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.
The Trailhead: Trails all start from Imlil (1740m), a large picturesque village set at the head of the Imlil Valley surrounded by walnut groves, apple trees and bisected by a rushing river.
Imlil – Toubkal Refuge: The most direct route to the Toubkal Refuge is a 4 hr uphill walk from Imlil via the shrine of sidi chamharouch (2350m). As this is a busy trail and is usually the descent route, most opt for a more scenic approach via the neighbouring Azzaden Valley.
Toubkal Refuge (3207m): Whichever route you take there is no avoiding a night at the refuge. Dorms are crowded and bathroom facilities leave much to be desired. In good weather avoid the dorms and camp.
Toubkal Refuge – Tizi n Toubkal Pass (South Col): From the Refuge, the trail zig-zags up the South Col, a long and moderately steep scree slope ascending 750m to the Tizi-n Toubkal Pass
Approaching the Tizi n Toubkal Pass at 3950m
Tizi n Toubkal Pass – Summit: From the pass, the trail traces a dramatic ridge to the summit, with spectacular mountain views to the N/S/E/W. It is an easy scramble set well back from the precipitous drop of the ridge.
Summit 4167m: With good visibility, the summit of Toubkal offers stunning views over the surrounding High Atlas Mountains and out to the Sahara Desert in the far distance.
Optional Descent via North Col: The majority head back down the same route, but for the adventurous there is a longer more dramatic descent via the North Col, requiring moderate scrambling from the summit.
The North Col: The North Col is a classical U-shaped Valley offers cracking scenery and a more remote feel, with few other trekkers.
Remains of a 1960s Portuguese Army cargo plane: The plane went down with its four crew in the 1960s and much of the wreckage remains scattered eerily about the mountain-side.
Back to the refuge: Anywhere between 4 -6 hours later, weary trekkers arrive back at the refuge for a well-deserved lunch. Many descend back to Imlil and Marrakech the same day.
2 Days: The two day route is a simple up & down via the same trail from Imlil. The first day is spent getting from Marrakech to the mountains with an afternoon walk up to the refuge. The second day tackles the summit, before the long descent back to Imlil and on to Marrakech.
3 Days: With three days, you can tackle Toubkal via the neighbouring (and very picturesque) Azzaden Valley. This is a reasonably challenging trek with long days on day two and three. A highlight is the traverse from the head of the Azzaden Valley over the Aguelzim Pass (3450m) on day two. See our 3 Day Toubkal Circular Trek.
4-5 Days: Arguably the most balanced route, offering a great taster of relatively untouched remote Berber villages, valley walking and high passes and peaks. The five day route crosses from the Imlil Valley to the Azzaden Valley and on to the remote D’knt Valley via low passes before weaving its way back via up-valley passes to tackle Toubkal on the final day. See our 4-5 Day Villages and Toubkal Trek.
6 Days: For seasoned trekkers. The 6 day route follows a trail through remote areas over several stunning high passes, wild camping at night. The trail passes by Lak D’Ifni where there is usually an opportunity for a spot of relaxation and swimming. It is a more demanding trek, but the rewards are immense. See our 6 Day Toubkal Trek.
It is possible to climb Jebel Toubkal any time, but spring is arguably the best. In winter the mountain is covered in snow and a skilled guide, crampons and ice axes are a must. In spring the weather is warmer and there is still some snow cover over the loose scree making for perfect trekking conditions. Summer and Autumn can be hot, and the scree is loose, but an early start makes it more than manageable.
A detailed weather forecast for Toubkal and at varying elevations in the Atlas Mountains can be found at mountain-forecast.com
Outside the winter months, Jebel Toubkal is accessible as long as you are reasonably fit and determined. No specialist gear is required and with a guide and mule to take the load the task is made much easier. It is tough work and if you prefer to take it a little easier, there are some lovely trails featuring passes and fantastic mountain views (for example see our three day valleys trek LINK)
In winter it is recommended you have some prior experience with crampons and ice axes before attempting Toubkal.
Toubkal is at altitude and altitude sickness is a possibility, severe conditions are rare (primarily because the highest overnight is only 3200m), but mild symptoms such as head-aches, lack of appetite and mild nausea can be common on the summit day.
You don't really need any specialist equipment outside winter months, but common sense applies. You will need hiking shoes or boots with a full-tread sole and good weatherproof clothing, a good sleeping bag (these can be rented) and of course, a first aid kit.
There are two refuges on Jebel Toubkal (right next to each other), the Neltner Hut (Club Alpin Francais) and the newer Mouflons Refuge. Both offer very basic dormitory style accommodation and passable shared bathroom facilities. It is possible to avoid the dorms and camp in the summer months.
Toubkal Hiking Map: Superb 1:50000 map covering the majority of the trekking area around Toubkal (and with a handy Marrakech Medina street map on the reverse)
Moroccan High Atlas Mountaineering Guide: Detailed mountaineering guidebook to the area.
Do you know if any of the crew survived the plane crash?
jesse @ gntbudapest.info 2nd July 2012
Thanks Jesse, I believe not unfortunately, there is a make-shift grave in a small cave. It is very poignant and surprising that the wreckage has never been removed. Apparently someone tried to start shifting it for its scrap value but the government put a stop to it.
ben 2nd July 2012