Category Archives: Blog

Patagonia’s book The Responsible Company


I have read through Patagonia’s book “The Responsible Company” a couple of times now. As we are in the early stages of forming our company/community I found the book to be both very inspiring and highly thought-provoking.  If you are looking for a book with sustainable business principles and practices that have been tried and tested, then look no further. The book itself can be read in a couple of sittings and there is a very helpful appendix which includes a “responsible company checklist” and recommended readings!


The authors’ aim is to invite people onto a journey of doing business responsibly and sharing what they have learned over the years. They are forthcoming with their shortcomings and clear about key principles that work. There is no hint of condemnation but rather an inspiring vision that brings hope for a better world, filled with businesses that have less environmental impact, are more socially responsible and provide meaningful work.


One of the most helpful things was the way the book spells out what a “responsible company” should look like as we move into a post-consumerist world. The authors outline five elements/responsibilities: a business is responsible to – Shareholders (be profitable), Workers, Customers, Local Community and Nature.  This is a very helpful framework for us as we are laying the foundations of our business. The book comes from the point of view of a manufacturer of goods but the principles are transferable to service-based companies.


We are as a community currently exploring ways to reduce our environmental impact. So be on the look out for future blog posts:-) This is one of those books that we as a company will refer to often for guidance, inspiration and as a measure of how we are doing in our pursuit of becoming an environmentally friendly and socially responsible company.


Here are a few quotes from the book to give you a feel:


“How is a company responsible? Should it profit its shareholders, provide for the well-being of its employees, make excellent products, be a good force in the community, and protect nature? We think that a responsible company bears all these obligations.” (23)


“As of this writing, two thirds of the U.S. economy relies on consumer spending…. Much of what we produce to sell to each other to earn our living is crap, either ever more luxurious, specialized goods like electronic temple massagers and personal oxygen bars, or cheap salty junk food and disposable clothing. Every piece of crap because it was manufactured, contains within it something of the priceless: applied human intelligence, for one, natural capital for another- something taken from the forest or river or the soil that cannot be replaced faster than we deplete it. We’re wasting our brains and our only world on the design, production, and consumption of things we don’t need and that aren’t good for us…


We are in transition to a post-consumerist society, and toward the recovery of our collective sense – of time, of public space, of proportion.


In a post-consumerist world, goods are likely to become more expensive, to reflect their true social and environmental cost, prompting us to shop less as a form of entertainment. That’s not so bad. We’ll be able to recover time for satisfying pleasures that derive from pursuing our deepest interests; we’ll have more time with our friends and family, and more time for meaningful work.” (26-27)




Categories: Blog, James, Responsibility
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Ice Climbing Morocco

Me on a brilliant route I climbed with Simon: Dec 2011 on Toubkal West

James on a brilliant route climbed with Simon: December 2011 on Toubkal West

We are now offering logistics-only support for those who want to take advantage of the excellent annual winter climbing conditions in Morocco: see our Morocco Ice Climbing page.


The choice is huge, from single-pitch water ice routes practically on doorsteps of the refuge to long, technical mountain routes. New routing and adventure characterise the High Atlas, which comes into its own in winter and is a winter climber’s paradise.


Check out Mountain Guide Mike ‘Twid’ Turner’s write-up, ‘Moroccan Ice’, on DMM’s website about ice climbing opportunities in the High Atlas based out of the Toubkal refuges:


If you want to get hold of the two guidebooks mentioned in the post, here are the ISBNs and further details:


  • Mountaineering in the Moroccan High Atlas, Des Clark. ISBN: 978 1 85284 611 4. See our Publications page.


  • Toubkal Guía de ascensiones y escaladas, David Taurà. ISBN: 978 8 49829 141 4. Available from the Desnivel website.








Categories: Blog, Conditions, High Atlas, James, Morocco, Winter
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Mgoun Winter Mountaineering


Mgoun Ridge

I was recently with Des in a remote area of the eastern High Atlas mountains. We hoped to get three lovely gentleman from the UK on to the summit of the “other” 4000m peak Mgoun, but due to high winds we couldn’t summit. This peak is the only 4000m peak not found in the Toubkal area. I had never been to the area and was there to get my head around the logistics for future trips and to get familiar with the route in to the refuge.


I was blown away by the beauty and quietness of the area. For anyone wanting to get away from the busyness and noise of life and the more traveled and accessible mountains, this is the place for you! We weren’t the only ones staying at the Tarkeddit refuge (2900m) – several teams of ski mountaineers were passing through as well. Be on the look out for our new brochures for ski tours in the High Atlas for 2014.




The day before traveling east a much-needed storm came through which brought fresh snow to the Atlas. We will give you more details when Des returns from the Toubkal area. The Ait Bougammez and Mgoun region also received fresh snow. We found patches of wind slab on northerly aspects on our walk in to the refuge and on a acclimatisation day (an alternative to our summit day due to high winds) where we came to within 100m of Tizi (col) Igandoul (3640m).


Good luck to Greg, Peter and Chris who are now in the in the Toubkal area with Des! Hope the new snow has firmed up and you guys have a great time.


Facebook album: Mgoun Trip Feb 2013


Categories: Blog, Conditions, High Atlas, James, Morocco, Winter
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Is responsible tourism just a big, fat contradiction?


Patagonia’s environmental biography so far

James and Miriam, members of my team, read Patagonia’s story recently, ‘The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned From Patagonia’s First 40 Years‘, and passed it on to me. I was keen to read the book, knowing a little about Patagonia’s environmental ethos already, but mostly interested by the challenging facts and angles that James had begun to recount to me. (They also make some nice kit, but that’s beside the point!)


The back cover immediately summed it up for me:


Yvon and Vincent aren’t here to bum you out about a planet turning to desert, or to shame you into anything. They affirm that the ingenuity and hard work required to clean up our offices and industries will be the most rewarding (and profitable) work we do.


I felt relieved that the scope of the book was real, tangible and affirming and began the story, eager to draw upon and utilise the experience of others.


However, having progressed into the meat of the book, I opened my RSS reader this morning and read with interest a post from Trek the Andes: ‘Responsible Peru treks – fact or fiction?‘. The article challenged me in turn, as Patagonia’s story had been doing so far. I couldn’t help but feel a check in my spirit with regard to our operations in the High Atlas of Morocco. I quote the fourth paragraph:


Responsible tourism is a broad spectrum and often a contradictory one. Flying several thousand miles to trek on the other side of the world that is bad; you damage the ozone. But I provide work for porters and guides is that not good? Buying bottles of water from the ladies along the Inca Trail that is bad, you should be refilling your water bottles and cutting down on plastics. But I am providing these Andean people with income, am I not good?


We as a company expect that our clients will fly into Marrakech, typically from the UK, in order to start the process of traveling to Imlil and then begin the trek to the Toubkal area. Aircraft produce a huge amount of CO2, which contributes to the process of global warming, causing a whole number of problems for the environment. And yet we as The Mountain People care deeply about the environment in which we live and operate. How do we reconcile the two?


Moreover, Trek the Andes rightly points out that responsible tourism claims are made by all and sundry these days, likening them to background noise:


Click on any trek operator’s website or leaf through the pages of any travel company’s brochure and responsible travel will leap out at you. Well they would like it to but it has suffered something of the same fate as car alarms. Once you hear the same noise so many times you no longer hear it. Some companies clearly do practice responsible tourism but for other trekking agencies it appears to be no more than a marketing tool. When everyone proclaims it, who do we choose who we believe?


When I say we care deeply about the environment, do you really believe me? What makes our claim any different from the myriad other ones? I have even pointed out where our claim fails before a potential client even steps foot in Morocco.


The trouble with tourism, let alone anything in the world, is that in order to engage with it, we will inevitably cause waste and damage. And yet there is something profound in the human spirit that seeks adventure, to push physical and mental boundaries, to find wilderness and ultimately attain a deeper sense of being alive, especially coming from an increasingly desk-bound, office-orientated culture with its ensuing checks and barriers.


The challenge then is to be true to ourselves without doing so at the expense of the environment. The natural world has a certain resilience and the capacity to regenerate, but would be much the better for our full cooperation in reducing our footprint.


At this point we don’t have all, let alone many, of the answers. The biggest two issues though seem clear: airplane travel from the UK to Morocco is polluting; getting heavy and bulky climbing and mountaineering equipment to Morocco. So, this then remains essentially a memorandum of understanding amongst The Mountain People. We see the contradictions, we see the damage, but we want to overcome it in a healthy way and with ingenuity. The solution is not to do nothing or go nowhere. To do so would deny something within us all, but to paraphrase Trek the Andes:


To stay at home and not trek the Atlas; that is not the answer. Come and visit this beautiful place, come and trek these magnificent hills and come and meet its people.

Categories: Blog, Personal, Responsibility, Simon
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Sport Climbing, France | Les Dentelles de Monmirail

The striking limestone teeth of Les Dentelles de Monmirail

The striking limestone teeth of Les Dentelles de Monmirail

Matt and I headed deep into Provence for my first taste of a crag other than the short, but sweet, St. Montan. Les Dentelles de Monmirail are a parallel series of toothed ridges that rise to the south of Mont Ventoux and provide several hundred quality limestone sport climbs.


To our surprise, in the shadow the north aspects, snow lingered from the storm two weeks ago. There had also been recent hard frosts, judging from the frozen ground and ice on small puddles in the carpark. The wind was also blowing, making the ambient temperature of around two to three degrees distinctly unpleasant.


We warmed ourselves on the south aspect, which was nicely sheltered from the wind and cold. Ravens circled and swooped in the eddies calling with their characteristic ‘puk, puk’, and it was necessary to strip down to the t-shirt.


We ticked three climbs on the beautifully sunny south aspect, a 5b, 5c/6a and a 6a+. All were good climbs, made us think and employ good technique, but as with many of the sport climbs I have done to date, were rather forgettable. In retrospect, the climbs tended to be reduced to the challenge of a couple of moves.


In contrast, there is nothing like having a full-on fight on a trad climb or winter line in Scotland to etch an experience in your memory.


Our last climb of the day was a multi-pitch on the north aspect (5b, 5c). We were brought back to reality – that it is still definitely winter – by the cold, wind and chill. I lost the feeling in my fingers and we had to rush to get back home, so perhaps didn’t get the best of that part of the crag.


A day of many contrasts once again!


More photos on the Facebook page.

Categories: Blog, Matt, Personal, Simon, Sport climbing
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