It was still dark and definitely sub-zero as we strapped on our snowshoes in front of the Tarkeddirt refuge at 2900m. Our objective for the day was Jebel Mgoun, Morocco’s 3rd highest mountain at 4068m. Although overshadowed in height by Jebel Toubkal 4167m and Ouanoukrim 4089m, it involves more effort to climb, and as it is less accessible, it’s unlikely you’ll meet other trekkers on this beautiful peak.
As we crossed the Tarkeddirt plateau the full moon was setting in the west as the dawn light was appearing on the eastern horizon. An awesome sight, which it was hard to capture on our cameras. As there was no track across the Tarkeddirt plateau and the snow is often unconsolidated, snowshoes make progress a lot easier and after 2 hours we had reached 3400m.
The sun had risen now and the views were really opening out. As the angle of the mountain had steepened and the snow had firmed up, we switched to crampons and ice axes for the final 2 hours before reaching the Mgoun summit ridge. On reaching the summit ridge at 3978m, the views became immense. We could see across to the Toubkal massif 150 km away, then to our south were the Jebel Sahro and the Jebel Sirwa mountain ranges, and ahead of us was the final summit ridge to Mgoun summit itself.
We stopped for a well-earned lunch stop, and to take in our amazing surroundings. However, we couldn’t stop for too long, as it was a still a further 2 hours along the summit ridge crossing 2 subsidiary summits before we’d reach our objective.
The walk along the open ridge felt tough, as we were now at 4000m and we all felt the altitude. However, the views were truly spectacular and took everybody’s mind off the fatigue. Eventually 7 ½ hours after leaving the refuge we reached the summit. Here there was no signboard, metal structure, or other people, just a small pile of stones and us. We took the obligatory summit shots, and retraced our route back along the ridge and down the mountain, all of us buzzing and feeling truly privileged to have experienced such a great mountain day.
We crossed the Tarkeddirt plateau back to the refuge as the sun was setting, once again giving us some fantastic colours on the surrounding mountains. The guardian of the refuge was outside to welcome us back and had baked a fantastic cake for us, washed down with the obligatory mint tea.
It then dawned on us that the guardian was the first person we’d seen since leaving the refuge that morning. We hadn’t seen another soul all day. Over dinner that evening we chatted about the day, and most of us agreed that days in the mountains don’t get much better. By nature of its height, Mgoun is overlooked by many trekkers who focus on the highest peak in Morocco, Jebel Toubkal, but that to me makes it all the more rewarding to those who make the effort to visit this special mountain.