Lance Ranger, Attendus Company AG director, is a committed fundraiser who supports various charities, having completed the Last Degree Trek in the South Pole, as well as an ascent of Mount Toubkal in Morocco, scaling North Africa’s highest peak. This article will take a look at Mount Toubkal and its unique geographical features, flora and fauna, providing an overview of what it takes to conquer Morocco’s tallest mountain.
With a summit 4,167 metres above sea level, Jebel (meaning ‘Mount’) Toubkal lies within the High Atlas mountain range in an agriculturally rich region of Morocco. The mountains overlook apple, apricot, almond and cherry groves, which blossom in February each year in a riot of colours and scents.
Reaching the summit of Mount Toubkal requires a good level of fitness, an experienced local guide and a minimum of two days to make the ascent and descent, along with crampons and a taste for the strong mint tea that is so popular locally.
Located 60 kilometres from Marrakech as the crow flies, Mount Toubkal sits within a vast mountain range that reaches across Morocco into Algeria and Tunisia. On the map, the High Atlas mountains give the appearance of carrying the whole of North Africa on their broad shoulders. The town of Imlil serves as a gateway to the mountain range and is a busy hub for both visiting trekkers and the local Berber population.
Ascent of Mount Toubkal starts in earnest with a hike through the Mizane Valley to the Mouflons Toubkal Refuge, which sits 3,207 metres above sea level. It is here that the snowline typically starts, depending on the time of year. Trekkers are recommended to start their guided ascent before dawn on the second day, negotiating scree and rocks to reach the pinnacle at 4,167 metres. Here, some hikers collapse with sheer exhilaration and exhaustion, while others kiss the pyramidal metal trigonometric marker that was placed there the year after Vincent Berger, Hubert Dolbeau and the Marquis de Segonzac first scaled Mount Toubkal on 12th June, 1923.
The summit of Mount Toubkal presents stunning views across the Atlas Mountains and Toubkal National Park, which protects most of the range. Toubkal received designated status as a national park in 1942 to preserve not only Morocco’s tallest peak but Lake Ifni, along with region’s golden eagle, brown trout and barbary sheep, as well as rare flora found locally, such as thuriferous juniper and holm oak.
The exceptional beauty of the mountains lures climbers and hikers from all over the world, with the park’s landscape incorporating plateaus, cliffs, gorges and valleys for visitors to experience and explore. Prehistoric drawings have also been discovered in the area, although some of these have been defaced.
Visitors can tackle mighty Mount Toubkal between the months of October and March, with winter trekking experiences presenting a particularly exciting challenge. Even those who have not yet honed their technical skills – such as using ropes, ice picks and crampons – can enjoy the challenge, benefiting from the experience of seasoned guides and training locally.
For those new to big metre measurement summit challenges, the optimum time to climb Mount Toubkal is either during the spring between the months of April and May or during the autumn before the temperatures start to plummet (but avoiding the searing heat of summer). While an express tour will enable visitors to ascend and descend comfortably within two days, for those who can afford to take a little more time to explore the wonders of the Atlas and acclimatise to its elevations, taking three to five days to complete the trek takes the pressure off, enabling climbers to enjoy the sweeping valley views of Azzaden and Oukaïmeden and the pine and juniper valleys en route.
Mount Toubkal presents an excellent introduction to the world of mountaineering that can be completed within a long weekend. Summitting Morocco’s tallest mountain is a very different experience to scaling the European Alps, presenting awe-inspiring scenery along with warmer climates and delicious Moroccan cuisine.
Prior to embarking on their adventure, there are a few considerations for trekkers to keep in mind. At the 4,167-metre-high summit, oxygen levels are approximately 40% less than at sea level, making the going much harder. Scaling Mount Toubkal therefore demands a reasonable level of fitness. However, local guides provide plenty of food, enabling visitors to make the journey, and set the pace at a sustainable rate to help hikers acclimatise, giving them the best chance of reaching the summit. Trekking at high altitudes burns vast amounts of energy. With this in mind, hard-working trekking support teams cook delicious, freshly-prepared meals to help hikers replenish their energy levels and prepare for the next leg. There are also extra supplies available for purchase along the route. It is also vital for hikers to pay attention to their water intake, drinking little and often to ward off dehydration.