When does the ordinary become extraordinary? We’re probably not the best people to tackle the question, but we know someone who can…Berghaus Ambassador Iona Rendall has taken a little of the ordinary to create something extraordinary. We’ll let her explain more about her latest challenge in Morocco below, which didn’t just teach her more about herself, but also the amazing power of the outdoors to bring people together…
I’m a big believer in surrounding yourself with people who build you up, support and motivate you to achieve great things. So last year when I set up my own walking group that’s exactly the kind of people who were keen to become members of my outdoors community – like minded with a passion for adventure.
When I met Marie Cheng via the group, (read Marie’s story here) I was astounded by her constant drive and determination required for running her expedition company, Three Peaks Africa. Immediately I was intrigued and a few months later when she invited me on her brand new Morocco Expedition I simply jumped at the chance. As a relatively novice hiker in the Scottish mountains this challenge was to be like nothing I had ever experienced. For some reason I didn’t give that a second thought. Having seen how passionate she was in creating these life changing experiences for others, I already felt reassured that this was without a doubt going to shape my future somehow.
Over the next 10 months I set about recruiting 15 members from my walking group to join me in the High Atlas Mountains. Within 24 hours of announcing the trip, the first person signed up. In that moment I realised how much was riding on this trip – this wasn’t just about me anymore, this was about the opportunities and experiences that so many others were going to achieve alongside me. Over time the spaces on the team filled up and myself and 15 strangers began to get to know one another. A really eclectic, fun bunch of people who in other circumstances you would never find together, but as a group we became a team and we were ready to take on this epic challenge.
The anticipation was almost unbearable flying out to Morocco. Was I prepared physically, mentally and emotionally for what lay ahead? How would my body react to the changing altitude? Would the team get on well over the 10 day expedition despite the challenges we would face? It turns out I had nothing to worry about all along as it became obvious as soon as the team met up in Marrakech that we were a unit. Bound together by this passion to achieve something great, to be someone none of us could have ever imagined for ourselves.
It was incredible to watch the landscape change before our eyes as we left the hustle and bustle of Marrakech and the first few steps we took on the path towards our first campsite were truly momentous. I felt such a strong connection to the wonderful people who surrounded me and I felt so privileged to be sharing each moment with them. From the gruelling ascents into the mountains to the evenings spent sat eating together in our mess tent laughing and chatting about whatever nonsense came to mind. The team spirit was evident throughout and that really helped pull me through on the days that were particularly tough.
Walking in such remote and isolated mountain ranges was both mesmerising and overwhelming. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined myself setting out on this journey. Yet here I was. Setting off at 3am some mornings to hike in the dark for 4 hours was a real challenge at times. I had no experience of that so it took some getting used to. Eventually I found it quite therapeutic and walking beneath such a vast dark sky which seemed to be filled with endless stars made me feel so insignificant yet gave me a real sense of grounding. Shutting off from the rest of the world with only my thoughts and the occasional chatter from my teammates gave me time to really appreciate where I was and what I was achieving.
Mountains and Emotions
Early mornings were always worth it to stand on the side of a mountain watching the sun as it began to rise and slowly warm the tips of the surrounding landscape. Those images are ingrained in my mind and no photo could ever capture the feeling and the atmosphere of those surreal moments. Those sunrises allowed me to see the rest of our route ahead of me and the remainder of the mountains that we had to climb. It gave me a newfound sense of motivation to reach each summit alongside my team after hours of relentless hiking.
Reaching each of the three peaks ignited such different emotional responses. The first summit was sheer relief! It had been a tough ascent and I was feeling the effects that the changing altitude was having on my breathing. The second summit brought me to tears to see my entire team celebrating together. I had this overwhelming sense of pride for the amazing people around me who had worked tirelessly as a team.
The third and final summit gave me a calm sense of achievement and belonging. I was meant to be on that trip, it was something that I had to do without ever knowing it. It was always going to be a team effort yet I hadn’t anticipated how much I would rely on the support of my new found friends as well as the crew who looked after us. Not only that but the support I received from the wider adventure community in the run up to the trip showed me just how many people would be following our journey and wishing us luck along the way.
That final summit and those moments of reflection felt like a real turning point, a moment where I allowed myself to realise that I am capable of so much more than I anticipated. When I set out on the expedition I wondered if I was prepared physically, mentally and emotionally – reaching that final summit proved that whether or not I was prepared at the time, I certainly am now.