I distinctly remember how I felt when I made it to the base camp, how I walked for over an hour or two while suffering from an intense cramp in my right thigh that made my pace super slow, and how I felt horrified being taught how to use an ice axe! Is falling even an option? I already fear heights, and have difficulties to look down. I decided that I will give up, and won’t continue the journey with my fellow hikers to the top, enough suffering I did the best I could yet my legs are not being of great support, and altitude sickness is slowly getting its toll on me.

Mount Toubkal’s Base Camp by Kamil Fibak

But you somehow sensed how I wasn’t ok, you came to talk to me, and I with tears filling my eyes told you “I don’t think I can make it, I am not ok, it’s harder than Mt. Kilimanjaro, and I am not as fit”, you told me with total understanding “it’s alright if you don’t want to continue, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s not harder than Kili -though I still believe it is-, we humans as soon as our suffering ends we tend to forget how it was like, however bad things happen, and I myself almost give up on the way down from Everest, all you need is to rest, eat, put on warm clothes, and some cream on the cramped muscle, & then wake up the next morning, have breakfast with the group, and decide whether you want to continue or not”.

I woke up the next morning refreshed -though not totally recovered-, but I just couldn’t wait to kick the mountain’s ass, I couldn’t handle the idea of giving up without even trying.

Hiker on Mount Toubkal by Peter Makholm

I was one of the last hikers in the group, but I kept going slowly but surely, stopping to rest every now and then, I saw one hell of a slope, pointed at it, and asked Samir my guardian angel, the guide who was accompanying me “should we follow this trail” he said “yes”, I cried in disbelief while hitting my poles to the ground, looking downwards and said “NOOOO”, he patted on my shoulder and said “it’s ok, next time”, I cried even harder and said “there’s no next time, I have to make it this time”, I wiped off my tears, continued walking until I almost finished the 1st slope, and started seeing some of the people in my group that I haven’t seen for quite a long time a bit faraway.

Believe you can and you’re halfway there. – Theodore Roosevelt

I even outran one of them who was dehydrated, and totally drained, I gave him one of my water bottles and shared some snacks, while trying to push him to continue -that moment when you encourage someone while you are the one who needs it most- I tried to keep him close as much as possible until the guide told me it was bad for me to slow my pace, I asked him to stay with him as I am in a much better state, he said that someone will come to give him a hand.

We continued until I could see with my naked eyes that I’m getting closer to the group, few of them were resting, too exhausted to keep moving, they were getting closer to the peak, encouraging me with their hand signs telling me that I did well, and to keep moving, or shouting me “Bravo Passainte you are doing very well, keep going, you’re almost there”. I encouraged those who were resting, and asked Samir to stay with them as they needed him more than I do, seeing the peak has given me energy that I have no idea where it came from.

Me on the summit of Mount Toubkal

And the moment I reached the summit you were waiting for me out there with arms wide open, and a big “I’m proud of you” smile, I let go of my rented ice-axe and hiking poles, cried and cried and cried, tears were falling uncontrollably just like a pissing cow, you patted on my back while saying “Bravo Passainte, you made it”. I asked you: “did you believe in me? did you think I’d make it?”, while keeping a big from ear to ear smile you confidently answered: “the moment you finished the first slope, I knew you’d make it”. It was a proud moment where I wondered how could I have possibly thought of quitting? Do I have complete control over my mind, or does it control me? I found out that I’m bigger than any challenge, if only I believed in myself, and got rid of all negative thoughts that poison my mind, and influence my body & soul.

You can’t win physically, if you are losing mentally. – Billy Cox

Well, you were not just a chief who’s on duty to lead a group of hikers to the top of a mountain, or the owner of a company who’s seeking a returning customer, but a human-being who totally understands the fears, and needs of mountain-hikers. So if you saw someone; with unfastened shoelaces you’d warn him/her, not wearing sun-shades risking to get snow-blind you’d happily insist on giving him/her your own sunglasses, not wearing the appropriate clothing you’d ask him/her to change. And these are the characteristics of a leader who cares about every single person in the group, keen to provide his people with an unforgettable experience, and have as many people reaching the peak.

One year after I summited Mt. Toubkal, I’d like to tell you THANK YOU!