Want a mountain adventure that will get your heart pumping and your legs aching, that requires kit beyond the usual waterproofs? Then scaling Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa’s Atlas Mountains at 4,167 metres, is where it’s at.
Easily done over a long weekend, including a much-needed post-climb breather in a Marrakech riad, this tour from Much Better Adventures is a short jaunt you won’t forget in a hurry.
Toubkal presents the ideal challenge for those who want to take their mountaineering from long yomps in the Lake District and Snowdonia to a new level. There’s the odd scramble, but no need to be roped in – so as long as you’re in good physical shape and can handle trekking up to ten hours in one go, you’re good to go.
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The arid Atlas are a world apart from the wet, grassy slopes found in the northern parts of the UK. This two-day adventure starts with a drive south from the city of Marrakech to the village of Imlil, where you’ll be met by a local guide who’ll take you all the way to the summit.
Imlil stands at 1,800 metres above sea level, so you’ve already got a decent head start before you pull on your boots and make your way through verdant gardens and Berber farming villages, before emerging into a dry river bed.
From here, the path takes a steep turn up to the shrine of Sidi Chamharouch. Named after the so-called Sultan of the Jinns – local spirits that are said to have control over the area – this is a holy place and a handy stop-off for lunch. This is cooked by the tour’s porters, who also carry any extra luggage you can’t fit in your backpack on the backs of their mules.
The route then snakes up a narrow pass, with snowy Toubkal and its surrounding peaks looming in the distance.
As the route heads towards the mountain refuge at 3,200 metres, the altitude starts to kick in – breathing becomes shallower, walking more ponderous. Thankfully, the refuge provides the perfect overnight stop, with a large dining hall, amazing Moroccan food, sugary mint tea and a comfortable bed before the final assault.
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The latter starts at 3.30am. If you’re climbing in spring or autumn, you’ll need crampons, which will be supplied by your guide. They’ll also carry ice axes, just in case. Head torches are a must, lighting a path up a vertiginous snow field as the sun rises over the roof of North Africa.
When you crest the ridge, it’s just another hour’s hard trek to the top. The views, needless to say, are incredible.
The trek back down is done in one go, meaning your knees will be feeling the pace by the time you reach Imlil. Mercifully, you’ll be dropped back at Marrakech in time for a quick meal and a night’s sleep before hopping on a flight home the following morning.
Where to fly into
Marrakech Airport is just 4.5 miles from the centre of the city. EasyJet, British Airways, Ryanair and Royal Air Maroc offer flights from across the UK. Flights aren’t included in the tour, but transfers from the airport to Marrakech are. You’ll have a night to acclimatise before your guide collects you for the hike from Imlil.
The three night trips costs £303 per person with Much Better Adventures, excluding flights, departing throughout October. Meals in Marrakech are not included, but food on the hike is.
The price also includes porters who will carry luggage up the refuge on mules. Remember to buy travel insurance that covers adventure sports.