Trip Start Jan 14, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Friday, August 1, 2008

Attention, attention...

It is now official. I have conquered the rockface at Todra Gorge. Forty-five metres of sheer cliff, with nothing but a harness, some rope, and a guy named Aziz standing between myself and certain death.

It was great.

I'd been climbing in Todra once before, after I'd already been hiking for four hours and wasn't particularly fresh. I tried two courses, got halfway through each one, and decided that scrabbling over rocks should happen another day.

This day, it rained as soon as we got to the climb site, and we waited in a cafe for the rain to stop or for a ride to take us back to Tinehrir. It finally did stop, and we realized that we had enough time for one climb each before we had to leave. The two passengers on my trip went first, because they were the tourists who wouldn't be back for a while. I went last, because I would have opportunities to come back soon.

My goals were modest. All I really wanted was to make it past the point that I'd gotten to last time. The first part of the course is the hardest, with the least amount of extrusions to hold on to. Then you arrive at a vertical crevice, with a few handholds and footholds, most of which involve disturbing the local ant population and trampling small mountain plants. Then up higher, where the rock gets flatter, the altitude gets higher, the bruises on your elbows become more pronounced. Then the point, ten metres from the top, where you can't find any good place to hold onto, you're convinced you're going to fall, and you haul yourself up via biceps and sheer willpower to touch the top of the course, pose for a photo for your friends below, and then realize that you've only won half the battle, because now you need to get down.

The descent is quicker than the climb, but infinitely more nervewracking. You've just spend twenty minutes clinging to the rocks for dear life, scrabbling for hand and fingerholds and skinning your knees in an effort not to fall. Now, descending, you have to pry your fingers individually from the rocks and let go, straightening your legs and leaning back into oblivion, trusting the harness and the ropes to catch you as you come down.  And as much as you know that all the equipment is tested and it's all perfectly safe, you still know every inch of the rocky surface that you'd fall down if something were to break. You reach the bottom and your legs are jelly, and then you realize that it's over, you've just climbed a wall of sheer rock, and you're bruised and sweaty and exhilerated and completely on top of the world.
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