24th Oct 2016
Acre’s Foundation grows year on year, as does the scope of our imagination when it comes to raising money, and getting our networks, friends and family to support our worthy causes. The Foundation began with Movember and Come Dine With Me but has gradually progressed to 24 Lake District Peaks in 24 hours (2014), Tough Mudder (2015), and now our greatest challenge yet; climbing the 4,176m Mount Toubkal in Morocco, the highest peak of the Atlas Mountains.
Mount Toubkal as an epic setting and challenge that reflects the closeness to our hearts of the worthy causes that Acre are supporting. Each of our four charities, Multiple System Atrophy Trust, Heart Research UK, SSAFA and Ambitious about Autism, has touched the lives of Acre team members and we are pleased to be supporting their continued great work.
The 11-Acre adventurers that took on this daunting task all agreed this was a once in a lifetime experience. Beautifully summed up by Johnny “the pain in my quads will surely fade, but the memories will last a lifetime”
Wednesday 5 th October, departure day, was upon us. We left Acre’s offices c12.30 for Gatwick, arriving in Marrakesh in the late evening. A 60km bus ride later we arrived in Imilil, our ‘base camp’. Having gone to sleep in the dark, when we woke the following morning, the view truly took our breath away.
A slightly nervous 8am rooftop breakfast in the mountains set us off on the right foot before starting the journey up to the refuge at 3200m. After a steady 5k ascent, we had a quick brief lunch stop, before continuing yet another 5k. This time though, we clambered through a treacherous heavy hail storm, before eventually reaching our destination.
"We were progressing up the valley on day one with the refuge appearing in view, when suddenly a thunderclap shook the rocky walls on either side, creating an orchestra of sound, giving me goose bumps. It was that moment we realised this was to be an adventure like no other".
Despite planning on camping outside, the need for sleep got the better of ‘10’ of us, and as the tents began flooding with mud and debris, a dorm inside the refuge won over camping. Joel staying as a man on valour, deciding to spend one night camping on the mountainside amongst rain, wind, cold, snow, with only roaming mules (who had transported our gear) as a company.
Due to a snoring choir, amongst many other reasons, we were left with next to no sleep. We ‘woke’ to our alarms at 4.30am and following breakfast, we began ascending up the steep rocky face of Mt. Toubkal, head torches firmly strapped to our foreheads carefully placing one foot in front of other. Just when the legs began to weaken and the air was ever thinner, as if on cue we all looked behind us to see snow-capped mountains appearing in view – sunrise was spectacular “for a moment I felt like an intrepid explorer discovering some remote part of the world for the first time…epic!”
As we ascended through knee deep snow we were incredibly grateful for our warm arctic attire – bar Richard who stuck it out in shorts from start to finish.
5 hours after we had left the refuge, and some fairly extreme climbing, we approached the summit in the bright sunshine and thick snow. Realising we had all done it created a group feeling of incomparable euphoria mixed with mass relief.
After infinite photos, and much needed replenishing, it was time for the hard part; a 4167m descent – and we did it in good time! Getting to the top was amazing, however, getting back down to an altitude where we could breathe was even better! Making it back in the refuge by 4pm meant time for some pre-dinner poker, before an early night. Joel, however gave in, and this time succumbed to the warmth of the refuge, leaving the tents to the rain and high winds.
Day 3 saw a more relaxed 7:30am start and a 4 hour trek back down to Imlil. We loaded up our bus and headed into Marrakesh for an afternoons exploring. With a bit of shopping in the souks, and a casual few beers in our Riad, we followed this with a big release, some less casual belly dancing…. Eventually the exhaustion caught up with us and we crashed for our last night.
The Acre Foundation has gone from strength to strength, having now raised over £60,000 in the past 4 years. This trip will be one that stands out for many years to come and the next biggest challenge moving forwards for the Foundation is to find a challenge to match this one for next year!
Thank you to all the donors, families and friends that have sponsored us on this trip and helped us to raise the much need funds for our selected charities, however an even bigger thank you to Acre for being the company it is and the individuals that made this all possible – we will all wait with anticipation for next year’s adventure!