North Africa’s highest mountain is the centerpiece of that incomparable view southwards from Marrakech, often shocking with its unexpected silvering of snow, but it also holds out an easier summer ascent.
The first recorded ascent to the top of Mount Toubkal was on 12 June 1923 by the Marquis de Segonzac, Vincent Berger and Hubert Dolbeau, but the mountain may have been climbed before that date.
Trekkers approach the mountain from the beautiful village of Imlil. The normal route starts with an easy walk to the village of Aroumd. Past Aroumd a floodplain is crossed and the route follows the left slope of the valley southwards. The valley bends to the east to the tiny settlement of Sidi Chamharouch, which has grown around a Muslim shrine. At Sidi Chamharouch, the path leads over the stream and runs steeply uphill to the right side of the Isougouane valley, which leads to two stone-built refuges (old Neltner Refuge and new Refuge du Toubkal) that are used as base camp at 3,207 m (10,522 ft).
From that point a path crosses the stream, climbs a steep scree slope to the east and enters a valley, then climbs another steep slope to reach a col (Tizi’n’Toubkal at 3,940m). At the col the route turns left (northwards) to the summit ridge of Jbel Toubkal. The 4,167m summit is crowned with a curious pyramidal metal frame and views take in most of the Atlas Mountains.
The ascent during the summer (from May) is non-technical yet moderately difficult. Sturdy boots and proper (windproof) clothing are required, and trekking poles are helpful on the scree. An ice-axe may be needed on the remaining snowfields in the early summer. The ascent during the end of the winter and spring (February/March) is more difficult. Crampons are necessary to ascend through the snow and – in some cases – ice.
It is possible to climb the mountain in two days – first day up to the refuge (around seven hours), second day to the summit (around five hours) and back to Imlil (up to five hours).
In summer the mountains can be very dry, but are sometimes subject to storms. Although the temperature should remain above zero during the day, freezing conditions are possible over 3,500m.