A young travel agent from Wallasey has scaled the highest mountain in North Africa and helped raise over £14,000 for good causes.
James Bennett, 21, from Wallasey only joined Hays Travel North West last year but he jumped at the chance to be part of a Hays Travel team tackling Mount Toubkal in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.
The three-day trip to scale the 13,671-foot peak saw the 12-strong party endure 40°C heat at the foot of the climb with temperatures plunging to -7°C at the summit and suffer from altitude sickness on a mountain four times the height of Snowdon where James had trained for the challenge.
James, who is an apprentice at the Wrexham-based company’s Birkenhead branch in the Grange Precinct, said, “I had never been up a mountain higher than Snowdon before but I like being outdoors and enjoy walking, climbing and wild camping so I was delighted when I was chosen to join the party from Hays Travel branches across the UK.
“I walk up to eight miles every day and so I am pretty fit but this was completely different to anything I’d done before and the altitude sickness was a killer.
“It gave me nosebleeds and my lips went blue and my skin was pale. I had headaches and nausea and it can make you confused but I managed to keep my mind focused.
“But it was a great experience and the people I was with were amazing – there was one lady who was 58 and we had to help her at times but she did brilliantly.”
James was climbing alongside Jonathan Woodall, Chief Operating Officer for Hays Travel, and the group were waved off in Morocco by Dame Irene Hays, Chair of Hays Travel and widow of its founder, John Hays.
The temperature changes meant the party had to carry clothing to deal with extremes of heat and cold, high-quality sunglasses and warm gloves and a snood and every day started at dawn.
The ascent was difficult and complicated by steep and slippery scree slopes which required trekking poles to negotiate and even so caused some minor injuries on the descent
They bivouacked overnight on the climb and in the morning were greeted by spectacular sunrises: “It looked like the mountain was on fire,” James said.
“We walked for a total of 25 hours over the three days and it was just brilliant and has before this came up ten months ago given me a real taste for doing some more mountains, maybe Kilimanjaro in Africa next or Everest Base Camp.
“I’m really grateful to Hays Travel for giving me the chance. They’re a great company to work for – it’s the best job I’ve ever had.
“I had been looking for work for three months but I knew straight away this was what I wanted to do. It gives me knowledge about the world and the opportunity to explore it.”
Simone Murphy, North Wales and Merseyside Regional Sales Manager for Hays Travel North West, said, “This really was the trip of a lifetime for James and he’s done brilliantly and carried the torch for us.
“I think this is something we should all be really proud of, one of our own from the North West, representing us, taking on a great adventure and raising funds for the Hays Travel Foundation and the Intrepid Foundation.”
To support James go to https://justgiving.com/fundraising/james-bennett70