Hiking Toubkal – Getting High Up in the Atlas

Mount Toubkal

Nah, not that kind of high. Lafoo.

Hiking Mt. Toubkal is my greatest accomplishment yet. At 4,167 meters, it’s “the highest mountain in Northern Africa” and is maybe the most difficult physical activity I’ve ever completed. I’m not sure if it was because I was already tired the day I began or if it’s really that difficult. Either way, it was tough.

hiking mount toubkal
Dead on the way up

To get to the stating point for Toubkal, I took an hour and a half grand taxi ride from Marrakesh to Imlil for 50 dirhams. The taxis leave from a place called Sidi Moumen. Ask a cab driver for this location by name or just tell them you’re looking for the shared cab to Imlil.

After arriving at the Imlil taxi stop, it’s just a quick little 8 hour hike to the Toubkal summit. I began walking from Imlil at 2:00pm and reached the Toubkal refuge at 6:30pm to spend the night before continuing to the top. The refuge costs 130 dirham per person plus more for food if you don’t bring your own. Come prepared with cash from Marrakesh because once you reach Imlil there’s no ATM (I made that mistake and it’s not a fun one. You’re at the mercy of kindness of others and may be reduced to tears).

Mount Toubkal
Going up the Mountain

Most people walk from Imlil to the refuge, spend the night, and then get up early in the morning to complete the summit. At 7am (late compared to other guests), I started the next hike and arrived finally at the top four hours later. The view is worth it and I had the greatest sense of euphoria after finally taking those last steps to the top. A huge smile crept into my face all on its own. The end of the hike is snowy, steep and cold and I couldn’t have been more excited to have finally made it. The top is super windy so the enjoyment of the view only lasted about 15 minutes before I left to start the journey all the way back down.

Top of mount toubkal
Finally at the Summit

A testament to the difficulty and steepness of the path from the refuge to the summit is the fact that it took four hours to go up and only two on the way back down. The way down is fast and slippery and for the last bit I slid through the snow on my butt to make it the rest of the way. I was tired of walking.

After a quick stop at the refuge, it was time to walk all the way back to town. This took around four hours – almost the same as going up although I think I walked a little more lackadaisically on the way back – I had more time and wasn’t afraid of the sun setting. At this point, I could have returned to Marrakesh (the last cab back leaves at 6:00pm) but I suggest staying another night in town because the scenery is beautiful and relaxing. I much prefer it to the busy Marrakesh.

Hiking mount toubkal
Walking back down to Imlil

Some things to know if you want to climb Toubkal:

  1. You don’t need a guide. Or a map. Locals will try to sell you both but the path is mostly clear and if you’re confused at any point there are enough people walking that you can easily ask for directions.
  2. Bring sunscreen. I borrowed some so I was good but I was told many horror stories of terrible sunburn, especially from the second day when the sun reflects off of the snow.
  3. Start early the first day. Really both days but on the first I think the hike was unnecessarily difficult for me because I had to move fast to make sure I wouldn’t run out of sunlight.
  4. Buy crampons. You won’t want to because you’ll think the vendors are just trying to sell you extra equipment but they’ll be necessary for the snowy leg before the summit. It’ll cost you either 80 or 100 dirham for two days depending on the quality you choose. The cheaper ones were fine for me. Also wear hiking boots. If you don’t have your own you can negotiate a deal to get them thrown in with the crampons for a little extra cash.
  5. You can do it! The hike was hard work but I’m very glad I finished it. It’s a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the High Atlas of Morocco. Have fun! Besaha!

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