A MORPETH mountaineer has successfully scaled the highest peak in northern Africa.
And Jamie Pattison says that this is just the start of his global adventures – with a trip to Norway already being planned for this summer.
The 20-year-old was among a group of Newcastle College students who scaled Mount Jebel Toubkal in the Toubkal National Park as part of a 10-day expedition in south-western Morocco.
And as well as reaching the 4,167metre summit he got a taste of the local culture, which included some monkey business with salesmen.
After arriving in the city of Marrakesh, the party then travelled up to the last main village before the mountain range and the following day they did a seven-hour trek to reach a French refuge facility at 3,207m.
Mr Pattison said: “When we got to the village it was a different world to the UK and there were some very surreal sights, such as going round a corner to find a woman standing in a house with a donkey and 15 rabbits.
“It was very interesting to see these people live their daily lives and even though they had very little, they seemed pretty happy with things.
“Another weird experience happened the next day when we reached a Holy Shrine, as along came lots of traders trying to sell us a drink of Coke or whisky even though we were high up and in an area full of snow.”
Following some time to practice climbing techniques and relax, the group headed for the summit and made careful progress to get up to around 4,000m.
“At this point we were so high up that we could start to see the curvature of the earth on the horizon and a darker sky where the atmosphere is thinner,” said Mr Pattison.
“I was amazed to see birds coming to us and we fed them out of our hands.
“Another 200m doesn’t sound much, but at that altitude you are going straight up and you can see how far you would fall, so we needed to be very careful.
“When we got to the summit I thought ‘wow, I’ve done it’. This was a culmination of months of work and it was also fantastic that we all made it up as a team.
“To see all around you for many miles, including other mountains around 3,000m high, was a crazy feeling. I proudly got out the Northumberland flag and it was funny explaining it to a German group.
“We still had to get back down and we got to the village at about 9pm to complete the epic day. We were very well looked after during the trek and we had a great guide to help us.”
The students were then able to enjoy a visit to the coast, which included camel riding on the beach, and explore Marrakesh.
The Lancaster Park resident said: “If you are going round the world climbing mountains, you should also take some time to experience the culture.
“In Marrakesh, I really enjoyed going to the Djemaa el Fna market place as there is lots going on. You get to see snake charmers, fakirs and other performers.
“We did a lot of haggling with the traders. One of them asked where we were from to distract us, then threw a monkey on our backs.”
The Health and Exercise Science foundation degree student needed to raise money to go on the trip and a large chunk of it was collected through swimming the 5,500m gap between Bamburgh and Lindisfarne in the North Sea.
His next expedition is to Norway in August with the Brathay Exploration Group to survey a glacier. This will help to measure the effects of global warming in the southern part of the country.
“I see myself as a bit of an adventurer and there’s certainly a lot more to come – ideally I would like to make a career out of it,” added Mr Pattison.
He has put together a lecture about his Morocco experience, which will take place at Chantry Middle School & Technology College on Tuesday, May 3.
To book tickets, which are priced at £5, or for more information, telephone him on 07595 914299.