Why trek to Mount Toubkal?
Why go on a trekking holiday to Mount Toubkal in Morocco?
The long chain of the High Atlas extends for hundreds of kilometres across south and central Morocco, separating the Atlantic coastal region to the north, from the arid Sahara Desert region to the south. The high point of this range and the highest peak in all of North Africa, is Jebel Toubkal at 4167 metres. Lying just 60 kilometres south of the pink-walled city of Marrakech, and clearly visible from there, the key to Toubkal's attraction is its status as North Africa's highpoint, its sheer accessibility and the fact that anyone can climb it. Remarkably, the first documented ascent by Europeans (including the Marquis de Segonzac) was as recently as 1923, although the first actual ascent, probably by a hardy Berber shepherd, is likely to pre-date that by hundreds of years.
Nowadays, the mountain is climbed year round, with the most direct approach following a trekking route that heads due south from the village of Imlil (1740m) which is itself reached after a 2-hour drive from Marrakech. A day's walk from Imlil leads via Aroumd and the Muslim shrine at Sidi Chamharouch to a pair of stone-built mountain refuges and Toubkal's effective basecamp at an elevation of 3207 metres. From here, the ascent of Toubkal follows a zig-zag track on scree into a high mountain bowl that is overshadowed by rugged outlying peaks and holds patches of snow until late in the year. Above, an open ridge is gained and followed, curving around to Toubkal's summit which is crowned by a distinctive 4 metre high, metal tetrapod. During the summer, the ascent of Toubkal is nothing more than a trek, steep in places, but otherwise straightforward and non-technical. In the winter, when the mountain is usually snow covered, crampons and a single ice-axe are required and previous experience of winter mountaineering, whilst not essential, is helpful.
So why go?
Toubkal provides the focus for lots of amazing Moroccan adventure holidays, its ascent adding that all-important ‘frisson' of excitement and sense of achievement to a number of great treks. The mountain's location is also a big part of its attraction and no-one travelling to this region can fail to be blown away by the ‘Arabian Nights' city of Marrakech, with its nightly Djema el-Fna spectacle. Or, fail to be charmed by the Berber people who make their homes in the high valleys of the Atlas Mountains.