April 2002 - Toubkal Assent

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Trip Report
Haut Atlas, Morocco, Africa
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Apr 16, 2002
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Created On: Apr 20, 2002
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Getting There:
Went from Valencia Spain (where I was studying abroad) by bus and ferry. On the way down the bus broke down outside of Rabat and we had to take a taxi to Rabat and a train from there to Marrakech. Stayed at the Oasis in Marrakech - about six USD per night. Next morning we headed up to the city of Imlil by taxi for about 40 USD. Not speaking Arabic or French made things hard but was not more than a minor problem. In general the people were really friendly; some seemed like they were up to something but just wanted our money.

Day One:

Starting elevation - about 2000m - Imlil
Ending elevation - 3206m - refuge

We arrived in the city of Imlil at about noon and rented some Ice Axes from a local shop because we could see quite a bit of snow on the mountains. We talked the man down to half of what he had originally wanted. The first part of the trail from Imlil is the most confusing and is very easy to get lost on. Everyone else we talked to had hired a guide to take them up but we had decided to go alone. Dense fog set in right after we got out of Imlil on the only trail. We ended up on the wrong side of the river and had to climb up a valley wall with big packs. The trail passes a large waterfall (on your left) crosses through the flood plain (just lots of rocks) and across the river. We failed to follow the trail up the east side of the river and ended up on the wrong side of the valley wasting over an hour. After an hour or so we realized it was a very long hike if you don’t have mules to carry your stuff. We were moving slow and all of us were dragging. After five hours on the trail it was getting dark and we hadn’t seen anyone except locals that tried to sell us stuff where the trail crossed the river for the second time. It dropped well below freezing as we crossed snow line (about an hour before the refuge). The mountains had much more rapid vertical gain than expected. The snow was froze so that if you stepped of the beaten snow path you didn’t fall up to your waist. We could see the lodge about a mile off so we kept pushing on. Sure enough we finally got there and it was great, best accommodation we had in Morocco and a little expensive - 120 derhams (11 USD) - but still cold inside. There were three guys that worked there and were paid by some French Mountaineering club and there were five other guys from Holland with a guide. We talked to everyone and the guys that worked there said that nobody had climbed to the top in over two weeks because there was too much snow. We rented crampons from the lodge and headed to bed. Bring sleeping bags because no blankets are available and the lodge, although modern, gets very cold when it is not summer.

Day Two:

Starting elevation - 3206m - refuge
Ending elevation - 3206m - refuge
High point - 4167m - Jebel Toubkal

Woke up at 06:00 am and headed out by seven. After not to long my rented crampon broke and we headed back down to the lodge. My climbing partner was pretty tired and did not want to try the mountain again, but fortunately two other climbers arrived and I decided to head up with them at about eleven the same day. We encountered no difficulty in particular - except the physical exhaustion of having your feet sink up to the knee in snow with each step. Right outside the lodge is the toughest vertical - scary cause if you stepped wrong you would slide about 100 vertical meters out of control out into valley but you really wouldn’t hurt yourself because it was all snow. After about 600 vertical meters we came to a scree slope and removed our crampons and headed up. An hour later we had reached the summit. Crampons were a must up until about the last 300 vertical meters. The views of the clouds below us to the north and the Sahara desert to the south were breath taking. After a half hour on to we headed back down to the lodge and made it in by sun down. The way down included allot of glissading and sinking up to our waists in snow. In total the climb took about four hours up and one down.

Day Three:

Starting elevation - 3206m - refuge
Ending elevation - about 2000m - Imlil
High point - 4167m - Jebel Toubkal

When I returned my climbing partner was disappointed that he had not gone with. It was such a spectacular climb I agreed to get up and go for the summit a second time. We left at seven while the snow was still hard which made things much easier. Once again a beautiful view from the summit. We headed down to the lodge after another half hour on the summit. We gathered our gear and returned to Imlil, arriving at 5:00 pm. We paid a local 24 USD to take us back to Marrakech where we took a bus back to Spain.

In Conclusion:
Incredible trip. Be careful not to get lost on the first part of the trail. Leave early to hike to the refuge because this can be a very long day. If you go in summer we heard that many times the lodge will fill up (it has 80 some spaces) and that people will form lines to the summit. We lucked out because there were only five others staying at the lodge at the time.


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