July 2010.
Mount Toubkal in Morocco