I summited Toubkal the highest peak in North Africa (Part 1)
What is Toubkal ? Toubkal in winter and how to decide the time of the ascension ?
Toubkal is a 4167m peak in Imlil near Marrakech, Morocco. It is the highest peak in North Africa, located South West in the High Atlas range. It is not a technical summit, but may be challenging for the beginners, especially if the altitude sickness kicks in.
The website I used for checking regularly the weather on the summit was mountain-forecast.com, exactly at this link : https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Toubkal/forecasts/4167 . You should check for the wind and snow fall, also the temperatures and chill, to have an idea on how cold it is up there in the mountain. We chose a clear and not so windy day for the summit.
The trip from Rabat to Imlil
The trip from Rabat to Imlil was approximately a 6 hours drive, through the A1 and A3 highways, then R203 to Asni village, and finally taking the P2005 route to Imlil. The road condition is generally good, except the route from Marrakech to Asni which is a bit challenging, due to the existence of many zigzags through the rocky mountains. One should pay attention there to the falling rocks on the road.
Gearing up for the trip
2. Packed material in the car
The stay in Imlil
Before arriving to Imlil, our stay was already arranged with Hamid our guide to the summit. He booked a two nights stay in Imlil in a nice motel, managed by a nice personnel who took great care of us, the value for money was unbeatable.
Before heading to Dar Arghane motel, we firstly borrowed all the gear we needed to make the ascension as smooth as possible. In Imlil there are shops all over the place that land material for some amount of money per day. The list of gears we borrowed is as follows :
snow cleats (crampons) : 35 DH/day
warm gloves : 20 DH/day
pants : 50 DH/day
boots : 50 DH/day
hiking poles : 20 DH/day
guetres : 20 DH/day
the treck from Imlil to Refuge
We woke up around 7h30 a.m and took our breakfast in a terasse that had a nice view on the mountains surrounding Imlil village. Hamid came then to meet us and make sure we took everything we needed. I started my wikiloc, a treck tracing app, then headed into the mountains. The first landmark in our way to the Refuge of Toubkal was a small village called Armed, containing a security checkpoint managed by some gendarmes. You should present your identity card, otherwise they won't let you pass. The security in the Toubkal national park has been tightened after the sad events of the assassination of some dane tourists.
Breakfast at Dar Arghane, Said took great care of us
After Armed, we headed to Chamharouch and arrived there around 11 a.m. Chamharouch is a small village on the way to the refuge, home to some religious rituals. People come here to visit Chamharouch, the king of djinns, to wish the best for their lives and pray. This was an opportunity for us to rest a bit, drink a cup of coffee, and purchase some food for the trecherous road ahead.
The road from Imlil to the refuge de Toubkal was not an easy one. This took us around 8 hours of walking, with more than 1500m altitude gain. This wasn't easy for Halima who stopped midway due to altitude sickness symptoms. But luckily, people here have mules which help transporting luggage and also people for some amount of money. So we decided it was better for halima to land one, which took her close to the refuge. We followed steps after, and arrived to the end of the rocky road where mules stop in winter season. Mules can not go further because they have difficulties walking in snowy terrain.
Park National de Toubkal Landmark
Ayman and our Guide Hamid
Aymane and me posing for some photos, a chance to catch our breath
Chamharouch, the religious site from above
Mules and their conductors are indispensable in the region, they port material as well as people who become too ill or tired from the mountain.
The last point before the snowy road to the Refuge de Toubkal. We stopped here for a while to eat something and rest
The snowy road was long, steepy. The snow was thick, which made the walk even more physically demanding. Eventually, the magical view of the refuge de Toubkal made us forget a bit of the suffering from the long walk. We were happy we made it to half of the summit road. When arrived, we changed clothes, and sat in the warm salon close to the fireplace. We also put our sucks and boots close to it to dry them, while waiting for the tajine to come.
The refuge du Toubkal is in the background
Refuge du Toubkal
It's freezing outside the refuge du Toubkal, but the views are breathtaking
People arriving at the refuge du Toubkal
Said was a nice guide from the region, he was guiding an other group, we had great conversations with him and took some photos as well.