Mt Toubkal, the highest summit in Morocco, the Atlas mountain range and North Africa. Standing at 4,167 metres (13,671 ft) this makes for a memorable experience trekking to and up. This truly wasn’t a case of turning up and walking up the mountain. The goal was to trek through valleys, over passes, up the side of other mountains and culminating in the Mt Toubkal summit itself after enjoying the journey. Every step was a joy in a wonderful country over spectacular terrain.
The contrast… Leaving the cold wet hills of Northumberland in the morning and landing in the hot temperatures over 40 degrees celsius of Marrakech in the afternoon, good times and good miles lay ahead. A night’s sleep in the bustling, fascinating city and we were off into the mountains. Like I said before, this was not just a plain climb. It was a week of exploring other valleys and heights in the area too. Our head guide Lahcen led the way, filled with expertise and such wonderful wit Not just a guide but incredible how he passed on so much knowledge of Moroccan culture in such a way that you always wanted to learn more from him.
Starting up one valley it was so far removed from the packed Marrakech. Beautiful mountain villages lay strewn throughout. Little pockets of civilisation sitting on the mountainsides as they have for hundreds of years. From a distance above they looked an incredible sight with their bright agricultural greenery surrounding the red/brown buildings and the mountains rising behind. Within the villages it was treat not only with shade but to catch glimpses of true local, rural mountain life here.
As I said before this was a trek through the Atlas to that summit so the varying views made it far removed from a slog of a single climb. Some days climbing up over 3000 m for lunch then back down in the next valley bottom to sleep. This not only made it a memorable week but subtly helped the legs get ready for summit day and the head and lungs fully prepared for the altitude. As a hiker and mountain trekker hand on heart one of the best holidays in Morocco to take, I am never one to sit on a beach as you know 😀
After the climb to base camp at Toubkal refuge it was time to get up early the next morning for summit day. The last few hours to the summit. Zigging and zagging up to the top. The peak getting closer with each step, the views getting bigger and more expansive. The heat of the last few days had negated the need for crampons over the snowy parts so a clear path ahead and upwards. After the toil the reward was there. The triangular metal structure sits atop. Deep breaths for all as we stood looking out and down. Over the Atlas mountains. Over the foothills and as far as the Sahara Desert. Breathtaking!
Sadly it was time to head back down, with a smile though. The mules and muleteers had earned a damn big rest, the chef got a big big thank you for working his magic in extremes, not just for fueling us but for making the meals varying and delicious time after time. New friends had been made. The group of fellow trekkers made for laughs, learning and morale with each passing minute. Sharing those moments, sharing those thoughts, lovely new friends…..