Located only 65 km south of Marrakech, and at an altitude of 4,167 metres, Mount Toubkal is the highest peak in Morocco, the High Atlas Mountains and North Africa. Also known as Jebel (or Jbel) Toubkal, this impressive massif is a mecca for trekkers who climb to the summit for magnificent views of the Atlas range, and the satisfaction of conquering one of Africa’s most famous mountains. It is the central attraction of Morocco’s Mount Toubkal National Park.
One of the first recorded ascents of Toubkal by Europeans was on 12 June 1923 by the Marquis de Segonzac, V. Berger, and H. Dolbeau. Little did these intrepid climbers realise that over 80 years later, thousands of High Atlas trekkers would follow in their footsteps every summer on a pilgrimage to the summit.
An ascent of Mount Toubkal is one of Morocco’s most popular attractions, achieved in as little as two days, but normally included as a highlight of a longer trek in the High Atlas, of up to 10 days or more.
A Toubkal ascent is possible after the snows have melted, with the season lasting from the start of May through to the end of September. The route is non-technical and relatively easy for experienced hikers and trekkers, only complicated by steep and slippery scree slopes and the risk of altitude sickness. Sturdy boots and windproof clothing is required, whilst trekking poles are helpful on the scree. An ice-axe may be needed on the remaining snowfields in the early summer.
It is possible to climb Mount Toubkal in two days – first day up to the refuge (around seven hours without mules), second day to the summit (around five hours) and back to Imlil (up to five hours). In summer the mountains can be very dry, but are sometimes subjected to storms – often in August. Although the temperature should keep above zero during the day, freezing conditions are possible over 3,500m. In winter the mountains are covered in snow and ice, and can be prone to avalanches. Skiing is possible as the snow can lie to considerable depth and covers many rocky slopes.
Trekkers usually approach the mountain from the village of Imlil. Hiring a qualified local mountain guide is wise, as well as mules and mule handlers, for transport of equipment and food supplies.
The standard route commences with an easy walk to the village of Aroumd. Past Aroumd a floodplain is crossed from where the route follows the left slope of the valley southwards. The valley bends to the east to the tiny settlement of Sidi Chamharouch, which has grown around a Muslim shrine. At Sidi Chamharouch a path leads over the stream and steeply uphill to the right side of the Isougouane valley, which leads to two stone-built refuges (old Neltner Refuge and new Refuge du Toubkal, 3,207m).
From that point a path crosses the stream, climbs a steep scree slope to the east and enters a valley (corrie), then climbs another steep slope to reach a col (Tizi’n’Toubkal at 3,940m). At the col the route turns left (northwards) to the summit ridge of Jebel Toubkal. The 4,167m summit is crowned with a curious pyramidal metal frame and views take in most of the Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains.
Spend a night in relative comfort at Neltner Hut and prepare for an early morning start before a summit attempt of Toubkal.
At only 65 km from Marrakech, Imlil can be reached by private vehicle (with driver) in around 1 1/2 hours. The road narrows considerably after the turn-off from the market town of Asni, winding for 18 km up into the village. Once in Imlil travel is on foot (or possibly by mule for those who need assistance).
- Experience the sense of reward of reaching the summit of North Africa’s highest peak.
- Encounter the hospitable Berber people during a High Atlas trek on the Toubkal Massif.
- Witness dramatic views of the surrounding High Atlas mountains on a clear day.