The ultimate Atlas Mountain trekking holiday in Morocco
“Obviously summiting is always an absolute highlight because you know it’s (literally) all downhill from there. But my favourite moment was watching the sunrise whilst trekking in the dark on that second morning. It’s a pretty bleak wake up and then climbing in the darkness without really knowing how far you have to go, so seeing the sun coming up above the clouds is nothing short of magical. You’re in such a zone that you genuinely feel relief. Watching the sun bounce off the surrounding mountains was incredibly surreal.”
Becky, our Travel Expert who covers Morocco is also a keen (but modest) mountaineer. I sat down to ask her about her latest ascent, this time tackling the highest mountain in North Africa, Mount Toubkal in Morocco.
I remember you talking about climbing Kilimanjaro a couple of years ago with infectious enthusiasm, why did you decide on Mt Toubkal as your next mountain challenge?
Well, Morocco is just a 3-hour flight away from London so it ticked all the boxes for a quick getaway. And compared to Kilimanjaro, it’s much less intense (and shorter) whilst still providing a huge physical challenge. But all this aside, have a look at the photos, have a look on YouTube and Google images, you’ll soon see what the appeal is!
When’s the best time to climb in the Atlas Mountains?
We climbed Toubkal in mid April and as there was still snow at the summit, we had to use crampons which sounded daunting at first but again, was an exciting challenge. September – October also offers some great conditions, just avoid the middle of the winter and summer months and you’ll be in for an awesome adventure.
A few of us went on a three-day trek through the Atlas Mountains in April this year too, it’s quite an exceptional place – ascending Toubkal we did not do though! Can you tell me about the climb itself?
The ascent can be done in one day, but most people take two days, with a night at the mountain refuge to break up the distance. This is the best way to acclimatise to the altitude, and to take it slowly so as not to burn out. The trek starts at the gateway to the High Atlas Mountains, about an hour and a half south of Marrakech in Imlil (1800m).
From there you slowly wind your way up through the valleys along fairly well trodden paths.The refuge is situated just at the base of the summit stretch, so it’s a perfect end to your first day. After a hearty dinner and a quick chance to ‘practice’ with our crampons, you need an early night as you set off the next day at around 4am. The next day is an intense day of slow climbing through various terrain, but eventually you summit and have panoramic views of the mountains below. So worth it.
And just a short flight from London! Amazing how you can jump from one world to another today. Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about trekking in the Atlas Mountains?
Just go! It’s one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve seen, and not many people realise it’s worth exploring beyond Marrakech. As well as Toubkal, there are so many other hiking trails to get you out and about, walking through Berber villages and meeting the locals (make sure you stop for a “Berber Whisky” or mint tea!). It gives you an insight into the traditional way of life here and who exactly calls these mountains home.
The pouring of mint tea is one of those unexpected experiences on our trip that really opened the culture up to us too. Talking of Marrakech, what’s the best combination with the Atlas Mountains?
If you have some time, I recommend combining the trek with some time in and around Marrakech either side of the trip. There’s a real variety of landscapes in such a small area it makes for a really diverse experience. Spend a couple of nights in the bustling Medina beforehand, and head out to the Agafay Desert for a night camping under the stars, all of which combined creates a unique perspective on Morocco.
Medina’s, deserts and mountains – what a place! Kilimanjaro, Toubkal – what’s next on your list?
At the end of June, I’m heading out to Slovenia to trek the country’s highest peak, Mount Triglav. It’s definitely not as high as Toubkal, but with an elevation of 2863m and a 400m via Ferrata at the sheer, rocky summit, it’s certainly going to be a new challenge!
The start of the trek lies just 40-minutes from Lake Bled so I’ll be spending a well-earned day or two on the lake’s shores afterward which is a bonus. I always like combining a trek/mountain ascent with some time in the local area afterward to see more of the destination.
Want to follow in Becky's footsteps?
If it’s Toubkal or the foothills of the Atlas that draw your interest, we have adventures across Morocco that will show you the highest summits to the smallest alleyways of the most ancient and enthralling medinas. Try our epic Marrakech, Agasay & Atlas: An Introduction to Morocco itinerary and speak to Becky today.