about me > outdoors

the great outdoors

I have always enjoyed being outside. I spent most of my childhood playing football with two trees as the goalposts, or a classic game of 'hunt' to get the adrenaline pumping. As I got older and friend groups changed, I started to do a lot of hiking. I mean, with the Mourne Mountains right on our doorstep, it would be rude not to. They are almost perfect; never too cold but never too warm, not too technical but not too easy, and great views to top it off.

Panorama of the Mourne Mountains
David in the Mourne Mountains

one of the oldest family traditions for me was a trip to the Mournes every Easter Sunday. It was a chance to catch up with uncles, aunties, cousins and grandparents.

In October of 2018, I travelled with a group of friends to Marrakesh in Morocco before setting off on a week-long expedition in the Atlas Mountains, starting in the village of Imlil. Led by two local tour guides, we planned to reach the summit of Toubkal, the highest point in North Africa at a height of 4,167m - almost 5x the height of the tallest in Northern Ireland!

I hadn't travelled that much of the world before this trip, but Morocco is by far the most beautiful country I have visited yet. Hiking the Atlas mountains was unlike anything we have in Northern Ireland. So many little towns and villages line the lower valley rivers, and clouds match the snow-topped peaks; the contrasts easily made it an unforgettable experience for me.

I remember the day of the final climb to the summit as maybe the most physically challenging thing I'd ever done. It started with an early rise at 4:00AM, leaving the refuge with flashlights strapped to our hands and heads, crampons tied to our feet, hoping to reach the top just in time for the sunrise. We slowly and carefully made our way up as a fall at the wrong angle may have sent you down the longest slip and slide of your life. Halfway there, as everyone took a short breather, I reached for my water bottle only to find it completely frozen through. We soldiered on in single file to reach the peak just before 10:00AM, and the decent weather allowed for a pretty decent view.

Atlas MountainsGroup at Toubkal summitAtlas Mountains

The descent back to the refuge was slow going but everyone made it back for a well-deserved meal - except me, as I immediately felt awful and couldn't force myself to eat or drink anything. I headed back to sleep for a couple of hours to shake off what I assumed was altitude sickness, and thankfully woke up feeling fine again. The remaining hike back down to Imlil through the rocky and brown lower mountains was light work, and everyone made the journey safely.