Retreat Report: Day 4 in Morocco

The alarm goes off and the adrenaline of being five hours away from summiting has me wide awake.

Nicole Kupish

We all gather outside, headlamps on since it’s still dark and receive a quick summit briefing from our guides. Then once again, we’re off. It’s chilly and dark but within 15 minutes of a steep climb, you can start to see some painted colors coming from the sky. Everyone is lively, despite it being 5:15 in the morning so it’s clear we all are just as excited to summit.  

We’re moving a little slower than yesterday and can all feel the oxygen in the air thinning with each step. We take a few snack breaks and are reminded to drink water frequently but can’t stop for too long because it will get too cold. While most of the terrain is dirt or rock, today we’re also crossing patches of ice and snow on steep slopes. The guides literally hold some of our hands to help us get across. One cool thing about Mt. Toubkal is that you can’t actually see the summit until you’re about 30 minutes from the top. This leaves a sense of mystery the entire hike until it’s finally in sight. Just seeing it sends strong emotions sweeping through me. At one point today, I felt a little dizzy and shaky, needing more food and I wasn’t quite sure if I’d be able to make it. But now, there is no question.

Just seeing it sends strong emotions sweeping through me.

Nicole Kupish

We’re at the top, celebrating the huge accomplishment we’ve all made. The views of the surrounding Atlas mountains and clear blue skies are breathtaking. There are tears, laughter, and lots of pictures and smiles. We pull out the Equinox flag and take numerous group photos. Luckily for us, there’s no snow or wind. The sun is shining and we able to hang out at the top for almost 30 minutes (sometimes you can only spend two minutes). We take time to eat a small snack of Moroccan bread and cheese before heading back down.

The return trip is much easier on the lungs and much harder on the legs—specifically quads and calves. It takes us about three hours to get to the refuge for lunch and another 4.5 hours to get down to the Armed Village where the vans are waiting for us to head back to Marrakech.

We are greeted at El Fenn in Marrakesh with fresh lemonade and green juice. The hotel is full of character and sophistication: There are bright colors and tiles all over, beautiful art, and orange trees. There’s not a corner that isn’t Instagram-worthy. I’m looking forward to exploring tomorrow.

Photos: Will Mayer