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Back to earth from top of the world trek

PUBLISHED: 21:16 20 June 2002 | UPDATED: 12:08 03 March 2010

MOUNTAINEER Bill Marley is feeling on top of the world today, back in Ipswich after climbing the highest he's ever been.

The adventurous pensioner from Curtis Close, Ipswich, will be 61 this year but that didn't stop him taking on the challenge of a trek for the cerebral palsy charity Scope.

MOUNTAINEER Bill Marley is feeling on top of the world today, back in Ipswich after climbing the highest he's ever been.

The adventurous pensioner from Curtis Close, Ipswich, will be 61 this year but that didn't stop him taking on the challenge of a trek for the cerebral palsy charity Scope.

Along with 60 others, he climbed the highest peak in north Africa, Mount Toubkal in Morocco, which stands at over 13,000ft, over three days.

Participants raised a total of £160,000, and Bill said it had been the best weekend walk he'd ever been on.

He said: "We began to climb up into the foothills, quickly running out of unsealed road and onto dirt track. The drive itself was a bit of a white-knuckle ride with many recent rockfalls evident on one side and precipitous drops into deep ravines on the other.

"At Imlil we met up with our Berber guides and muleteers who would carry our rucksacks while we carried what we needed for the climb in our daybags. At this point we were already 1700m, (5525ft) and had a 1500m, (4900ft) climb ahead of us.

"The climb was strenuous but not difficult and we had plenty of time to admire the spectacular scenery. As we climbed we began to appreciate how massive Mount Toubkal was, not to mention the peaks around it.

"At 2310m [7500ft] we stopped for a picnic lunch in a fantastic location with Mt Aguelzin -3547m - on one side and Mt Tichki - 3753m - on the other, and our target peak ahead of us. The track that we were following was the route of a rushing river of water from the melting snow, the noise of which was with us until we began out final ascent the next day.

"We arrived at our camp late in the afternoon. Our muleteers had already got the tents up and were preparing the evening meal which was taken Berber style on rugs on the floor of a large tent in candlelight. At this altitude, 3200m, (10400ft), the nights are very cold even in summer, and we were just below the snowline. We needed no encouragement to wear everything we had, before climbing into our sleeping bags for an uncomfortable night."

The final stage saw climbers using crampons to counter loose scree and frozen snow, with a few having to stop because of altitude sickness.

Bill said: "As the leading group approached to within a couple of hundred metres of the summit a few of the younger trekkers spontaneously began to race each other to be the first to reach the metal pyramid that marked the peak. But after about 20-30 metres the thin air took its toll and they quickly ground to a breathless walk!

"It is hard to do justice in words to the views we had from the summit; to the south we could see the edge of the Sahara desert and to the north the High Atlas range stretched as far as the eye could see. Although we had been able to see the mountains clearly as we left Marrakech we were not able to pick out the city from the summit due to a slight haziness on the horizon.

"On the way back to our tents, the crystal clear night, the altitude, and the absence of light pollution gave us such a fantastic spectacle of a starry sky that you wished you had packed a telescope in your rucksack.

"All of us in the group agreed that we had had a fantastic time and could hardly believe it had been all done in one weekend. The weather, the scenery, the warm welcome of the Berber people in that part of Morocco all combined to make this the most memorable weekend walk I've ever been on."

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