I Climbed a Mountain. I Really Did!

Mount Toubkal, Morocco. Elev 13,671 ft (4167 m)

Mount Toubkal, Morocco. Elev 13,671 ft (4167 m)

“What made me think I wanted to climb a mountain?”, I said to myself, out loud, in hour 3, Day 1 of the slow, extremely strenuous, even boring trudge toward the summit of Mount Toubkal in the High Atlas Mountain range of Morocco.


This was way more than I had signed up IMG_3100for. I was expecting a leisurely hike up a sloping incline with beautiful vistas every step of the way. What I got was the toughest physical challenge that was more than I could have imagined and certainly amazing views of a world I’d never seen but the scenery wasn’t changing fast enough for me…every few hours, and I wanted more.  It was mostly rocks.

Beauty example: mountain waterfall

Beauty example: mountain waterfall

Reality example: rocks...every step of the way.

Reality example: rocks…every step of the way.


Neltner Refuge. We didn't sleep outdoors, though some apparently did.

Neltner Refuge. We didn’t sleep outdoors, though some apparently did.

And then it started to pour rain, a steady non-stop deluge for 6 hours. And no matter how much waterproofing you’ve done, in that kind of water, you’re going to get wet. Very wet. Soaked through every layer of clothing, down to the skin. And even though you’re drenched through and through, you have to keep going because there’s nowhere else to go. You’re on a mountain. So, all 31 of us kept trudging along step-by-step, though one woman had an even tougher time and had to finish this leg of the trek on a mule that was sent to “rescue” her. We were heading to the Neltner Refuge where we planned to spend the night. It was hours away.


Here’s how I got myself into this situation.  The TNS Global (where I work) parent company, Kantar, has a relationship with UNICEF. This trip was a fundraiser for UNICEF’s Brighter Futures, with the money slated to help children in Malawi, Bangladesh, and  Bolivia. It sounded amazing and I signed up immediately. I’m happy to say that our team raised about $110,000, exceeding our goal by approximately 30%.


Tiny glimpse of the room I slept in, with 25 comrades

Tiny glimpse of the room I slept in, with 25 of comrades

So, back to the mountain climbing part. We finally made it to the refuge after about 8 hours.  The place was full. 31 of us, plus probably another 30 climbers who were also crashing there. We slept 26 to a room. There were four showers. Two toilets that sometimes flushed and two of those hole-in-the-floor thingys they called toilets. Bring your own toilet paper.


We were greeted by a staff of several “locals” who came bearing gifts of mint tea and cookies, before they served us a hot dinner while we sat around the fire trying to kill the bone-deep chill we had from being soaked for so long. Our grumblings eased and we actually started to have fun, getting to know each other, playing games, and comparing our day’s miseries.


Day two started at 6:30a. We were to complete the trek to Mount Toubkal’s summit in 9 hours, 4-5 up and then the return. One guy in our group refused to go. He waited for us at the refuge. I didn’t blame him. I (and a few others) didn’t really want to go, either, but we

Those colored dots are us.

Those colored dots are us.

allowed ourselves to be cajoled into it. Plus, I didn’t really come all that way to not try. I wasn’t happy, though. The weather got worse, not better. After a few hours, we were turned back by the snow, ice, and wind. Many were disappointed. I wasn’t. I was ready to turn around. In fact, a few of us turned back about an hour before the die-hards did. It was dangerous. My goals had been met: raised money, climbed a mountain, and had a new adventure.  Reaching the top or not didn’t matter to me.


So we spent another night in the refuge and then headed back down the mountain, which IMG_3211wasn’t exactly a piece of cake either because it was slippery and muddy and as we got further down, we had to figure out how to cross the  rivers that appeared out of nowhere from the melting ice and snow.  But we stopped for a picnic lunch about 3/4 of the way down , which was pretty cool.


Two of our amazing guides.

Two of our amazing guides.

Our guides –Raheem, Omar, and Khalid– were beyond amazing. They safely –and with good humor– led 31 first-timers up and down a mountain in some of the harshest conditions the area has had in years. I love those guys.


Can something be awesome and horrible at the same time?  Apparently… because that’s what this was for me. Not 50:50,though. I really hated the climbing part; it was much, much tougher than many of us imagined it would be.  But it was more awesome than it was horrible. IMG_3215 IMG_3214 IMG_3213


And the rest of the trip was a blast. Three days taking in the culture of Marrakesh, an overnight in Madrid, then back to home-sweet-home. What a magnificent experience!  My Spinsterlicious Life.

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16 Responses to I Climbed a Mountain. I Really Did!

  1. Pingback: Me…Down Under | Eleanore Wells

  2. Arii says:

    What a great read. And, after reading, I am CERTAIN that I don’t want to climb a mountain. I’d wondered about it, but I could only imagine the beauty in it. You brought me down to reality and I never want to be in that situation in my life. LOL

  3. shannon says:

    This is really awesome! Congratulations! what an accomplishment.

  4. Kiki says:

    Way to go E very proud of you.
    Might be something that you would have never thought of doing but was an experience of a life time. Better that you didn’t know what you had to face in this journey or else you would have never done it. 🙂 Till the next one

  5. AnnaB says:

    26 to a room and you barely let me in your place? 😉 Congrats on the adventure.

  6. Que says:

    Life is truly full of journeys, challenges and triumphs! You my friend have and continue to do all three!!! I totally understand. Safe travels always :))

  7. l0land says:

    Congratulatiions Eleanore!!!

    Is that something off your Bucket List? 🙂

    If it isn’t, maybe you’d like to create one ……. it’s never too late 🙂

    • Eleanore says:

      Hi, iolanda: I don’t really have a bucket list but if I did, I’m not sure this wouldn’t have been on it. My decision to do this was spontaneous and immediate. I didn’t know I wanted to climb a mountain!

  8. joy says:

    My girl!My Girl!!
    Keep doing what you do so those of us who can’t experience it thru you.

  9. joy says:

    My girl my girl.!!!!
    How awesome !
    Keep going so those who can’t
    can thru your experiences.(:-).

  10. Benilde says:

    You are awesome! My hero

  11. C J Allen says:

    Congratulations Eleanor! You’re a better man (WOman) than I!!! Great cause–good job…….

  12. Abi says:

    I climbed Mt Fuji with two friends and I was the only one who made the top for sunrise – the other two quit half way. It was sometimes a tough slog over rocks for the 9 hours to climb (staying overnight on the mountain) and I was really cold at the top but I did it! As the Japanese saying goes “Anybody would be a fool not to climb Mount Fuji once—but a fool to do so twice.” I think this applies to your climb too Eleanore! The best part about it was that I did it and now it’s over 😀

  13. BCAinNC says:

    I know that exact feeling–horrible and awesome at the same time. I hiked the Inca trail with a friend of mine (the hardest thing I have ever physically done) and we were woefully unprepared. What was supposed to be a two day hike turned into a 6 hour one-day hike because the way station we were supposed to spend the night at was closed. 5 hours of uphill climbing at 22,000 feet kicked my butt and the one hour down hill was no piece of cake, either. Both my friend and I cried at least once because it was so hard (but the climb was very beautiful, culminating in coming out at the top of the Sun Gate at Macchu Picchu).

    Like you, the main thing is YOU FINISHED which is what you set out to do. Congrats to you–would you do it again? When I look back on the Inca trail, I am glad I did it, but I tell most people to just take the train to Macchu Picchu and skip the pain and suffering unless they are a die-hard hiker!

  14. ruta fox says:

    you’ve got guts girl! proud of you. wonderful accomplishment.

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