PES Summit 12 – Morocco Expedition
5 Sep 2014
This year’s Perse Exploration Society Summit 12 expedition was the biggest yet. With 44 students, 8 staff, 21 days away, a 100% summit record and £14,000 raised, the numbers for this expedition speak for themselves. Summit 12 was split into two groups this year with a North and South section. Below are accounts from students in both sections.
Thomas Mullock- South Section- Lower Sixth
On the 4th August, myself and 43 other members of the Perse sixth form met at school in the evening laden with heavy bags. We made up Summit 12, the sixth form branch of PES. After a kit check and just two hours’ sleep, we were woken to catch a 02.30 coach. After the early start and long journey, we finally landed in Morocco at 11.00. We were expecting a wave of heat as we left the plane and Marrakech, the city in which we landed, certainly delivered. The next day, we transferred to Imlil in the High Atlas Mountains where we would be spending the next two weeks. Here the group split into two sections named North and South. North were starting with the community project but being with south section, I was trekking first. We gathered the stuff we were going to need on the hike, and it was loaded onto the mules that were to accompany us the whole way. We were only hiking for a few hours when we stopped and our guides prepared us lunch while we sat on mats they had put out. This was the most luxurious PES trip we had ever been on, or so we thought! Before lunch, we were served traditional Moroccan mint tea. We were served this tea before pretty much every meal we had. It tastes similar to hot liquid toothpaste, but we all got used to it over the trip!
For the next week, we traced a large circle through the mountains, setting up camp each evening. After day four, we camped at the base of Jebel Toubkal (4163m), the highest mountain in North Africa. The next day was a very early start, and we began to ascend it in the dark. As we climbed, it got colder and the effects of the altitude became more noticeable: breathing breaks were required even when drinking water. After a few hours ascending a steep slope, we could see the summit and we were making the last push to get there. When we did, we could see the rest of the mountains displayed below us and the route we had been taking over the previous days. After taking a multitude of photos, we descended and spent the next three days getting back to Imlil. Here we had a rest day in which we met back up with north section, shared stories and also had the small matter of receiving A-level results!
Ella Thomson- North Section- Lower Sixth
Being in North section of PES Summit 12 meant that our half of the expedition group would start with the community project and then switch over and do the trek. Most of North section were pleased with this as it gave our section plenty of time to acclimatise to the altitude and prepare for the hike. However, no-one was sure of what the building of a nursery would actually involve. After settling into the accommodation that we would be staying in for the next 8 days, we walked down to the village where we were to build a nursery. When we arrived at the building site we were all excited to see the foundations of the nursery had already begun. However it was clear that a lot of work would be needed to finish it in the 16 days we had to complete it. Our main jobs on the project were to pick-axe rock from the side of a cliff face that the nursery was being built into (a job all the boys in our section were very excited to volunteer for) and to move the building supplies from a drop off point to the building site.
The second job seemed to be fairly simple but it turned out to be extremely time consuming and also our most important job on the construction site. As a group we carried over 400 bricks and multiple bags of sand through the village along a path that was approximately 850 metres long as measured by the highly accurate Mr Ingram. Sadly our record of moving 200 bricks in a day was destroyed by South Section who totalled 445 in one day. Apart from the manual labour of the community project, the girls in North section were offered the chance to teach English to some of the village girls. I found this to be a really interesting and amazing experience, as despite coming from completely different backgrounds, everyone got on incredibly well and the girls even offered to give us traditional Berber henna tattoos on our hands and legs. The community project was very tiring, especially when I did a day of brick moving along the only hill on the path which had been aptly nicknamed ‘the death stint’ and ‘hell hill’ by both sections. However when returning from the hike to see the nearly complete, bright green nursery, I felt that the work we had done over the 8 days had definitely been worth it.