M'Goun is the second-highest mountain of Northern Africa following the Jebel Toubkal. The summit offers zero climbing interest. However, it is a very attractive trekking destination, particularly when added to a 10-12 day, 200-kilometer circuit that includes the spectacular M'Goun river gorges and various remote Berber villages.
The summit is not difficult in summer, however freak snowstorms do occur even in July and high winds are common (we experienced flying rocks). Perhaps 20 people reach the peak daily during this period. The elevation gain from the "base camp" directly to the north of M'Goun is about 1200 meters.
Most travelers in this remote region use local Berber guides, who can provide a cook, tents, mules, and muletiers. This is not expensive and has several advantages: knowledge of trails; exposure to the interesting and friendly Berber culture; transport of equipment and supplies; easier communication with villagers speaking only Berber and Arabic; choice of campsites and knowledge of safe water sources; preparation of tasty local tajines and couscous; protection from any hassles with the local village children; and putting your money directly into the needy local economy. All guides speak French and Berber; ours spoke French, English, Arabic and Berber.
M'Goun is located about 250 kilometers east of Marrakech. It is possible to drive as far as Agouti or Tabannt (4x4 recommended).
There are several possible routes to the northern base of the mountain and beyond. Here is one attractive option:
Day 1: arrive by 4x4 from Marrakech at Agouti and sleep at the local gîte.
Day 2: hike to Abachkou and camp.
Day 3: hike up the Tizi Omsoud canyon passing the last village of Ghougoult; camp before the Tizi-n-Rouquelt pass (3350m) at the last spring.
Day 4: hike to the M'Goun "base camp".
Day 5: 3 am wake-up; traverse the summit ridge west to east; descend and camp south of M'Goun.
Day 6 - 7: continue south to the first villages; camp near Imeskar and Boutaghrar.
Day 8 - 10: Turn north and follow the M'Goun river through the gorges. You will be walking in water for much of this stretch. Pass villages of Tiranimine, Tarzout and Taghreft. Beware of flash floods in the narrow sections of the gorge.
Day 11: Traverse over 3200m north to Tabannt.
Day 12: complete the circuit arriving back at Agouti.
Day 13: return to Marrakech by 4x4.
None. Europeans and Americans require no visas for Morocco.
Be sensitive to local customs when photographing villagers. It is considered good manners to greet strangers (your guide can teach you the Berber greetings). Chat and ask if a photo would be ok. Children will frequently ask you for pens ("stylo") or money - but basically they just want to meet and talk to you. Begging is considered a bad habit by the locals - better to not give anything.
To eliminate the logistics hassles, consider one of the adventure travel companies that offer High Atlas treks. They arrange flights, transport by 4x4 from Marrakech, guides, tents, cuisine, etc. We used the French outfit named "Club Aventure" and were delighted with the circuit, our Berber guide (Mohamed Ben Ali from Agouti), and the food.
The book "Randonnées Pédestres dans le Massif du MGoun" (see cover reproduced below) contains excellent trail descriptions, topo maps, Berber vocabulary, and photos. Unfortunately, it is only available in French. Write Edisud, La Calade Rn 7, 13090 Aix-en-Provence, France. I bought my copy at the Vieux Camper, 48 rue des Ecoles, 75005 Paris, France.
When To Climb
Most of the organized treks depart between early June and mid October to avoid thick snow often found throughout the route. During summer it is best to avoid hiking midday because of the heat.
Climbing in winter would require snowshoes or skis.
Camping is allowed and, in fact, necessary. A few of the local Berber villages have basic "gîtes d'étapes" (hostels), which are an option - but there is nothing within hiking distance of M'Goun summit.
The fantastic Berber villages are constructed with earth found directly at the site. The villages are never built on the flat, fertile areas, but only on the rocky hillsides - to preserve the best lands for agriculture.
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