Expedition Leader Josef N. Grech is back in Malta following the Maltese team’s success on Mt. Toubkal in North Africa. Here’s a brief report:
The Maltese team of climbers have returned home after successfully summitting the highest peak in the High Atlas, Mount Toubkal in Morocco. Towering at 4,167m (13,670 ft) Jbel Toubkal, as it is locally known, is also the highest peak in North Africa.
The team consisted of 5 persons – Josef N. Grech (Expedition Leader), Maria Vella Galea (Deputy Expedition Leader) Mark Gladwish, Fabrizio Valente and David Gladwish, all ex-Kilimanjaro climbers.
The approach to the mountain started on Friday 16th March as the team set off from Imlil, the closest village to the mountain at a starting altitude of 1740m. After a six hour trek, and entering the snow line, the team reached Neltier Refuge, at an altitude of 3702 m, and settled in for an overnight rest from the bitterly cold conditions outside in preparation for the summit push. Due to an adverse weather forecast of snow and cloudy conditions within the next 24 hours,the team decided to start their ascent the following morning and take advantage of the window of clear weather to reach the summit.
Departing at 9.05 am equipped with ice axes, crampons and full mountaineering clothing, the team started their ascent. This was not the first time this mountain had been climbed by someone from Malta, but given the dangers of a winter climb, primarily altitude sickness, hypothermia, and difficult climbing conditions, Mt.Toubkal presented its unique set of challenges which tested the skills of the Maltese climbers. In addition, shortness of breath (due to lower oxygen concentrations) and a narrow and dangerous ledge close to the summit made the climb even more difficult. Nevertheless, the summit was reached on Saturday 17th March 2012 at 15.25 hrs GMT.
The view from the summit was spectacular although not always visible as the weather, predicted for later in the day, set in earlier than expected and the time of the team at the summit was curtailed due to snow conditions and falling visibility. Nevertheless this did not dampen the exhilaration of reaching the peak which is marked with a metal tripod at 4,167m. In deteriorating weather conditions, the climbers started their decent and finally reached Neltier Refuge at 19.00 hrs GMT, tired but happy, ten hours after setting off. The climb was concluded successfully the following day, with the last leg of the decent towards Imlil.
One of the key aims of this expedition, which was privately funded, was to raise the profile of the sport as practiced by Maltese climbers and that of the Mountaineering Section of the Malta Climbing Club.
Josef N. Grech
MCC Mountaineering Section