May is National Walking Month. After posting a blog on the benefits of walking. I thought I would share my own recent walking challenge.

How it began

When my husband said he was planning to climb Mount Toubkal, Morroco’s highest mountain, with some colleagues from the fire service. I said “that will be nice.” Then he said he would like me to come along. He said he thought we didnt do enough together and really wanted me to go. I suggested a weekend away, going out for more meals together or a holiday, so we could spend more time together. But no, he really wanted me to climb the mountain After a lot of persuasion, or probably more likely he caught me in a moment of weakness, I agreed.

Don’t get me wrong, I love an adventure. However, I am 47, have arthritis in both knees and a bulging disc in my spine. I am hardly the poster girl for a trek up a mountain! I am determined though, or as my husband says, the most stubborn person he has ever met! With this in mind I started training.


I live in Bedfordshire, not the best place to train for a mountain trek. So Dunstable Downs became my new training ground. I forgot to mention I hate hills, my usual dog walks, whilst long are very flat. Dunstable Downs is 230 metres up and just beautiful, but if I’m honest I don’t go up it very much due to the incline. On my first training walk, with husband and 2 dogs in tow, I fell down a rabbit hole. Yes, I really did! Luckily with just a sore ankle and a bruised pride I carried on.

I then spent a couple of months gradually increasing the distance of my walks and going up and down the hills. About 10 days before we left, I walked the distances we were going to be covering. 12 kms on day 1, followed by 17 kms on day 2 and 18kms on day 3. Which I managed ok, apart from a painful knee and aching gluts. Dare I say, I actually didn’t mind the hills.

The Climb

We met at the airport and had a lovely day in Marrakesh, where I got to know the group, who are all lovely. Then the following day we started the trek up to Mount Toubkal.

We were driven to our starting point at the foot of the Atlas mountains. Where we were introduced to our guides, who would get us safely to the summit. Today was the easiest day and actually was ok. Walking for 5 hours with beautiful scenery all around us. We stayed in a basic mountain hut, where we enjoyed an evening of games and a nice meal, with lots of laughter and fun. Definitely a good start.

Day 2

Then day 2 happened! It was an utterly relentless climb. I was put up the front to set the pace. I would love to say it is because I was the fastest and fittest, however it was for the opposite reasons. In my defence the rest are all firefighters. One part was zig zags up a mountain pass, 89 in total. It felt never ending, like we would never get to the top. Although when we did we stopped in the most beautiful place for our lunch. Views across the mountains from every angle. This is also where we encountered the first of the snow.

After lunch the climb continued, through the snow, which was hard work. There were lots of tumbles and feet/legs getting stuck but we soldiered on. With the base camp mountain lodge in view and at my physical limits, I fell. It probably was only a few metres, but if felt like I was going to go all the way down the snowy bank. After being checked over, and with just a few bumps and bruises we carried on. When I got to base camp, I said to my husband I don’t think I can do the summit tomorrow. He said you can do it, but just sleep on it.

Day 3

The base camp lodge was very basic and cold and not many people slept well and some where now suffering the effects of altitude. One of the members of the group was really poorly and my husband had a horrible headache, but luckily I was not affected by altitude. Everybody was committed to do the summit climb, so my stubborness kicked in and off we went in the dark up the snowy mountain.

The climb was steep and once again relentless. The scenery was amazing but the climb hard, made harder by the snow. You actually don’t see the summit till you are about 20 minutes away. It was a 7 hour climb up, which felt very long. When we finally saw the summit there was a sense of elation that we were nearly there. Then I saw the narrow pass that we had to go along to get there, with a big drop. I was terrified. I said to the guide, “I can’t do that” and burst into tears. He said “you can, you are strong”. So I did it, with tears and snot running down my face….very attractive. But I did it and for me that was the hardest bit. Then before I knew it we summited.

4167 metres (13,671 ft) up with views across the Atlas mountains and Sahara dessert, we were there. Every person who started the trek in our group, got to the top. I couldn’t have been prouder of every single person. Funnily enough it took to the following day before I was proud of my own achievement. This came when on our way to our hotel (my stipulation to the trip was a few days by the pool after) we drove past the Atlas mountains. Mount Toubkal, with it’s snowy peak, stood out and I said to my husband, “blimey, we climbed that”.

Reflecting on the climb

So, there is my walking adventure. It made me challenge myself beyond all my limits, both physically and mentally but we did it. So maybe it is good to put ourselves outside our comfort zone every now and again. I might even be secretely glad my husband talked me into it. But don’t tell him!

I swore blind after we finished, I would never do anything like that again. But I found myself looking at treks through Jordan the other day, so who knows? Although from now on treks which are flat are definitely the way to go!