Category Archives: Blog

When an Adventure becomes an Epic Part 3

To review… we have been looking at what can turn an adventure into an epic and have focused on preparing well for our adventures in order to avoid dangerous situations. These videos will aid you for preparing well, but for more skills and instruction we would recommend you get the DVD!


And if you are looking for tuition on the techniques you see in these video clips, want an instructor who can help you build up a strong base of experience under their watchful eye and help you develop the skills for choosing appropriate objectives get in touch with us here at The Mountain People!


For the previous posts: Part 1 & Part 2


Here are the final video clips from Self Rescue for Climbers:


Assisted hoist


Escaping the system


Categories: Blog, instructional, James, Top Tips, Video
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When an Adventure becomes an Epic


Simon Cox and me after topping out on one of the lines on Toubkal West a few years back. A day that was on the line!


Adventure… pushing ourselves in the vertical mountain world. Epics… running into problems and challenges that could end in a bad way.


There is often a fine line between a good old adventure that summons all the mental, physical and spiritual strength we possess and an epic that could have serious consequences. What are some of the factors that push us over the invisible line between a challenging adventure and an epic?


Here are three of the most common ways we can find ourselves getting into an epic:


  • Lack of experience – Often times people are too ambition and haven’t done the appropriate apprenticeship in one of the foundational climbing disciplines. An example of this would be jumping straight into multi-pitch trad climbing without having a good amount of single pitch trad under your belt or a good instructor at your side to coach you along. Mountaineering and climbing skills are very much a progression of technical and judgment/discernment skills that build on each other which then allow us to push the limits in more serious environment and on harder and more challenging climbs.


  • Lack of preparation – You really want to go into something with your eyes as open as possible to the reality of the situation. So, when getting on a mountain route for example, you want to do your homework, get a good route and descent description, check the weather reports/forecasts, etc. The 5 P’s are essential: poor preparation leads to piss poor performance!


  • Lack of Flexibility – people often get into trouble due to not being able to hold things lightly. They have tunnel vision about a particular route or adventure and get too focused on it. This is a recipe for disaster as the mountain/climbing environment is always changing… weather, route condition, your personal performance levels… the list goes on. If we can hold things a bit more lightly and have a plan B, C, D etc. in our back pocket then, when something isn’t right for our first objective, we let it go and move on to something else.


One thing we can always be working on, of course, is our level of preparation so that we don’t fall into trap 2 above. To help with this, check out a brilliant resource for mountaineering and rock climbing produced by one of the UK’s leading Mountain Guides, Steve Long. Steve has been involved in training people for mountaineering and climbing for years and this dvd ‘Self Rescue for Climbers’ is an excellent resource to help you learn to prepare well for your adventures!



Over the next couple of days I will be posting up a serious of extracts from the dvd, so check them out!



For more information on how to purchase the Self Rescue for Climbers DVD click here!


If you are looking for tuition on the techniques you see in the video, get in touch with us here at The Mountain People, as we can offer you a customised course with an instructor who has been trained and assessed in these elements.


A few more photos from some of the adventures I have been on!





Grade V Ice – Afekhoi cascades




Jay Parks on a multi-pitch sport route in Taghia – High Atlas




Me on lead on Observatory Buttress – Ben Nevis



Categories: Blog, instructional, James, Top Tips, Video
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It’s a mule’s life





Stunning views, epic summits, great days out in the mountains of Morocco: all made possible by… the humble mule. Here at The Mountain People we are very aware that we have a responsibility not only towards our clients and staff but also for the welfare of the mules who are so vital to our treks.


Which is why our Imlil-based staff have been particularly grateful to get to know and work alongside Glen Cousquer, current President of the British Association of International Mountain Leaders (BAIML). Living in Imlil on a part-time basis, Glen is trained vet and is working on a PhD looking into the welfare of mules within the mountain tourism industry. He is also heading up a lot of the local initiatives for pack mule welfare here in the High Atlas, working in collaboration with a number of partners, including The Donkey Sanctuary, the Expedition Providers Association and Kasbah Mules.



Glen training a local mule


We sat down with Glen recently and asked him more about his work here in Imlil:


TMP: Glen, firstly, what brought you to the High Atlas?


Glen: I first visited the High Atlas twenty years ago and was blown away by the beauty of the mountains. Mountain life, however, is very hard – for the people and their animals. I saw firsthand just how much the mules working in tourism suffered. Back in 1995, I saw one mule on a trek I was on that was very ill and in great pain due to a nasty sore on her back. The team had no protocol for dealing with such situations and for the muleteer to abandon the trek, meant losing his work.


I came back in 2008 to try and study how the industry could better meet its responsibilities to these hard-working mules and their owners. This led me to produce a syllabus and course on pack mule care for the Mountain Guide Training school here in Morocco. Between 2009 and 2015, I was responsible for delivering that course and for training the next generation of guides.


In the last two years, I have been based predominantly in Imlil and have been able to get to grips with some of the complexities of the mule’s life and wellbeing.


TMP: What drives you to seek to better the mules’ welfare in Morocco?


Glen: Good question. I think that I fundamentally believe that the mountains give mankind so much and they have certainly given me a lot. They are fragile places, however, and we need to look after them. For me, it is very important to give something back, to make sure they are not exploited irresponsibly.


And it is quite obvious to me that those who cannot stand up, cannot speak, cannot be heard, are easily exploited. The mountains are exploited. The mountain people are all too easily exploited. And, of course, the mule is exploited.



Mule that was overloaded and injured in a fall


Tourists care about this. Many of the better agencies care about this. But they often don’t know enough about the problem and even when they do understand, they don’t know what to do.


The industry does not have the resources needed to solve this problem. They can make small fixes and small changes but the problems go much deeper than that. That is why I believe that my work can make a difference, can provide alternatives and can encourage people to adopt practices that promote good mule welfare.


TMP: What initiatives have you started here and why? And what other areas can you see that need to change?


Glen: There are a number of initiatives. Amongst the problems we have identified and that really impact on the mule, three stand out. These are overloading, mouth injuries caused by the use of the traditional bit and the pain and frustration associated with traditional tethering practices.


  • Overloading can lead to saddle sores and is also responsible for tendon and joint injuries that will go on to trouble these poor mules for the rest of their lives. Just this morning, James, you and I, together with Mohamed went to see a mule that had fallen over a 100m drop somewhere above Tachedirrt. She had a nasty wound on her leg but fortunately had not broken a leg. Breaks spell disaster here for mules as there is no tradition of euthanising mules. In the case of this mule, it was very clear that she was thin, old and very weak. She had also been overloaded. Hardly surprising then that she fell! Sadly, these stories are common-place, especially with companies that do not check the mules on departure and make sure basic standards are respected.
  • The traditional bit is a medieval instrument that allows man to control the mule thorough pain and fear. It has no place in a good relationship based on trust, respect and understanding. The same can be said of tethering.
  • There are many other problems though, including the lack of health care and insurance. Good handling and training is rare here, food is often deficient in quantity and quality and the standard of farriery and foot care is appalling.



TMP: What is your long-term vision and dream for the mules of the High Atlas Mountains?


Glen: In an ideal world, the industry would move towards a set up in which the muleteers were more respected and were not exploited. They should have access to health care themselves and deserve to be pulled into the social security system. In the same way that the trekking industry recognises its responsibilities to porters across the world, it needs to recognise its responsibility to muleteers.


So the muleteers benefit. But their mules need to benefit too! They need better working conditions. They need good equipment (including humane tethers and good quality head collars), protection from overloading, good food, shelter at altitude, health care, rest and even retirement.


That may be a lot to ask just now but we should not forget that in the UK this battle was fought for pit ponies nearly one hundred years ago. Their working conditions improved as a result and it became harder to exploit them as a source of power and labour.


In a few words, we need to care about these mules.



Training muleteers to use the bitless bridle


TMP: What can people do to get involved and contribute to the initiatives?


Glen: People need to ask questions of the companies they are travelling and trekking with. Do these companies apply any code of good practice when working mules?

Is that code audited?

What numbers of mules are provided for a certain size of group?

What is the load limit set for the mules?

Are all the mules worked free from the traditional bit?

How long has the owner had his mule and do they have a good relationship?


I am glad to say that The Mountain People are taking a real interest in these issues and are working hard to put a system in place that will improve the welfare of the mules they use. They have recently started collaborating with The Donkey Sanctuary to provide training for their muleteers.


There is much more on this kind of stuff on the Donkey Sanctuary website and on my academia page.


Thank you to Glen for this interview! We look forward to continuing in our partnership with you to improve the lives of the mules and muleteers of the High Atlas.


Categories: Blog, Company Values, High Atlas, Mule Welfare, Responsibility
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Project Fear Video – Dave Macleod

Dave Macleod is one of my climbing heroes! His tenacity, focus and limit pushing is amazing. We shared this video a while back on FB, but if you didn’t watch it then…. well on your next coffee break take a few minutes and check it out. You won’t be disappointed!


Categories: Alpine Climbing, Blog, James, Video

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The Lady in Black, Delirium & Agent Orange… morocco multi-pitch


Jeremy coming up on pitch one of the Lady in Black E1 5b


Last week I headed down to the Anti Atlas mountains with Jeremy from Climb Morocco, to an area also known as Tafraout/Jebel El Kest for some multi-pitch trad climbing. Temperatures are rising now here in Morocco (thankfully still not too much here in the High Atlas) but we managed to fit in this one last trip before it gets really too hot.


And what a trip it was! We headed to the valley known in the guidebooks as Samazar Valley which is on the north side of the Jebel El Kest area and set up camp for our three-day trip below The Waterfall Walls.




Waterfall Wall (left) and Aylim (right)


Our main reason for choosing this valley was the fact that it boasts some of the biggest walls in the area with a number of the routes, such as Labyrinth Ridge on Aylim (the Great Rock), reaching up to 800m.


It is also an area that sees much less climbing traffic than others due to the access being only via a dirt road but even despite this, it’s so worth a visit for a trad climbing adventure. Once you have negotiated the road, there is still great access to the routes themselves from the piste with walk-ins as short as 10 minutes, along with a plethora of high quality quartzite walls.


After arriving around 1.00 in the afternoon from Marrakech, we started on The Flatiron buttress, climbing First Up E1 5a, a 230m route. The top pitches were brilliant – good, clean rock and incredible views of the valley.




View from the Flatiron buttress – route First Up E1 5a




The Flatiron


Then after a night under the stars we tackled The Pimple buttress the following morning, climbing Lady in Black E1 5b, 200m. The route was fantastic with a steeper section in the middle that was good fun However, the descent was not so straightforward.




James leading first pitch on Lady in Black E1 5b




Jeremy leading on pitch two of Lady in Black E1 5b


The guidebook warns about vegetation on the eastern gully descent, and we found it impossible to descend through the deep, thick vegetation without cutting ourselves to pieces on the thorny bushes. So for a better descent follow the guidebook’s instructions for the 20m abseil off the top and then go down the opposite gulley (western) which leads to the trailhead. Go right at the trail, which then leads you along and below The Pimple buttress back down to the road!


After a short rest in the afternoon we got on the massive Aylim buttress (The Great Rock) and climbed a 3 star E1 5b route called Delirium, 325m. The route was awesome as the crux pitches came in the middle and top of the route… serious exposure.




View from the top of Delirium E1 5b


The next day we went back to The Pimple, glad to know the safer descent route, and we climbed Agent Orange E2 5b, 140m. The crux pitch on this route was the one off the ground – technical and strenuous climbing but well worth the battle.



Jeremy leading the crux pitch on Agent Orange E2 5b


The guidebook we used from our trip was the two-set volume Tafraout – Rock climbing in the Anti-Atlas by Steve Broadbent, published by Oxford Alpine Club. Take a look at my review of the books here. Also, in the last year the publisher has released pocket guides with selected top routes for the areas, which are definitely worth purchasing for weight saving whilst climbing the classics!


The heat of the summer sun in the south of Morocco makes this area out bounds for the next few months but from October to the end of April, it’s a climber’s paradise. Contact us for more information about our multi-pitch guided trips and let us introduce you to the awesome rock.

Categories: Anti-Atlas, Blog, Jebel El Kest, Morocco, Tafraout, Trad
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