Located in southwestern Morocco, nestled into the Toubkal National Park, stands the Jbel Toubkal mountain, majestic and impressive. With a stunning height of 4,167 metres, this particular peak is the single highest mountain in North Africa, located in the Atlas Mountains. Looking from the ridge of the summit, those who journey to the top are given a breathtaking view of clear blue eyes and mountains dusted with snow, which is always a bit of a surreal sensation in Africa.
The history of the mountain is just as interesting as its use now as a tourist attraction, as it was not until June in 1923 that the mountain was first scaled by Europeans, Vincent Berger, known as the Marquis de Segonzac, and Hubert Dolbeau. Of course, with this mountain so steeped in the midst of civilization and culture, it is no wonder that the mountain has most likely been scaled before.
Morocco Trekking Route
For those considering a tour to the Toubkal Summit, these tours are often a week long, but can be shorter for those who are pressed for time. They can be extended to an even more leisurely pace, should you want to experience more of the scenery that Toubkal towers over–a circuit tour of the valleys with a culmination to the top makes for a memorable Morocco trip.
More often than not, most hikers begin their journey in Imlil. Having held this role as the starting point for most High Atlas Mountain hikes, the village is home to many tour guides. It’s best to book your guide through a Morocco tour operator as you’ll want to make sure you have certified guides, cooks and mules. Porters are also available so that you can carry the food and equipment you do not want to leave without as you progress higher along the mountains. A concern for the mules is to be sure not to overload your animals with too much equipment, and remember that a refuge built of stone is available, meaning you most likely will not need a tent, or even much food. All these things will be accounted for the moment you book through a Morocco tour operator.
With an easy walk, you start from Imlil and make your way to Aroumd, a quaint village that is quite close. After passing through Aroumd, trekkers pass the floodplain and then continue along a route that takes them southward along the leftmost slope of Toubkal’s valley. This gives aficionados a chance to observe much of the natural environment in the Park, while enjoying the experience of the hike until they reach Sidi Chamharouch, which is a small settlement entirely developed around a Muslim shrine at the location.
From Sidi Chamharough, the tour will continue past it over a stream and then up a steep climb along the Isougouane valley’s right side. From there, mountaineers can pause for rest at the Refuge du Toubkal and the old Neltner Refuge, two more refuges that are often considered a “base camp.” Located at 3,207 metres up, this is where travelers can actually begin to feel that they are nearing the monumental part of the journey; you can buy very good food and also set up your tent for a small fee near the refuge. Now there are two refuges of equal comfort and distance from the summit of Mt. Toubkal.
After resting at the refuges, the journey then continues on past another stream and up a slope to the east that is just as steep before reaching a valley. Again, there is another steep climb, which establishes that one has reached Tizi’n’Toubkal at 3,940 metres. With the breathtaking view there, one then turns northwards again and continues on to the summit of Jbel Toubkal proper. This particular summit is at an altitude of 4,167 metres, and there is a very interesting metal pyramidal frame at the top. From there, one can see a view that encompasses most of the Anti-Atlas and Atlas mountains.
Morocco Trekking Preparation
The summer is known to be the best time to climb, which begins in May for Morocco itineraries, and it is an easy, if not athletic, climb. For equipment, the thought is to have windproof clothing, sturdy boots, and even trekking poles . Depending on how early you arrive, the necessity of an ice-axe is evident, as some of the mountain still has snowfields. If you chill easily, be sure to pack all the necessary rain and wind clothing you’ll need to be happy. If you don’t need it, the mules will take it the rest of the way for you. Don’t worry about extra weight, but be careful not to pack more than 15-20 Kg (35-50 lbs).
For one who has time in Morocco and is an avid lover of nature or hiking, this trek to Jbel Toubkal’s summit cannot be missed. Whether you have two days or seven, this is a journey that will illuminate the beauty of the Atlas Mountains in North Africa and, in many ways, will hold a deeper connection with the traveler.
by Sam Mitchell