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Adventures in the High Atlas mountains

By Mark Hirst

The Morocco 2017 workshop took place this year on the Ahansal River in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco. This was to be the 3rd workshop I have run in conjunction with Berber Rafting Adventures.

Each year this is one of first workshops I run in early spring to coincide with the paddling season in the High Atlas. Demand for the course has been successfully rising year on year. This year we had participants from Finland, Latvia, France & Denmark.

For 2017, both myself and Yann from Berber Rafting had decided to up the offering and include a Rescue 3 Whitewater Rescue Technician PR certification alongside the IRF workshop. This meant that the students could spend 3 days working through the WRT syllabus learning & practising new rescue skills before putting themselves forward for the IRF assessment.

During my travels I very rarely see guides that are 100% prepared & equipped with the necessary skills to pass an IRF assessment straight away . Normally throw bagging & rope work are the areas where guides need a little coaching before the IRF assessment. By including the WRT aspect before the IRF workshop we are able to identify any knowledge gaps.

After the drive from Marrakesh we settled into our amazing new accommodation provided by our local Berber host, Mohammed, or as he likes to be called, Mo. Mo and his team are all Nomadic Berber people who work each year to accommodate groups of paddlers who travel to the Ahansal River. For the past 2 years Mo has been building his own guest house. I was looking forward to seeing his project 1 year on and I was not disappointed. Our students this year had really nice facilities.

We kicked off the course after dinner on the first evening. After some brief introductions and expectations we started to work through the WRT theory sections in order to lay down a solid safe working platform for the rest of the week.

Our plan was to spend the first 3 days of the course based on the one day commercial section of the Ahansal working through the WRT syllabus. We would then spend the final 2 days running the multi-day section of the Ahansal focusing on guiding & river running skills. We would also be looking at how a multi-day trip operates.

The one day commercial section of the Ahansal presented us with some great teaching venues for the WRT syllabus. This years water levels were on the medium low side so we were able to take full advantage of our environment.

As Berber Rafting operate multi-day trips we planned to carry out some night exercises looking at some basic rescues and poor visibility search exercises that could be encountered on a multi-day trip.

The final 2 days were spent on the multi-day section of the river. During the multi-day section we got to concentrate on river running skills and communication. The group got to practice some lining skills as a few of the rapids had low lying Berber bridges on them which meant we were unable to paddle underneath them.

The Ahansal is a low volume technical river. To make our trip run a little easier we opted to paddle light rafts and send our multi-day equipment to the camp by mules. It was nice to arrive at camp and have it already set up. This gave us the chance to unwind, have some food and enjoy our surroundings.

As we made our way down the river we had the time to work on the IRF Safety Craft certificate for our kayakers. We also stopped off and ran some group rescue scenarios. The workshop was finished off with the flip drill test before the drive back to Marrakesh for food and cold beers.

Congratulations to all,
Mark

 

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