The first recorded ascent of Morocco’s Mount Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak, was just over a hundred years ago, on 12 June 1923, by the Marquis de Segonzac, Vincent Berger and Hubert Dolbeau. However, you don’t need a title to top Toubkal (4,167m) these days. You just need a good level of fitness, an excellent local guide, at least two days to ascend and descend, a willingness to clamber or don crampons, and a taste for strong mint tea. Climbing Toubkal is a tough trek but it’s a stupendous one and, in order to summit it safely and sustainably, with plenty of fun thrown into the magical Moroccan mix, all our Toubkal tours are fully guided. We don’t recommend climbing Toubkal without guides. Here are our top Toubkal tips and titbits.
Where is Toubkal located?
The local name is Jebel Toubkal, and its towering summit is just 60km, as the crow flies, from Marrakech. It’s the master of the High Atlas Mountains, a range that reaches across into Algeria and Tunisia. Indeed, it’s as if the Atlas range carries North Africa on its shoulders. The gateway town for trekking in the mountains, and to start your climb of Toubkal in Imlil, which is a busy hub for the local Berber population and visiting trekkers.
Where does the Toubkal climb start?
For the actual ascent, the first day involves a guided hike up from Imlil through Mizane Valley to the Mouflons Toubkal Refuge (3,207m), where the snowline begins, depending on the time of year. You start your ascent before dawn on the second day, clambering over rocks and scree to the pinnacle at 4,167m, where you can collapse at or kiss the pyramidal metal trigonometric marker that was put in place and officially noted the height of Toubkal a year after its first summit. And from which you can take in views of the Atlas Range and Toubkal National Park that protects much of it.
When is the best time to climb Toubkal?
Our Toubkal tours run all year round and, because they are fully guided, you will be provided with all the equipment you need when snow and ice set in around the high peaks. This can be anytime between October and March. If you have winter trekking experience, then Toubkal in winter will offer an exciting challenge, even if you don’t have the technical skills, as crampons, ice picks and ropes are provided locally and training given on the spot.
If you are new to summit challenges and big metre measurements, we recommend climbing Toubkal either during the spring months of April and May or the autumn, before the temperatures drop again, but still cool enough that your muscles are the only things that are burning. In Morocco, you could be surfing in the sun in October, while the weather in Toubkal starts to hit more wintery waves. Climate change, plus ça change.
“Brilliant organisation from start to finish. Great guide, great cook, beautiful scenery. Highly recommended” – Rog, from Cotswolds, on our Mount Toubkal Express holiday.
Types of Mount Toubkal tours
Climbing Toubkal comes in many forms: speedy or snowy, chilled but less chilly. If you want to summit at speed, our two day Toubkal Express tour takes you from Marrakech to Imlil (1,740m) by car in the morning, and then you trek from there with your guide, mule and support team up to what’s known as Toubkal Base Camp, or the Mouflons Toubkal Refuge mountain lodge (3,207m), in six to seven hours. Then up before dawn the next morning to summit and down it, all within nine to 11 hours, ending the day back in Marrakech, in time for a hammam. What can we say except, this is a trip.
You can take a bit more time to take in the wonders of the Atlas, and also acclimatise to the elevations, climbing Toubkal in three days or five days. Both of these Toubkal tours include an acclimatisation hike to Tizi M’Zik Pass (2,664m), taking in some of the sweeping Atlas valleys such as Oukaïmeden and Azzaden, and their juniper and pine forests en route. And also taking away some of the nerves!
You can choose to add layers of other Atlas treks around your summit of Toubkal on our seven day Toubkal tour, where you ease your way into these magnificent mountains for four days before taking on the summit, staying in traditional riads and mountain lodges en route. Or you can have desert after your main Toubkal course, and head into the Sahara for some very different sandy summits.
Accommodation while climbing Toubkal
For the big climb, the main accommodation is at the Mouflons Toubkal Refuge, at an elevation of 3,207m and close enough for you to ascend to the summit before sunrise and be back in the city for sunset. Like all mountain huts or refuges, this is basic mountain fare, with seven non-mixed dormitories sleeping up to 30 people, and shared bathroom facilities, as well as some single and family rooms with their own showers. On our Toubkal tours we book spaces in the dormitories by default, and will try to get the other rooms if they are available, when requested.
The Mouflons is also a mountain icon, very welcoming, comfortable and bursting with camaraderie, with over thirty years’ experience hosting climbers en route to the great summit. The dormitory beds have clean sheets, but you should bring a sleeping bag and liner. We recommend a three season one between June and August, and a four season for all other months. If you don’t have one, we can organise one for you, free of charge.
For other accommodation, prior to or after your Toubkal ascent, you will stay in traditional riads or guesthouses, selected by The Natural Adventure based on a variety of criteria including their location, warm hospitality, great local food or commitment to responsible tourism.
Solo travellers are welcome on our Toubkal trips and, when necessary, a supplement will be charged when accommodation or transfers aren’t shared. Climbing Toubkal is actually very suitable for solo adventurers, as they have the support of an expert high mountain guide and a support team throughout. In the mountain lodge at Toubkal Base Camp, the dormitories are divided per gender and not mixed.
Climbing Toubkal gear
In order to prepare for your Mount Toubkal trek and feel comfortable out in the Atlas Mountains, you do need to have some proper hiking gear, starting with sturdy and well worn-in hiking boots for the dry, rocky and scree covered trails, as well as walking poles. If you don’t have walking poles, we can provide them, free of charge. As with all mountain walking holidays, you need layers of moisture-wicking clothing, a fleece, down jacket and wind/waterproof shell, as well as hiking trousers. We recommend both summer and winter hats if travelling outside winter months, a neck warmer, waterproof gloves and thermals of course, including a thermal tube for your water bottle to stop it freezing over in the winter months.
Other practical gear includes ear plugs for the shared accommodation, a head torch for pre-dawn rude awakenings, sun cream, good quality sunglasses for hiking at elevations, and a refillable water bottle, all packed in a backpack weighing no more than 20kg to be transported by mule. As mentioned above, you also need a sleeping bag and liner.