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When I was offered the opportunity to join our one-week Mount Toubkal trekking holiday the emotions were mixed. I was filled with excitement at the prospect of something new; a country I’d never visited before, a new challenge and a real adventure which I knew I’d never do on my own – but I was also bubbling with worries about whether I was fit enough for the challenge, how I’d cope with the heat, the altitude, camping, being in a group of people I didn’t know… the list was endless.

I chatted to as many people in the KE office I could find to glean any helpful insights, went walking up and down as many Lakes fells as I could and bought or borrowed the kit before setting off in a state of nervous anticipation.




I met my friendly group and our leader at our hotel in Marrakech and felt better immediately.  We chatted with each other about expectations for the trip and the next morning we set off for the short transfer into the Atlas Mountains where we would begin our trek in the ski resort town of Oukaimeden.


Lahcen our guide


We had a short walk to our first lunch spot; a table was set up under a shady tree and we were presented with the most amazing salad.  I decided there and then I was going to love this experience.  The trip started in earnest after that with a longer hike up a pass and down into the valley. The amazing team of muleteers had the tents all put up for us when we arrived at our camp at Foussarou.  We were invited into the larger meal tent for the very important ritual of green tea before dinner and finished with camomile tea and this continued every night. 


sunset camp


Lunches and dinners involved beautifully presented salads, vegetables, meat and rice, tagines, spaghetti, lentils and couscous.  The camping was nothing to worry about; the sight of blue canvas to signify our camp was always a welcome beacon after long days of walking and we were only too happy to roll into a tent and sleep (accompanied by various noises such as frogs calling to each other by the lake, the clatter of mules’ hooves on the rocks, and yes, the occasional snore emanating from fellow adventurers’ tents!) 

The spots we camped in were beautiful and remote: we hardly saw another soul for days.  My favourite spot was by the lake, which shone a gorgeous sparkling turquoise blue in the sun as we arrived, changing colour as the day passed and the sun moved down – always tranquil and beautiful, but a world away from home.


camp day 2


The scenery and views were incredible and diverse; we passed through meadows of wildflowers, over arid rocky ground and through Berber villages. There were audible gasps from the whole group when we reached the top of the pass on our second morning of walking, to look down over a cloud inversion, the Atlas and Anti-Atlas mountains and our first view of Toubkal.   I think it’s fair to say the days were tiring but the views compensated for any aching limbs, the pace was perfect and we felt that we were in very capable hands with our guide, Lahcen, who was cheerful, calm and very knowledgeable.


Lale Ifni from the pass


The day before our Toubkal ascent we made our way up to the high Ouanoums Pass; the views were superb.  We couldn’t believe how far we’d come, looking back at the tiny patch of blue that was Lake Ifni from which we’d set off that morning.  We then walked down the valley to the refuge area known as Toubkal Base Camp. 

This was a busier spot with groups who’d just come down from the mountain relaxing outside in the sunshine and others arriving like us.  We were camping nearby, rather than staying in the refuge and we were happy about that, wanting our own space before the Big Day.  We had our dinner and turned in for a very early night, in preparation for a 2.45am wake-up call to give us a quick breakfast and departure at 3.30am.


view from Toubkal with group


We set off with headtorches in the pitch black, not really having much idea of our bearings.  It was a quiet ascent as we concentrated on following the pair of feet in front of us, but the pace was steady and we made good progress, with several stops. There was an air of quiet determination and anticipation from all of us.  We crossed a large patch of snow at one point and said hello to a few other Toubkalers.  The sun rose after 6am and we took a moment to admire the soft light and pink glow around the mountains. Eventually we arrived at the summit and the iconic black metal structure at around 8am.  We’d done it! 

It felt amazing, even though we knew we had about eight hours of walking still to do. It didn’t matter: this was the reason for the trip and the pinnacle.  The saying ‘feeling on top of the world’ is a bit of a cliché but at 4,167m we really were at the highest point around for hundreds of miles.  Slowly scanning the panoramic 360 degree view of mountains was indescribable – and a little emotional too, if I’m honest.  It’s not a sight to be taken for granted and we all had a moment of calm and thoughtfulness.


me and group top of Toubkal


For anyone considering a Toubkal trek, it does require a good general level of fitness; it probably isn’t for you if your knees or hips give you trouble as the walking is on rough terrain, slippery scree and loose boulders and the time spent walking is long, usually eight to nine hours and longer on the Toubkal day. 

However, the pace is slow and steady with plenty of rest stops. Don’t underestimate the importance of helpful fellow travellers, who will encourage and wait. “We’re a team,” my lovely One Week Toubkaler companions said.  Altitude sickness is a little indiscriminate in who it can affect but the trip route is designed to acclimatise you as much as possible (ascend high and sleep low) and nobody in my group had any trouble.


Toubkal KE flag group

I found coming down from Toubkal more difficult than the ascent. It seemed to take a very long time, with a bit of tiredness at play.  Eventually, however, we saw the base camp refuges and went back to celebrate with our chef and muleteers. We had lunch and said “goodbye” to the hard-working team with some group photos and lots of handshakes.

From there we had a walk downhill through the valley to the gite where we were staying – and a night in a bed!  The next day involved a look around the quaint village of Imlil and a mini bus trip back to Marrakech.  Here we finished our week having dinner in a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Koutoubia Mosque as the sun set.  It was the perfect end to the most incredible week.  I can’t recommend our One Week Toubkal trip enough!


Here are a few of my top tips for first timers:

  • Make sure you check the kit list carefully and that your boots are comfortable. I found poles invaluable. Practice wearing your full day bag before you go and do some long walks.
  • Bring a couple of litre bottles with you so you have plenty to drink – I had two water-to-go bottles with filters but water purifying tables are fine, too. You don’t want to run out of water, even though there were places to fill up every day and at camp.
  • Layers are good. Most of the time we were walking it was just t-shirt weather, but it was cooler at night in the camps and downright chilly as we ascended Toubkal – a woolly hat rather than a sunhat day
  • Bring snacks. Jelly babies and Kendal Mint cake helped me keep going when my legs were protesting that they could take me no further!
  • A hat with a chin strap is a good idea as it can be windy on the peaks.
  • If you use your phone as a camera bring a power bank so you can charge it at night in the tent. There isn’t any signal or wifi while you’re out trekking so having it on airplane mode means the battery lasts much longer than usual. Solar powered chargers are a good idea too. 
  • Bring some smarter clothes and a small day pack; you can leave this in the hotel in Marrakech and it’s so nice to wear something other than dusty walking gear when you come back, especially for the final meal.
  • Do take time to look around Marrakech too if you can, before or after the trip. It’s a fascinating city of contrasts, from the sensory overload of the main square to the cool tranquility of the gardens and courtyards. For anyone who likes coffee, a visit to Dar el Bacha is a must!
  • Enjoy every moment of the experience – it is enormously satisfying and the most amazing week away from reality!


Take a look at KE’s One Week Toubkal Trek or give us a call to plan your next holiday on +44 (0) 17687 73966 or USA/Canada toll-free 1888 630 4415.

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