Lonelyplanet.com: Climbing toubkal morocco

Trending Post

How to reach Morocco’s highest peak, Toubkal

Views from the top of Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa at 4,167 meters, extend from Marrakech across the expanse of the High Atlas Mountains to the southern Sahara Desert.

With such striking views, it makes sense that a line of headlamp-wielding hikers makes its way to the summit of Toubkal most mornings of the year; the objective is to reach sunrise on highest mountain in morocco most popular climb, then gently make your way back down the rocky slope to base camp and the villages beyond. Since there was a tragedy on the mountain, the rules governing the climb have altered, so we go over the entire procedure in detail here.

For all the wrong reasons, Toubkal is making headlines.

Long a favorite destination for Moroccan hikers, Toubkal gained notoriety worldwide in December 2018 after two teenage girls were killed in the middle of the night by self-declared religious fanatics. Though the mountain reopened to tourists almost immediately, there was a noticeable increase in police presence and a new rule requiring all hikers to travel in the company of a local. Usually, this means hiring a guide or porter from the area, and there will be multiple police checkpoints along the trek to verify your passport information as well as that of your local hiking partner.

The beginning of the process

The walk begins in the village of Imlil, which was formerly a sleepy farming community but is today a well-liked hiking destination at the intersection of three valleys (and trailheads). At the Bureau des Guides near the bottom of the village, independent travelers can stock up on basic foodstuffs and stove fuel here, as well as hire a guide and/or porters (traditional porters make the snowy ascent to base camp in winter, while in summer this will usually be a donkey and handler).

Trekkers must stop for passport checks at the first of several police checkpoints below the village of Aroumd (also called Armed), an Amazigh (Berber) community that has been made richer by tourism but has managed to preserve much of its traditional architecture and culture. Trekkers ascend through dense walnut forest out of Imlil. After descending from Toubkal, many hikers utilize Aroumd as a second base for the mountain, especially for a few days to unwind and experience the local way of life. At the police checkpoint above Aroumd, porters, unlicensed faux guides, and guides await hikers who have forgotten to make reservations in town. That being said, many visitors have complained about paying more for subpar service when booking here, so it’s best to book ahead whenever possible.

Making my way out of Aroumd

Starting from Aroumd, the path ascends gradually for the first hour to the shrine of Sidi Shamharoush (2430m), a pre-Islamic local saint whose tomb is still a place of sacrifice for people seeking his help with personal issues (especially those seeking to conceive). The path becomes significantly steeper for the remainder of the ascent to the Toubkal Refuge at 3207 meters after passing the shrine and a second police checkpoint.

landing at base camp Toubkal

The two mountain huts that make up Toubkal base camp, the privately owned Mouflon Refuge somewhat below and the CAF’s Nelter Refuge (3207m), are open all year round as lodging for hikers and climbers making their way to the summit of Toubkal and the surrounding peaks.  Although you can leave Marrakesh early in the morning and go to Toubkal Peak and back the same day, most hikers stay one night at base camp (campsites, private rooms, and dormitories are available) to prepare for a summit ascent. Once you reach base camp, your local guide will need to re-register your passport details with the police. After that, you can spend your time relaxing at one of the lodges or taking short day hikes up a few of the side routes. While local experts agree that Mouflon usually has superior meals, Nelter often has a livelier ambiance; whatever is available when you book will probably be your only option as both get booked up rapidly in the summer and winter high seasons.

Summit morning

With nearly 1000 meters of vertical gain over only 3.5 kilometers, summit morning usually begins early. Most hikers strive to reach the peak by sunrise, so you should plan to leave at least three hours before dawn—more if you’re hiking in colder weather or with less fitness. Although the path crosses loose, rocky scree in the summer, it is easy and suitable for all ability levels. However, because of the peak’s exposed face in the winter, there are certain technical difficulties; winter climbing should not be approached lightly. In a normal winter season, a number of hikers pass away or suffer life-threatening injuries, mostly from not being prepared for the rope and ice-axe abilities required.

The lengthy climb from base camp to Toubkal Pass (3970m) is mostly a mental test because, in the pitch-black hours before dawn, it can seem as though you are ascending to an unreal destination because you can’t see the surrounding peaks or views, nor can you really see your progress. However, at the pass, the highest point in North Africa feels abruptly just out of grasp as the early morning blueness silhouettes the peak of Toubkal and the lights of Marrakesh glitter in the hazy distance.

The last gasp

Many hikers gasp for air every four or five steps on the last ascent due to the abrupt height gain towards the summit, especially for those who transfer to the mountain from Marrakesh’s meager 470m elevation. Though at these heights the view has opened up and the gradually increasing light brightens the outlines of successive rows of peaks on the eastern and western horizons, it’s a sluggish but steady pace. As you reach the peak and pass the last level section to the summit sign, the whole High Atlas, from the Middle Atlas in the east to the Tichka Plateau in the west, opens up below you. Most hikers don’t stay on top of Toubkal for very long before starting their slow, sliding descent back down the scree slopes to base camp and on to Imlil. They are windblown, drowsy, and frequently taken aback by the summit throng.

Latest Post