For anyone who has no idea what Jebel Toubkal is, at 4167m it is the highest mountain in Morocco. Often referred to as ‘Toubkal’, located just 60km from Marrakesh in the High Atlas Mountains it is also the highest point in North Africa. From the summit the views are spectacular, stretching across the Moroccan plains in the north and west all the way to the coast and to the anti-atlas and Sahara in the south.
Climbing to the summit of Toubkal during the summer months requires no technical skills and is better described as a stiff walk rather than a climb, and it can be achieved by anyone with an average level of fitness.
Being so close to Marrakesh, Toubkal is an ideal objective for a weekend trip. You can fly from the UK after work on a Friday, stand on the summit during the early part of Sunday morning and be back home in the UK later that evening in time for work on Monday. An overview of this itinerary is as follows:
- Friday (early evening): Fly to Marrakesh and travel by road to Imlil for an overnight stay
- Saturday: Early start for a 5 to 7 hour trek (about 12km with just under 1500m of height gain) to the Toubkal refuges at 3207m.
- Sunday: Early start, leaving the refuge after breakfast at about 0500 aiming to summit at about 0730 - 0800. Return to refuge then trek back to Imlil for a transfer to Marrakesh and early evening flight back to the UK.
Before you decide that this is the trip for you though, it’s worth pausing to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages.
In terms of advantages, being able to climb Toubkal in a weekend means that you can save those hard earned holidays for something else and because it’s only a weekend trip it’ll be relatively cheap.
The main disadvantage is the risk of failing to summit due of altitude sickness. There are no reliable statistics available to show success rates on Toubkal for weekend travellers but in my experience of this mountain, roughly 60% of all those attempting Toubkal in a weekend suffer from mild forms of altitude sickness. Most experience headaches and nausea and a large proportion end up turning back before reaching the summit, which is disappointing but absolutely the right decision. Of those who are successful, many report having not enjoyed it due to headaches and general feelings of nausea and tiredness.
The underlying cause of this lack of success is mainly due to the compressed itinerary, denying the weekend traveller the essential time required for the body to adjust to the altitude.
Enjoying an ascent to 4167m is perfectly achievable when properly acclimatised. Monkey Mountaineering always tries to maximise your chances of success and for these reasons I do not advise tackling Toubkal over a weekend. If you want to climb Jebel Toubkal, enjoy the experience and give yourself the best chances of success I recommend a longer itinerary which includes some trekking at lower altitudes and more time to allow proper acclimatisation.
The following suggested requires 6 days and allows plenty of time to acclimatise by incorporating trekking over a high pass and climbing two other easy 4000m peaks in the area:
- Day 1: Fly from the UK to Marrakesh and transfer to Imlil for dinner and an overnight stay.
- Day 2: After breakfast, trek from Imlil into the Azzadene Valley crossing the Tizi n’Mzik at 2450m and onto the refuge at Azib n’ Tamsoult (2250m).
- Day 3: Climb up past the spectacular Ighouliden waterfalls before reaching the Aguelzim Pass at 3560m. Descend to the Toubkal refuges for an overnight stay.
- Day 4: Climb Morocco’s second and third highest mountains (Timesguida – 4088m and Ras – 4083m) often collectively referred to as Jebel Ouanoukrim. Second night at the Toubkal refuges.
- Day 5: Pre-dawn start to summit Toubkal before returning to the refuges and then descending back to Imlil. Transfer to Marrakesh for overnight stay.
- Day 6: At leisure in Marrakesh before being transferred back to the airport for your flight home.
To summarise, you can climb Toubkal in a weekend from the UK but I believe the best way to approach this mountain is to give yourself a bit more time to acclimatise by adopting an itinerary that factors this in. I followed the suggested itinerary earlier this year as part of my research for establishing trips to the High Atlas. I was fortunate enough to arrive on the otherwise deserted summit of Toubkal in perfect conditions, just after sunrise, well hydrated with no headache or feelings of nausea. A thoroughly enjoyable experience and one that I would recommend to anyone considering climbing this fantastic mountain.