Thinking of climbing Mount Toubkal? Climbers have described it as staring down at an unforgiving cliff face, clouds forming and birds circling below. And for those those who successfully reach its summit, they speak of standing tall despite exhaustion and the kind of hysteric elation that topples you to the ground. All reflect on inhaling some of the world’s purest air and taking in the epic surroundings.
As the highest peak in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, Mount Toubkal may be smaller than Asia’s giants, but it’s the loftiest in North Africa. At 4,167m, it’s taller than the majority of peaks in the Americas, Europe and Oceania. Incredibly, and most importantly, you don’t have to be an expert to reach the summit, meaning the opportunity is open to anyone.
Here’s the lowdown on the majestic Mount Toubkal, from where to find it to how to arrange a climb.
Where is Mount Toubkal?
Mount Toubkal is located in southwestern Morocco, just over two hours (50 miles) south of the city of Marrakesh. It’s easily accessible from the village of Imlil, not far from the mountain, where qualified guides and porters can be hired. Climbers can enjoy views of the surrounding Atlas Mountains, Berber villages and, on a clear day, the Sahara Desert.
How high is Mount Toubkal?
Mount Toubkal is the highest of the Atlas Mountains, reaching a towering 4,167m. While it’s the highest peak in Morocco, and across North Africa, it’s not a particularly challenging mountain and those who are reasonably physically fit shouldn’t have any issues hiking to the peak. Mount Toubkal offers a moderate climb that is simple to navigate, with spectacular views for a truly memorable experience without the need for any technical climbing ability.
How long does it take to climb Mount Toubkal?
If you factor in the journey to Mount Toubkal from Marrakech, climbers can expect to put aside at least two days for their trek. In the winter, weather conditions make the climb more challenging, so the journey can take a little longer. Other factors include how long you choose to rest and acclimatise at Base Camp, as well as the particular route you take up the mountain.
It takes around an hour and a half to drive from Marrakech to the start of the Toubkal mountain trail at Imlil. From here, you’ll trek uphill for around 6 hours before reaching Base Camp, at which point you’ll have climbed an elevation of around 1,500m. After acclimatising and refuelling, usually overnight, it’s time to head for the summit.
The trek to the summit takes 3–4 hours, after which you’ll want to spend ample time taking in the magnificent views and enjoying a well earned rest. With the help of gravity and the downhill trajectory, coming back down to Base Camp takes a little less time, around 2–3 hours. After recuperating at the refuge, it takes around 4 hours to retrace your steps to Imlil, where your transport will take you back to Marrakech.
Our guide to climbing Mount Toubkal
While climbing Toubkal isn’t the same as the challenge of Everest or K2, some preparation is advisable in terms of health and fitness. Here are some of the important things you need to know as you prepare for a Toubkal Mountain climb.
For the most part, climbing Mount Toubkal can be described as a trek or hike, with just a few spots where you might need to scramble. It’s not a particularly technical or challenging ascent but you will want to be in good physical condition as you’ll be walking uphill for several hours across multiple days.
In the months leading up to your Mt Toubkal hike, make sure you eat healthy, nutritious meals and head out on regular hikes, preferably with lots of uphill walking.
During the warmer months, you likely won’t need any technical equipment for climbing Mount Toubkal. However, if you’ll be climbing Toubkal in the winter, it’s advisable to bring a few key items such as ice picks, crampons and a fixed rope to prepare for icy conditions.
Otherwise, you should be able to complete your Mount Toubkal trek with ordinary hiking and camping gear, including a warm jacket, hiking socks and warn in boots, waterproofs, a first aid kit, water bottle, toiletries and high energy snacks . While there are two refuges at Base Camp, you can also camp outside if the weather is good in pre-erected tents with sleeping mats provided.
While the climb itself isn’t too challenging, it’s important to be mentally ready for what’s ahead. Looking at Mount Toubkal as something that could beat you won’t help. There’s little chance anyone will give up, but understand that some do and that’s fine – it’s usually as a result of mental, as much as physical, surrender. Preparing mentally for what you’re about to experience – a challenging gruelling trek in incredible surroundings – can help you to put your best foot forward.
Climb with a group
It is possible to hire a private sherpa or travel in a group of like-minded comrades. While solo travel offers a true sense of adventure, nothing quite beats the feeling of accomplishment that comes with completing a trek like Mount Toubkal as part of a team. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved. A united group encourages each other and is patient, understanding some will find it harder than others. Weights on shoulders, aches in legs and weary spirits can be easily be lifted as a team.
Be prepared to dig deep
With so much to see and do, and challenging terrain to cover, you’ll need to dig deep. It’s possible to start your journey slowly with a full day hiking through some of Morocco’s most unique rural scenes. There’s the pretty village of Aroumd, hanging off the hillside, or Sidi Chamharouch, an isolated site of religious pilgrimage by a rocky mountain river.
On summit day, you’ll most likely be waking at the crack of dawn with a long trek up the mountainous terrain. You’ll stare upwards at a near-vertical incline, snowbound in winter, terrain slipping away beneath shoes during warmer months. Then, after you’ve made it to the top, you’ll still have to come back down in far fewer hours.
Usually, after conquering Mount Toubkal, you’ll return by vehicle to Marrakech on the same day. However, for those that like an additional challenge, it is also possible to opt to stop for a night at a cosy mountain gite in the Berber village of Imlil after an additional eight hours trek.
Remember to enjoy yourself
Don’t focus too hard on putting one foot in front of the other; remember that a hike on Mount Toubkal is an exciting adventure packed with incredible views, historic sites and a variety of plant and animal life. Whether you’re climbing with friends or as part of a group of solo travellers, there’s plenty of fun and enjoyment to be had along the way.
And remember, your guide leading the way isn’t simply there for directions as they have a wealth of knowledge, so do ask questions and learn along the route.
Why climb Mount Toubkal?
Put simply, climbing Mount Toubkal is an amazing experience and you’ll see incredible things along the various routes, but be prepared to work a little for them, not least because of the altitude. Be accepting if you get a little emotional, too. There’s a hugely moving, contemplative atmosphere at the top of a mountain. It’s a place where reflection comes easy because you’ve taken on, and conquered, a demanding challenge, reaching the wooden pyramid marking the very highest point.
With unparalleled views, unspoilt serenity and indescribable elation, nothing beats climbing Mount Toubkal. So, what are you waiting for…
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