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On 6th December, four members of the Virgin Limited Edition team flew to Morocco to complete the challenge of a lifetime; climbing the 4,167 metre high Mount Toubkal located in the High Atlas Mountains. The experience was part of a wider Virgin project that sees staff take on challenges around the world to raise money for local community projects and Virgin Unite. This challenge was particularly close to our hearts at Virgin Limited Edition, as all funds raised will go to support the communities surrounding Kasbah Tamadot. Melina, Susie, Sarah and Lauren share their story below.
Our Moroccan adventure started with a night in Marrakech, exploring the markets and the Medina. Just before bed, we captured stunning views across the city from a roof terrace in the centre of town. At first glance we thought that it was just clouds in the distance... it took us a little longer to realise that was Mount Toubkal peeking out from the top!
On day two we arrived in Imlil, 1700 metres above sea level and the starting point for most treks in the High Atlas Mountains. We hiked our way through colourful Berber villages and began to have a taste of what it is like to live in these remote communities... not to mention a refreshing cup of Berber Mint Tea every hour or two!
The landscape was green and the weather was warm on this first day of the trek, but the snow-capped peaks in the distance gave us an idea of the conditions that lay ahead.
We spent our second and third nights in the Toubkal Refuge 3207 metres above sea level. On the first night, our sleep was interrupted by at 4am wakeup call... the start of summit day when we would finally reach the top of the mountain! We set out in darkness with crampons tied to our walking boots, head torches to navigate through the snow, and ice axes to catch us in case of any slips. After a couple of hours climbing in the darkness, dawn came and we watched the sun rise over the Atlas Mountains.
After several hours we reached the summit and celebrated with our group of 40 Virgin staff there was rather a lot of posing! After around 20 minutes, the sub-zero temperatures meant we had to get on our way and begin the descent.
Compared to the gruelling summit climb, our final day of trekking was a hop, skip and a jump. Our speedy pace down the mountain might have been something to do with the opportunity to enjoy two nights at Kasbah Tamadot before heading back to London...
We arrived to a warm welcome from Kasbah Tamadot's famously friendly team. A glass of champagne on the terrace was just what we needed after 3 days of braving the ice and snow!
We spent our final day at Kasbah Tamadot getting to know the local communities that surround the hotel. We witnessed local boys in the woodwork centre fashioning beautiful objects from locally sourced wood, including this stunning Moroccan take on the Christmas tree! All four of the Virgin Limited Edition team are self-confessed shopaholics, so the Eve Branson Foundation centres were the perfect opportunity to pick up gifts for friends and family, from one-of-a-kind Christmas tree decorations, to hand-crafted clothing made in the weaving centre. And best of all, the profits from our purchases will be used to develop sustainable community projects.
At the heart of this challenge was a huge fundraising effort, and we are so grateful to everybody who kindly donated their money to the cause. So far we've raised nearly £700! We visited a primary school in the local village of Asni and met some of the children who have previously benefited from the projects undertaken by the Eve Branson Foundation and Virgin Unite. This year's fundraising will support projects like this in 2017, and we will keep you updated on what's going on in the local community.
Nflkne Ilhna (goodbye in Berber) for now Morocco, until next time!
Festive cheer, camel rides and Yonka facials in the High Atlas
Goats, Gnaoua's and life in the High Atlas
Spring awakening in the Atlas Mountains
Adventures in the Atlas
Cashmere and champagne!
A Berber Feast
The Elders visit the High Atlas
Christmas & New Year in the Atlas Mountains
She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes...!