“Oh, Almighty please get me back, safe and sound I don’t want to die.” I was bloody scared standing in that snow. Feeling weak and helpless, I was reduced to the exact opposite of who I thought I was. The mountain showed me I had a very heavy baggage on my back that I had to offload.
On a casual working day in office I experienced a sudden adrenaline rush when I heard “Ready for an adventure guys? Trek to a mountain peak? Hmm? “It was Louise the professional trekker in our team!
I was IN. Adventure beckoned me and I was not going to say No!
Excited about the new adventure of running up the mountains and experiencing whole new world, we arrived at railway station in Rabat, the platform was quite except some chirping of birds, no hustle bustle around, it was a beautiful sunny day and the station was clean and good, why I am saying this is because I never boarded the train for long journeys in my country. Train arrived and we all were in first class, I was so overwhelmed about the whole trip that I forgot about what really, I was heading for.
The train was hitting the speed, I was glad until I started hearing words like” rocks, clamps, poles, summit, snow, achievement”. Ah! It sounded so horrifying! So, scary! By the way we were on our way to summit the highest peak of North Africa – Mt. Toubkal 4,167 m in all!!!
I was ready for my moment of glory, an achievement that I could tell my grandchildren. My future played out like a movie in front of my eyes, as I saw the massive Atlas Mountains spread itself surrounding the beautiful Imlil village from where we started the climb. We started our trek from Imlil, and me being super charged with adrenaline rushing and gushing through my veins, just wanted to fly over these mountains, and it was totally amazing experience which I had never felt before. I was doing something new, something different and something which I can talk about to others and feel proud of. A few hours of walking on steep Rocky Mountains and I felt breathless! My excitement and confidence vanished into thin air. The excruciating pain in my knees and back was killing me physically and mentally. I looked at the hugeness in front of me and realized that there was no turning back. Fear pierced in to my mind slowly, same as migraine pierces my head.
Strangely, I was reminded of the day when I stepped on the stage to act in my first play. I had felt the same thing than, the Fear. “What if I forget my lines, what will be the reaction of audience and my director”. A total numbness.
My backpack of fears felt heavy on my back.
I started feeling pain in my knees and back, it was killing me physically and mentally. When I looked around, the mountains were so high like we were walking beside some huge tall fortress wall and there was no way to turn back. As, I was taking steps up towards height and low pressure, only one thing was running in my mind when will I reach to our base camp and not loose my mind by any chance. Started singing songs to keep my mind occupied and reiterating myself every second that I was not climbing the mountain which was so hard and steep but strolling in my lawn, these thoughts gave me strength to move a bit faster.
At around 6PM we reached to our base camp “La Toubkal” which was at 10K feet. We all were totally wrecked and I was not able to move or walk and even my sense of thinking was shut, totally into hibernation mode. After some rest, we moved to dining area for tea and meals. Room was full of mountaineers “Professional” you know. There were young and old both, old as in 60-65 age group and it was new world to me. Looking at my condition and what I came through, I was not ready to go for summit which we had to start in morning at 5AM. My negative thoughts had engulfed me like dark clouds. Lou was looking at me and she read my mind and my body language about what I was going to say.
“No, Lou I can’t do this I am totally dead, this is my summit, no more trekking and that also in deep snow, no way.
Lou, looked at me and smiled as if she was expecting this! “You are my brave boy and you have to make me proud by achieving this summit. This will be the biggest achievement of your life and you cannot runaway from your promise made to me, she said. I was so scared to go for summit as by now I had realized I was heading toward the death zone! I suffocated in the night as I was picturing myself climbing the mountains. Now, this was another baggage on my head, baggage of fear and anxiety which I was not ready to go ahead with. These words started haunting me and my mind. Anyway, I made my mind as I always feared something, however tried my best to accomplish that, so will do this time too, I will make Lou and myself proud and will achieve this milestone of my life.
I don’t know what made me ready to roll in the darkness of early morning the next day and finish the ultimate target to summit Mt.Toubkal. It was Sunday 5:00AM, base camp hiding under dark and freezing cold morning. Lou, Eugene, myself, and our guide were ready to roll in the darkness of early morning and finish our ultimate target to summit Mt. Toubkal. As, we started climbing up in the dark, I felt like I am pushing myself on cold freezing wall and trying to put my step on it, it was reality we were doing same. The mountain was very steep. After trekking for 20-25 min, a ray of light appeared and we were surrounded by white tall peaks, the experience was mind blowing, but where was no way to go up. No way, was it our guide creating step marks for us to follow, yes. There was a time when I was totally lost, I shouted “please stop, please stop”. Pain was killing me and I wanted to crash, we found a plane surface and took a break of 4 min, Lou, tried to give me water and few biscuits which I had denied to take and she was pushing me to take water….
“Massa, you have to drink liquid it’s important, else you will be dehydrated”.
We started our journey of pushing ourselves up in a queue where our guide Ibrahim was leading the way and making foot steps for us. Behind him was me, poor me and I was also doing the same because I had to create that for my other partners. My mind was not working and I was totally lost, and cursing myself that why the hell I decided to summit, am not professional, why am I not sitting down at the base with my other 2 friends Namron and Natalie who decided not to summit. I would have been sleeping, and being in my dreams in a cozy warm bed. However, with the same thought process I was also praying, “That I want to go back safely and do not want to die in these mountains”.
While crawling up, my eyes went on the marks on snow and to my surprise these footprint marks were of Jackals, a cold wave rushed into my spine and the reason was, a week before this adventure I had watched movie “Frozen” in which these friends get stuck in chair car in snow and are swallowed by furious jackals. I found myself in the same situation and because of fear and loosing my essential senses I was about to give up and cry loud. Again, shouted “Stop Stop” I need rest. We all halted on the white sheet of steep wall where nothing can be seen or heard except silence and fear. Now, at this point I murmured “please leave me here and you guys carry on, this is my summit and I am not in a position to go further”. I was crying and begging, ready to go back which was not possible at this stage or wanted to be just left there which was same being breakfast for jackals. I started hearing again those words, you have to do it, make me proud, you are the strong guy, and you have to achieve this for your life.
“Oh, Gosh leave me alone, I am not strong, and neither am interested in achieving anything”.
Like this we stopped thrice and I was in excruciating pain, mentally and physically both. To my surprise, our guide shouted, only 5 min left to touch the summit. My eyes started searching for that peak, which we have to touch and by which I will achieve something big in my life, where I will tell the world that I made it, I was on top of the peak, top of the world, where is it? Guide shouted 3 min and we were on the edge of the peak where there was only snow that also deep, so deep that if stuck into it, it’s impossible to come out and you will meet death and happily hug him and no one will dare to ask you to come back to this world, J. I even slipped and fell in to the snow on a narrow ridge. I had to pull myself out of that ditch of death.
People the summit! Our Guide said showing us the metal arch which was kept at 4,167 m.
“Hi………. Toubkal” I shouted. I did it! I made to the summit!
Those Atlas Mountains which seemed to be like fortress the other day were under my feet today. All the mountains were looking like small tiny peaks from the point I was standing. I was on top of the world and I achieved it.
Lou, looked at me and smiled. I looked at her and silently thanked her.
“Oh, Almighty please get me back safe and sound. I don’t want to die in these mountains I had prayed. But something died that day, it was not me, it was the fear. I offloaded my baggage there and came back alive, positive, energetic and ready for any adventure and push myself to further limits.