Category Archives: Company Values

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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Bouldering Wall Part 2 – “Life-long learning” – another company value

Bouldering Wall - Imlil, High Atlas

Bouldering Wall – Imlil, High Atlas


As mentioned in the first post (Bouldering Wall Part 1), building community is a company value for The Mountain People and I wanted to expand on and share another value we hold as a company and community. We are committed to being “life-long learners” at TMP, and are always looking to grow our skills, better ourselves as climbers and people and a bouldering wall is a good example of a practical expression of such a value.


I personally love all disciplines of climbing from Scottish mixed and ice epics to bouldering to sport climbing to hard trad and if you stop and think, these disciplines all feed off each other.  They are all interconnected and the lessons you learn from one help you to reach more of your potential in another. For myself, bouldering has been one of the areas that I have neglected over the years and I am now on a quest to learn, develop, enjoy and grow in the discipline.   It has been noted by some of the top climbers in the world that bouldering is a key component to unlocking your full potential in other climbing disciplines. It provides one of the keys for the crux of a route – when you are at your limit and need every ounce of power you can summon. If you had a look into most of the homes of serious climbers such as Dave Macleod or Tommy Caldwell, you would find a training wall of some sort.


Again it may seem a bit odd to be talking about company values, climbing disciplines, and a bouldering walls all in the same post, but our actions flow from our values: those things we hold dear and sow our time and energy into.  For us it is important and a key value to keep growing and developing, and so we see a modest training wall in our compact office in a mountain village in Africa as small expression of two of our core values: community and a commitment to being life-long learners.   In my last post I will give the basics of building a wall and point you in the direction of some good free online resources!

Categories: Blog, Bouldering, Business, Community, Company Values, James, Morocco, Training
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Bouldering Wall Part 1 – “Community” – a company value



Well… at the end of December I had some help finishing off the office bouldering wall from the Climb Morocco guys.  A bouldering wall might seem like a funny thing to have as a priority for an office space, but think with me for a minute… don’t a lot of us like to make the space we spend a lot of time in a bit more comfortable? A space that reflects a bit of our personality? You know what I’m talking about! It may be something very simple like a picture of our family, a calendar that you took great time over choosing… and the list goes on.  For me, it’s a bouldering wall.


There is, of course, another obvious reason for the wall… TRAINING! A bouldering wall provides so much in the way of power, endurance, technique and strength training.


And lastly, the other main aim of the wall is to create a bit of a hub for climbers, mountaineers, and boulderers alike. We at The Mountain People Morocco are hoping in the long run to have an office space that draws in both curious locals and visiting climbers – a space for community and connecting for people who, like us, love mountains and the adventures we have in them. We want to create a place where climbers can feel free to drop in for a cup of tea or coffee and a quick bouldering session, and get some local beta on routes, conditions, etc.  Please, if you are in the Imlil (the striking point for Toubkal), feel free to contact us! Send us an email if you want to come by, just to be sure we’re around.


And, if like us you value community, adventure and learning new skills, or if you have been on a trip or course with us and are looking to reconnect, then check out the upcoming Scotland Winter Trip at


To come…


Bouldering Wall Part 2 – “Life-long learning” – another company Value


Bouldering Wall Part 3 – “Basics of building your own wall”



Come and join us!

Categories: Blog, Bouldering, Business, Community, Company Values, James, Morocco, Training
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