Hiking For Your Mental Health

Have your friends and colleagues ever questioned your sanity after you tell them that you’re using your precious annual leave on a hiking trip? 

We all love a ‘fly and flop’ holiday to recharge our batteries. But now it seems that trips with a greater purpose, a chance to recharge our souls as well as our bodies, are the forerunners.

Mindfulness is a trend on the rise. In 2019, at a time where apps like Calm* and Headspace are topping download charts, we’re seeking mindfulness everywhere. In fact, wellness tourism which is estimated at a hefty $639 billion globally is growing more than twice as fast as general tourism.

*no. 1 in Health and Fitness on the App store (as of 16.10.2019) 

Despite the physical exertion that accompanies hiking, there are certain mindfulness aspects to it. And when you throw in the desert landscape of Morocco into the mix, you’re transported to new levels of calm, soul-searching and a way to recharge that you didn’t know your body needed.  

Nicknamed ‘The Roof of North Africa’, Mount Toubkal’s peak stands at 4167m. This mountain - the second highest in Africa - is no mean feat. But it’s no Kilimanjaro or Everest either. So the real question is: would you trade these iconic mountain tops for the lesser-trodden path? (I did.) 

Earlier this year, there were reports of climbers keenly queueing to summit Everest peak - with some fatalities. It may well be a ‘to die for’ opportunity, but is it something worth actually dying for?

Although it’s worth noting that these queues weren’t the sole or direct reasons for such casualties. Unfortunate weather conditions and management of the ever increasing crowds are cited in reports by the BBC.

But before this becomes too sombre, let’s take a moment to reflect on something equally adventurous, but a little less perilous.

For those with some hiking experience who are eager to step into the world of mountaineering, Toubkal is the peak for you. Fair warning, there’s scrambling and steep vertical ascents, walking through both heat and darkness, oh, and you’l l need a guide to enter the trail. 

IMAGE 1 - landscape 

Three days on the open road await with a steady gradient to basecamp for starters. The scenes that lay out on the path ahead are like something out of a National Geographic documentary; an amuse bouche for the eyes. At times, so focussed on the next step, you forget where you are to be struck suddenly by the awe-inspiring grand power of nature.  

The sweeping panoramas dotted with donkeys and framed by the mountains make everything worthwhile. A picture may paint a thousand words, but there’s a certain magic that a camera simply cannot capture. 

After a satisfying first day’s hiking, the summit started early on day 2, under a star-studded sky. Void of light pollution except from head torches, the journey was about to peak. 

There was something chillingly beautiful in waking up before sunrise to hike through the morning glow of the sun entering the landscape without another soul for miles. 

As the landscape became fully illuminated and radiant, the summit came into view. Adrenaline kicked in, accompanied by a euphoric feeling, bookended by views across the desert on one side and to Marrakech on the other. 

That feeling of being on the top of the world stays with you, supporting through the steep and exhausting descent. Just as challenging the summit but equally beautiful and satisfying. 

IMAGE 2 - Summit Portrait

In short, three days of hiking left me feeling refreshed; endorphins running their natural high! I had departed from London, bags under my eyes, tired of city life but I returned, rested and invigorated by my time spent pushing myself both physically and mentally. 

It’s like a secret club that’s been meeting all this time without you, but, the funny thing is, you’ve always been invited! Hop on the hiking trend, take time to reflect and reconnect, and start exploring what Mother Nature has kindly gifted to us. 

Written by Caroline J, also known as @carolinej294 on Instagram