Top of the World in Toubkal, Morocco
I lived in Morocco for one year. I was based in Marrakech and during that time I had the chance to visit many places. One of the trips I enjoyed most was trekking the Toubkal mountain with friends. This is the highest mountain in North Africa at 4167 metres high and is part of the Atlas mountain range.
What I remember most about this trip is that I was totally unprepared for it, I was living in Marrakech with very warm temperatures for most of the year and I didn’t have any trekking equipment or warm clothing with me.
Souk to the Rescue
As I learned, there’s nothing that you can’t really find in a Kech souk. When I searched for some trekking boots, I found a pair for 80 Dirhams (8 Euro) in a small shop that was selling used shoes that had been repaired. Too good to be true? Perhaps. I also bought a backpack and a traditional Berber coat with a hood, although they’re probably more popular with tourists now than they are with Berbers.
And just like that, one morning, myself and two other colleagues began our journey towards the small village of Imlil. It’s a good base to start the trek – the village is 60 km from Marrakech, at an altitude of 1740 metres , just where the paved road ends. It can be reached in many ways including by grand taxi. These are old Mercedes cars that are used in the city as shared taxis. There are always a few in the main stations where people gather but you can also stop them in the streets and ask them which direction they’re going. As soon as a certain number of people are travelling in the same direction (usually up to 7 people including the driver), the taxi sets off and for a very reasonable price you can travel around the city or its outskirts. As we had already befriended one of these taxi drivers, we were able to organise the whole trip to Imlil with him.
And So It Begins
We arrived in Imlil very early in the morning and had a nice breakfast in one of the many cafés in the village. We decided that we didn’t want a guide as the hike is not too difficult and we didn’t have any problems in orienting ourselves as the path is well marked all the way. We began our climb towards the base camp at 3200 metres. It took us around 6 hours climbing as we weren’t really physically prepared. Needless to say, we were thankful for the amazing landscapes and refreshment shacks along the route.
A Night on Toubkal
We arrived at the camp in the afternoon and spent the night adjusting to the altitude. Accommodation is very basic. We opted for the common dormitory and before too long made friends with some Polish travellers. We spent the night with them drinking and playing board games before arranging to climb the peak together the next day.
When we woke up at around 5 am, it was freezing and the wind was blowing at an altitude. This had a huge effect on two of my colleagues who gave up straight away and decided to descend. But maybe altitude sickness was an issue too.
Top of the World
Now without the others, I joined the Polish group. I started the final climb very slowly, using a pair of socks as gloves and covering my face with a scarf to protect me from the cold.
We arrived at the summit at around midday. The view of the Atlas mountain range was simply astonishing and well worth all the effort. We took lots of pictures all together and after an hour of contemplating the landscape we went back to base camp.
I found the descent a bit more demanding than the climb as I was not physically prepared, especially my knees, which by now were hurting. Also the boots I had bought at the souk started to fall apart around 2 km from base camp.
Eventually, we made it back to base camp and after a break and a change of shoes (provided by my Polish friend) we headed back to Imlil where we transported back to Kesh.
I loved this trip – climbing mountains creates a sort of bond between people who are united by a common purpose. Also, I’ll never forget the sense of euphoria that I was feeling while climbing the last 200 meters before reaching the peak.
I would recommend the climb to everyone visiting Marrakech, especially if you’re looking for a different and exciting way to spend your holiday. It’s also a nice way to escape from the heat and chaos of the city.
Riccardo is a cabin crew service supervisor at Ryanair’s Shannon base