Expedition Across Attora Mountains
INTERVIEWER: A dream came true in 1995, when over 96 days of the spring and summer, an expedition of four men undertook what they believe to have been the first and only complete end-to-end crossing of Morocco’s Attora mountains. I talked to Charles Owen, the leader of the expedition group, about the trip.
Charles, how much planning went on beforehand?
CHARLES: Well, as you know, I run these walking trips across the mountains for tourists, and over the years, I’ve collected maps and other data to prepare what I call a Q11 ‘route book‘ for this trip and this book basically shows the route across the mountains that we took.
INTERVIEWER: You actually broke records while you were out there, didn’t you?
CHARLES: Mmm. Yes, it was Q12 900 miles in total and we managed to climb 32 peaks that were over 3000 metres high, including Toubkal, which is, of course, the highest in Q13 North Africa. We weren’t actually out to make a name for ourselves – it just happened really.
INTERVIEWER: What was the. weather like?
CHARLES: Q14 It got us right from day one and we were pretty taken aback really to find that it rained on quite a number of days, and so we were forced to start re-planning our route almost from the outset. One of the obvious problems is the heavy snow which blocks the mountain passes, so you have to make considerable detours. When we were on the way to Imilchil, for example, the snow forced us into a northern bypass which was new to us, Q15 but anyway, either way, we would have been rewarded because we fell upon amazing, high meadows, huge gorgeous, and wonderful snow-capped mountains. The scenery was as fine as any we saw on the trip and that was how it was every time – having to take another pass was never a disappointment.
INTERVIEWER: It was in many ways a special trip. wasn’t it?
CHARLES: Q16 Yes, yes . . . we’d arranged to meet up with friends at various points on the journey. I mean this was actually one of the purposes of the trip . . . and we managed to keep all these dates, which is amazing really considering the detours we made. Q17 An old friend acted as a sort of transport organiser for everyone and the Hotel Ali in Marrakech was a good social base – I’d really recommend it, although I can’t remember who runs it. Q18 Anyway, groups of friends actually joined us for three-week stints, and others just linked up with us. Some, whom we hadn’t met before the trip at all, tagged on for short bursts – people from the area – who just came along for the ride. But outside the major visitor areas like Toubkal we only met one other group of travellers like ourselves in the whole 96 days.
INTERVIEWER: Were there any bad moments?
CHARLES: We took two, I must say, long-suffering donkeys with us to help transport water and tents and things. Q19 I suppose if we were to do it all again we’d probably hire donkeys along the way. Taza and Tamri, as we called them after the last places in the trip, well, Q20 they made quite a unique journey between them, and . . . but it was continuously demanding for them. On both the really high summits, they took diversions that were quite out of character and I can only assume that it must have been due to tiredness.
INTERVIEWER: Well, thank you . . . And Charles has put together a video about this journey and continues to lead groups to the Attora mountains, so if you want further information . . .