An Epic reccie up Mount Meltzen
Charlie Shepherd, CEO of Epic Morocco, has just come back from a challenging ascent of Mount Meltzen in the Atlas Mountains. It was a big day out with 12hours 20 minutes of trekking, nearly 2000 metres of ascent to an altitude of 3600m+ and 32 kilometres covered. All of this, over very rough terrain in wild country off the beaten track. He explains why he took it on.Q:
Q:Why did you choose to recce Mount Meltzen and what was your aim for the day?
A: We have a group of people who come to us every year. They want to go into the wilderness and they want to have a challenging 48 hours, with lots of different elements and activities. I thought Meltzen could be a good one, as there are hardly any people who go to that area, and it is really isolated. Also, we need to have a climbing element in there, so summiting would be the key.
Q: Can you describe the hike?
A: We started in a village just to the east of Setti Fatma, Ait Milk, at about 1700m. We walked up onto the Yagour plateau and across it at 2200 m. Then we turned southward on to the foot of Meltzen itself where it got considerably steeper. We followed a very vague, rocky path up to the ridge. At the ridge, we turned westward and from there it was another 300 metres climb to the summit.
Q: What could you see from the summit?
A: It is a nice mountain. It is one of the mountains you can see from Marrakech and it sands completely by itself so you have 360 degree panoramas from the top. You can see Toubkal, Setti Fatma, and the upper Zat Valley to the south. It was a bit hazy today but normally you can see right down to the plains of Marrakech as well.
Q: What was the descent like?
A: Horrible! There was a lot of loose material which made the descent really complicated. Lots of small, loose rocks and the path wasn’t very well defined – in fact there wasn’t a path at all from the ridge to the summit. It did make it a bit difficult on the ankles and there was a lot of really slippery stuff so it was very useful to have poles on the way down. It was a very, very tricky descent.
Q: Now that you have done it, do you think you will take the group there?
A: Hopefully yes to that area. I think it is beyond the scope of what is possible to achieve in the time period to do that ascent from Setti Fatma. It is too much. What I am going to look at next, and it will take a few recces to get the balance right, is going from the Yagour Plateau to the summit. I will investigate doing it from the east side rather than the west.
Q: Are recces fun?
A: Yes, yes they are but they are quite particular days out in a sense. Obviously, I don’t have a lot of time to do things like this so I have to pick and choose what I go to look at, and do some research in advance to make sure that it is at least vaguely feasible. Probably half the time you do recces, you come back not necessarily with the solutions. What is interesting is that you always learn from them, either eliminating things or putting something in your back pocket for later on. So, you always learn from them but whether you have a positive result ultimately for the thing that you are looking for? That remains to be seen.