At 4,167m, Mount Toubkal is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains. It is a non-technical summit requiring only a reasonable degree of fitness and determination. Toubkal (often called Jbel Toubkal) is easily reached from Marrakech and lays at the heart of a network of trekking trails that offer striking high altitude mountain scenery, lush valleys and relatively untouched Berber communities. Toubkal is climbable year round, albeit in winter, from Nov – May, snow settles above 3000m and crampons and ice axes are required.
We had a great trip and Trek in 2008 a group of friends from the Moray Mountaineering Club abd Stephen my stepson. It was an easy flight to Morocco and we hired a guide to collect us from the airport and make life easier. We went in September in Ramadam so that made life a bit more difficult but it was a grand trip.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and a time when Muslims across the world will fast during the hours of daylight.
Ramadan is the fourth of the five pillars of Islam.
The Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during this month. The actual night that the Qur’an was revealed is a night known as Lailut ul-Qadr (‘The Night of Power’).
The weather was due in 3 days so we were advised to go straight for Toubkal and had a long day on the way down but all went well.
We stayed the first night in the Toubkal refuge and as is normal it was a noisy night with little sleep and headed off early in the morning by torchlight.
I wore light weight boots and it was icy near the top but the normal route is fine on a good day. It would be very different on a wild day, there is so much scope with some great mountaineering in this area.
It was a good day and Ray waited for me and we enjoyed the last bit in icy snow, many others were now following and it can be a busy mountain. The views were incredible to the Sahara desert. The altitude was fine but you could have problems rushing an ascent, which many do.
Icy on the way up and we had a bit of a break on the summit in the sun but cold wind. I could have stayed longer but we had to get back in a day all the way to Imrin!
I had found some wreckage on the way up and there was big search in the 60’s for a Portuguese plane that crashed high on Toubkal and Hamish Brown the well known Scottish climber was involved in the SAR Operation that went on for many days.
An alternate ascent – though longer (4hr 30min) and best for more experienced climbers – is the North Cirque (Ikhibi Nord). En route you will pass the remains of an aircraft that crashed while flying arms to Biafra, and the cairn of the small peak of Tibherine dominating the valley is actually one of its engines.
It was then a great week of trekking in the area and seeing the sites, we stayed in local gites basic accommodation and food but an enjoyable trip. These are incredible people who have a hard tough life but are always smiling and enjoyed a good laugh, despite being hungry with Ramadam, but after this they had a wild night of celebration, we have much to learn from them. Unfortunately there were some awful campsites where some people had used the camp site as a toilet and they were mainly visitors to these places.
It was good fun and the walking was varied and interesting the mules carried most of our gear so we went lightweight every day marvelous. If I went again I would do more scrambling and take a rope there is so much scope.
I enjoyed the breaks and the sun most days. When it was possible the Mules were away ahead and met us with lunch in the open a lovely break of basic local food.
The trek was great different places each night some very simple places but always the cultivated fields and the red brick houses and lots of goats.
We had a great trip and the last day in Marakesh was interesting I loved it and could do with another trip when I get well.
I had been abroad in Masirah in the Persian Gulf during Ramadam and was amazed at the Fasting is intended to help teach Muslims self-discipline, self-restraint and generosity. It also reminds them of the suffering of the poor, who may rarely get to eat well.
It is common to have one meal (known as the suhoor), just before sunrise and another (known as the iftar), directly after sunset.
Because Ramadan is a time to spend with friends and family, the fast will often be broken by different Muslim families coming together to share in an evening meal.
Eid ul Fitr
The end of Ramadan is marked by a big celebration called ‘Eid-ul-Fitr‘, the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast.
Muslims are not only celebrating the end of fasting, but thanking Allah for the help and strength that he gave them throughout the previous month to help them practise self-control.
How many of us have this willpower?
The route – Most trekkers leaving Imlil are en route for the ascent of Jebel Toubkal – a walk rather than a climb after the snows have cleared, but serious business nonetheless. The route to the ascent trailhead, however, is fairly straightforward, and is enjoyable in its own right, following the Mizane Valley to the village of Aroumd, 4km from Imlil. From here, it’s one and a half hours min to the pilgrimage site of Sidi Chamarouch followed by another four to five hours to the Toubkal refuges (3208m; 12km from Imlil; 5–7hr in all; 100dh), which lie at the foot of Toubkal’s final slopes.
Most trekkers head to the refuges early to mid-morning in order to stay the night. Then, you’ll have a fresh start at first light the next morning for the ascent of Toubkal, which will allow for the clearest panorama from the peak – afternoons can be cloudy. Arriving at the Toubkal refuge early in the day also gives you time to acclimatize to the altitude and rest: many people find the hardest part of the trek is the last hour before arriving at the refuges, so it’s important to take it easy.
To the summit
At the Toubkal refuges you’re almost bound to meet people who have just come down from the mountain – and you should certainly take advantage of talking to them and the refuge gardiens for an up-to-the-minute description of the routes and the state of the South Cirque (Ikhibi Sud) trail to the summit. If you don’t feel too confident about going it alone, take a guide – they are usually available at the refuge – but don’t let them try to rush you up the mountain. It’s best to take your time allowing your body to acclimatize slowly to the altitude changes
The South Cirque (Ikhibi Sud) gives the most popular and straightforward ascent of Toubkal and, depending on your fitness, should take between two and a half and three and a half hours (2–2hr 30min coming down). There is a worn path, which is easy enough to follow. More of a problem is finding the right track down through the upper slopes of loose scree. Take your time coming down since it can be rough on the knees.
The trail begins above the Toubkal Refuge, dropping down to cross the stream and then climbing again to reach the first of Toubkal’s innumerable fields of boulders and scree. These are the most tiring (and memorable) features of the trek up, and gruelling for inexperienced walkers. The summit, a sloping plateau of stones marked by a tripod, is eventually reached after the serpentine path brings you to the spectacular southern cliffs. It should be stressed that in winter even this easiest of routes is a snow climb and best for experienced hikers or those climbing with a guide. Slips can and have had fatal consequences. If you are properly equipped, check out the start the night before, and set off early. Ice axes and crampons are essential in icy conditions and should be brought along with you. This is also a splendid ski route.
An alternate ascent – though longer (4hr 30min) and best for more experienced climbers – is the North Cirque (Ikhibi Nord). En route you will pass the remains of an aircraft that crashed while flying arms to Biafra, and the cairn of the small peak of Tibherine dominating the valley is actually one of its engines. The final ridge to the summit area calls for some scrambling. You should descend by the South Cirque back down to the refuges.
interesting article. I can particularly relate to your references about the local people. This was our experience too, reflected in a couple of blogs I wrote after our last ice climbing trip to the region
“Sometimes unfamiliar ways of life and different customs can seem a little threatening. It is not all rosy in Morocco but our experiences with these tough, good-natured people have been inspirational and humbling. Despite having little material wealth they are rich in spirit, gracious and incredibly hospitable. We will definitely return to enjoy their company again and look forward to exploring more fantastic rock and ice in North Africa.”