11 Apr Climbing North Africa’s Highest Mountain
Ever dreamt of climbing North Africa’s highest mountain? The good news is it’s more accessible than you would think.
A few years ago I planned a trip to Morocco with the goal of climbing North Africa’s highest mountain. That meant heading to the Atlas Mountains, a range spanning most of North Africa including Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. On this occasion we’ll be headed to Mount Toubkal situated in Morocco.
At 4,167 metres (13,671 ft), Mount Toubkal is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains, North Africa and the Arab World. In this article we will show you why this mountain should be on your list.
This is a good place to start before we begin discuss climbing North Africa’s highest mountain.
Time: I would estimate that you need approximately three or fours days free to arrive, climb and leave.
Flights: Fly into Marrakech Airport
Travel: From Marrakech to Imlil إمليل (small village before your climb) it is about a few hours by car – catch up on some sleep, you won’t get much from here on in.
Guide: I would highly recommend getting a guide. They always know the latest conditions.
Climbing North Africa’s Highest Mountain
At just 63km south of the city of Marrakesh, Mount Toubkal is easily accessible to climbers. We travelled from Marrakech airport into town, got ripped off by a taxi driver (standard) and headed to the Riad we had booked for one night in town. This gave us a chance to explore the old town and its wild markets.
In the morning we grabbed breakfast on the roof of our riad and enjoyed the quiet across the city.
Because we booked a guide for our climb, they came to pick us up from our riad, usually because they don’t want anyone else stealing their business 😉
Mount Toubkal Two Day Trek
After a few hours drive into the stunning Atlas Mountains we arrived at the small town of Imlil and met up with our guide.
We chose to go climbing Toubkal during it’s coldest period, over Winter. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend it, it does make for amazing sunrises and stunning vistas. According to professional advice, the best time to climb Mount Toubkal is around Spring.
Whilst we waited, we were offered the very Moroccan traditional sweet tea. During the heat of the day, it’s ideal.
The climb is broken down into two days. The first day was spent hiking across gorges and navigating passes, these are well worn tracks with locals travelling on foot from village to village. Expect lots of great local interactions.
At this stage in the climb it is heavy going as we’re hiking during the heat of the day with any gear you’re carrying on your back, but you’ll be glad to know we’re headed for a quiet refuge situated in the mountains where climbers rest before making the final climb.
The refuge, known locally as Les Mouflon, is nestled in a valley and acts as a great melting pot for climbers and a good jump off point for the final climb. We rested at the refuge until 4am, with intermittent sleep.
It was a 4am start for a reason – we were climbing for dawn. It was our goal to get to the peak as the morning’s rays crested the valley providing some ideal views. Only problem with this plan was that we would be climbing in the shadow of the mountain, with minimal light and icy foot holds, progress was slow.
After resting behind rocks out of the cold winds, we pushed for the peak of Mount Toubkal. The reward was welcomed, we were presented with the best possible views we could have hoped for.
Taking in our surroundings at dawn – Peak of Mount Toubkal, Morocco
Surrounding peaks basked in the glow of the Winter dawn
Why Climb Mount Toubkal?
If by now you haven’t been convinced, all I can say is this:
- Morocco is a very accessible country from Europe, flight times are ~3 hours from the UK
- Experienced and Beginner hikers alike will find reward in this climb
- Adventurers come here from across Europe
- Morocco is crazy, but also crazy beautiful too
- You have the additional benefit of the Sahara Desert and Old City of Marrakech to follow up your adventure
On this adventure we actually squeezed a whole host of other activities in, including a night in the Sahara and horse back riding in the Atlas Mountains, but I will discuss those in another article.
In the meantime, enjoy this old edit of hitting the peak of Mount Toubkal at dawn – we had the place to ourselves!