Let’s Climb!

This past week I had the amazing opportunity to help out with a program done by another volunteer called C.L.I.M.B (Creating Leadership In the Mountains and Beyond).  The program involves teaching Moroccan youth about teamwork, leadership, nature, wilderness first aid, and hiking over 6 months.  The final hurrah combines everything in a trip to the highest point in North Africa – Mt. Toubkal.  My job was as simple as it is awesome – hike with the group during the final ascent!

The climb itself was excellent.  We spent 3 days on the mountain.  The first was a beautiful 7 hour hike up (almost 4000ft) through the surrounding mountains to the mid-mountain refuge.  The second day was summit day, another 3000 ft of elevation gain to reach 13,671ft , and then a dangerous return hike to the refuge over loose scree slopes to the refuge – total time = 9 hours.  On the final day we made the 4 hour downhill return hike to our starting point.  Throughout the trip the kids were incredible – sure some of them had their moments where they didn’t think their legs could take another step or they thought there was no way that they could descend some of the steepest, loosest slopes without falling – but they pushed through and made it.  It really was incredible to see 12 kids that had never truly been hiking before this program summit the tallest mountain around.


The last 1000 ft to the summit!

The last 1000 ft to the summit!


Summit with the group!

Summit with the group!

With so much time together during the hike and at the lodges I really had the chance to connect with some of the Moroccans despite my lack of language skills after a certain point.  My favorite moment involved teaching the group the OH-IO cheer after finding out that one of the girls had a M*ch*g*n hat on the mountain – I have no idea how she got it and she had no idea how terrible a thing she was representing :).  Half the group said that Michigan was “xayb” (bad) after that and the other half used it as an opportunity to mess with me by saying that it was “zwin” (good) or “aziz عliya” (close to my heart – seriously who could say that about Michigan…).  I also got the chance to introduce them to geocaching – which they thought was really cool but also ridiculous.  Hopefully I was able to pass on at least some of my love of nature to them…



Introducing the kids to geocaching

Introducing the kids to geocaching

After all of the running around on the mountain and corralling kids I finally had the chance to reflect during my 4 hour bus ride back home from Marrakesh.  There I was, sweating profusely and sitting squeezed into a seat with a Moroccan woman and her small son… and I realized how absolutely ridiculous and amazing this whole Peace Corps experience has been so far. I smiled a huge grin and stared out at the mountains just happy to be lucky enough to be here.


10 thoughts on “Let’s Climb!

  1. Very cool Matt! Pardon my ignorance of geocaching, but does this means someone was already there and you found their treasure, or did you start one and leave a treasure for some other climbers to find? Either way, not many people can say they were geocaching in Morocco! The views are amazing too. What fun!

    • In this case the cache was already there – so our goal was just to find it using the GPS coordinates provided on the geocaching website. However, we could have hidden one for others to find and then posted the coordinates online if we’d wanted to.

  2. Wow, this looks incredible. It’s so cool that you have so much flexibility in what you do. Climbing a mountain is definitely a learning experience!

    • I’d say – never thought I could say that leading a group up a mountain was work! Might have to see if I can turn that into a real job when we get back.

    • Geocaching is a game where someone hides a box somewhere and then posts GPS coordinates of the approximate location online (you’ll have to ask your mom what GPS coordinates are). Then, you get the coordinates from the internet and search for the box. If you find it, you win! (And you get to sign a little paper in the box that says you found it)

      And yeah, M*ch*g*n is pretty terrible…

  3. *Enjoyed your hiking tale, Matthew. What is ‘geocaching’?*

    * I googled Mt.Toubkal to learn more and read part of another hiker’s* *experience. Combined with yours and the photos I have a pretty good* *mental visual of your trek. Congrats on a great experience and to Cori* *for keeping the ‘home’ fires burning during your absence. Love, Gma*

    • See my response to Hudson above for an explanation of geocaching. Glad you could get a good mental image of our trek – it really was an awesome experience!

  4. Pingback: Back to Work! | 4000 Miles from Home

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