Trekking in the High Atlas Mountains : Ighil M'Goun #1

These photos of the High Atlas mountains in Morocco were taken on a trek in August 1993 to the remote region around Ighil M'Goun, where small but thriving villages scattered through the varied landscape are home to the Berbers – hardy, friendly and hospitable – a mountain people with a way of life that's hardly changed over many years.

In the 10 days of the trek, despite some language difficulties, we became good friends with the Berber muleteers who managed to persuade their sure-footed mules to transport the worst of our overweight baggage through the mountains, and when we arrived back in their village they honoured us by inviting us into their homes.

The High Atlas mountains offer some of the most impressive mountain walking anywhere, with many opportunities for good mountain photography. At 4000 metres, M'Goun itself is only 100m lower in altitude than Jbel Toubkal, the highest summit in North Africa. For the first few days of our trek we climbed gradually from about 1500m to the plateau below Ighil M'Goun at 3500m. But before setting off by minibus for the foothills of the High Atlas we had a day to look around Marrakech...

Photo Notes: Most of these photos were taken on Kodak Ektachrome film using a Nikon F3 fitted with a 35-135mm zoom lens. For a few shots I used a 20mm lens on the F3 (the photo on the right, for example), and colour negative film in a Minox 35ML. All were hand-held. In such a dry landscape dust was a terrible problem.

This diary is now organized as four pages: page 1 | page 2 | page 3 | page 4

Morocco photo Before setting out on trek we spend a morning exploring the palaces and museums of Marrakech, including the Dar Si Said (Museum of Regional Art) and Palais el Bedi.
Morocco photo Morocco photo Morocco photo
Morocco photo Morocco photo The souk (market) in Marrakech is a constant bustle of activity, with endless pressure to buy and haggle. Here, one of our group is fitted with a traditional Berber headdress.
Morocco photo   In order to respect proper standards of dress as we pass through villages in the company of our Muslim hosts, we all perform the colourful trouser buying ritual at a shop in Azilal, en route by minibus for the foothills of the Atlas mountains.
Morocco photo   After our last lunch in civilisation we are introduced to the correct way to make, pour and drink mint tea, a delicious and refreshing drink, though the quantity of sugar does nothing for healthy teeth!
Morocco photo Morocco photo At Ait Mhamed, our baggage is cross-loaded from the minibuses to "a more rugged vehicle" (it said in the itinerary). It's actually a potato truck (we call it the "Dung Truck") returning to the mountain villages loaded with fertile valley soil.
Morocco photo We try to relax on top of the load, but it's not really possible, and a 'comfort stop' in the middle of our 6 hour journey was extremely welcome; comfort was sorely [sic] needed by then! The journey was a couple of hours longer than normal because part of the road had been washed away the previous week, and the truck had to make a long detour. At least members of the group had a chance to get to know each other...
Morocco photo Morocco photo The views are stunning as the dung truck crawls ever higher through the mountains towards a pass, and then the descent to the Ait Bougemez valley where we will stay overnight.
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