Atlas Mountain Trek (Toubkal area) - Morocco
Morocco's Toubkal National Park plays host to this fantastic 2 week circuit trek, culminating in an ascent of Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa. Along the way we travel in a wide loop, traversing the more remote and less travelled valleys and passes of the rugged landscape, stay in fantastic picturesque villages and enjoy the hospitality of the local Berber people and their unique North African culture.
The ascent of Jebel Toubkal can be undertaken in less days however this expanded itinerary allows more time to appreciate and trully explore the entire region.
Situated in the North-west corner of Africa, Morocco is a land of great contrasts from the white-washed houses on the fertile Mediterranean coast to the arid brown mountains of the interior.
Our gateway to the mountains is Marrakech so called the red city, and Morocco,s 4th largest with a population of around one and a half million. We overnight here and have the opportunity to explore this ancient city with its exotic souks, palaces , gardens and heaving mass of dust ,noise and colour. The often snow clad summits of the High Atlas provide a wonderful back-drop to the ochre coloured buildings of the city.
Rising out of the haze to the south of Marrakech, the High Atlas, North Africa's highest mountains offer us an incredible variety of scenery, a superb network of trails, and challenging peaks. Snow capped for half the year, from West to East they stretch from the Atlantic ocean just north of Agadir, until they fade into the desert on the Algerian border a distance of nearly a thousand miles. Centuries ago the famous Roman geographer Pliny described the high Atlas as “the most fabulous mountains in the whole of Africa”.
By the standards of more popular trekking and climbing areas in Europe the atlas are still remote and scarcely touched by tourism. On our trek we aim to explore the less well known areas, walk on remote trails and climb to the summit of some of the less well known peaks. We want you to experience an authentic Moroccan way of life, and have an appreciation of what a magnificent wilderness area this is.
Our treks and climbs in the Atlas mountains are led by a qualified and experienced local mountain guide and supported by a team of experienced staff. This includes logistical backup in the village of Imlil and local muleteers and an expedition cook who is also an experienced guide. All are from the local communities and each has a lifetime of experience of life and travel in this part of the Atlas mountains. We have built up a very close working relationship with our Moroccan staff over the course of many expeditions. Some trips will also be accompanied by an experienced and knowledgeable UK leader.
Our Moroccan guides and staff provide a wonderful opportunity to understand what life in the Berber mountain communities is like. They will lead us through the areas in which they, and their forebears, have grown up and sustained a uniques way of life. They will explain the customs and beliefs of the people and also the nature of the wild open spaces of the mountains and beyond.
Adventure Alternative did an incredible job pairing responsibility with fun. The trip was culturally immersive, every member of the UK and Morocco team were friendly, and the trip was very exciting!
Dates and Itinerary
|16th August - 29th August|
|1||Arrive Marrakech [Itinerary Begins] Night in Riad|
|2||Drive to Imlil. Acclimitisation walk|
|3||Imlil- Tizi n'Tamatert- Dsoja(Tamalaroute)- Imlil|
|4||Imlil- Tizi n Aguersioual- Amskere- Tizi n Tiratene- Waterfall camp|
|5||Waterfall camp- Gliz- Tizi n Oukaimeden- Oukaimeden- Tizi n Ouhattar- Agounss- Labassene|
|6||Labassene- Tizi n Tacheddirt- (Angour)- Tacheddirt|
|7||Tacheddirt- Tizi Likemt- Azib Likemt- Azib Tamenzift|
|8||Azib Tamenzift- Assif n'Tinzer- Tizi n'Ououraine- Tagounite- Amsouzerte|
|9||Amsourzerte- Imhilene- Lac d'Ifni|
|10||Lac d Ifni- Tizi n Ouanoums- Nelter Refuge|
|11||Nelter Refuge- Toubkal South Cwm- Jebel Toubkal- Toubkal North Cwm- Nelter Refuge|
|12||Nelter Refuge- Tizi Aguelzim (Aguelzim N/S Buidoudan)- Azib n'Tzikert
|13||Azib n'Tzikert- Tizi n Tzikert- Aremd- Imlil|
|14||Drive to Marrakech [Itinerary Ends] Depart Marrakech|
|1||450m||Arrive in Marrakech. Time explore the city by night an overnight stay in a hotel and a group dinner. (note: dinner not included in package cost)|
|2||1800-2200m||After breakfast in the hotel we drive to the village of Imlil, and the start of our trek at 1740 m altitude. It is a large village in the heart of the high Atlas and takes 2 hours from Marrakech on a very scenic road. We often stop at a local Argan Oil cooperative on the way. We will be in Imlil in time for a tasty lunch of local dishes at our guest house. After lunch we have an afternoon trek which will help our acclimatisation and it offers great views of the peaks around us and an introduction to the Berber villages and way of life. Dinner and overnight stay in the guest house. B,L,D|
|3||1724m||Today we will have breakfast at the guest house then set off on a full day's walk in the Imlil area to aid our acclimitisation. There are many options including an adventurous ascent of a small peak that towers over Imlil, called Dsoja. It is a rough path with some scrambly bit to get up to its high summit. From here we have superb views out across the villages of the Imlil Valley, the adjacent Azzadene valley and up to Toubkal. From here we will be able to trace out much of the route that we will take over the next ten days. We will probably carry a picnic lunch and return to our guesthouse in Imlil for dinner. B,L,D|
|4||2262m||6hrs||After helping to load our mules and a good breakfast, we head of on our Toubkal adventure. From Imlil we gradually traverse and ascend the hillside on a good path to reach the Tizi –n-Aguersioual col at 2,030m. You get wonderful views of the high atlas peaks from the col before we descend to the village of Amskere beautifully situated in a deep valley. After lunch next to the river, we ascend upwards out of the valley to cross the Tizi -n-Tiratene then continue onto our camp site at 2,300m in a beautiful location with a nearby waterfall (in spring) and views down to villages in the valley below us. B,L,D|
|5||2682m||7 hrs||After breakfast we ascend to the Tizi-n-Oukaimeden 2,682m, then drop down quickly to a large grassy basin and lake at the ski station of Oukaimeden. Our next objective is to climb and cross the Tizi-n-Ouhattar at 3230m. It’s an excellent track to the col and well worth the big effort required. From the col great views of the Atlas peaks are had in all directions. If the weather allows we will have lunch on the col, otherwise continue down to find a more sheltered spot. Below us lie the villages of Agounss, and Timichchi which we pass through on our way to our overnight camp at the village of Labassene 2,240m. It’s a very traditional Berber village situated high above the narrow valley floor. B,L,D|
|6||3230m||7 hrs||After breakfast we ascend on a good trail to the Tizi-n-tacheddirt 3230m. From the col if conditions allow we can take a slightly different route ascend the slopes of Angour 3616m to gain brilliant views and give a big help in our acclimatisation, then continue down to camp near the village of Tacheddirt (2300m) where we camp overnight. B,L,D|
|7||3555m||7 hrs||After breakfast our initial objective is the Tizi Likemt 3555m, and ascent of nearly 4000 ft! It needs a big effort but the paths are in good condition and zig-zag up the hillside. We will eventually get there, take a well earned rest then descend steeply down to join a more firm track and drop down to the small village and area of secluded valley known as Azib Tamenzift (2500m) which is our overnight camp. B,L,D|
|8||3120m||7 hrs||After breakfast, we crest a small ridge then follow a beautiful gorge which ascends quite gradually before a steeper contouring climb up from the valley and to the Tizi n'Ououraine(3120m). From here we get fantastic views of the green valley floor snaking around the hill below and can see back to various peaks including Adrar n'Dern (3853m) which for the local Berber people is the defining mountain of the High Atlas. From here we follow a good path down a large shoulder into the green and terraced valleys around Amsouzerte.|
|9||2500m||6-7 hrs||Leaving Amsouzerte we make our way up a good track through small villages and shaded by walnut trees. We often stop at a small local 'cafe' where a few dirhams buys sweet mint tea, fresh local bread and local honey still on the comb. After our huge calorie intake we are set for the climb up to the natural dam at the foot of Lac d'Ifni and the slightly scrambly traverse around the south side of the lake and across the huge boulder/scree field to camp next to a collection of small huts. (note, there is also an easier although longer path around the North side of the lake) The camp is in a spectacular location and there is also the option of a refreshing dip in the lake its self. B,L,D|
|10||3664m||7 hrs||After breakfast we head up over the boulder/scree and into an impressive gorge beyond. The path begins to climb and for the next few hours we are heading up and up to the spectacular Tizi-n-Ouanoums (3664m). From the col there are impressive views of all the major summits of the Atlas. We descend on a good mule path then along the valley to arrive at the Toubkal refuge 3207m. We make camp very close to the refuge. B,L,D|
|11||4167m||6 hrs||Early this morning we climb to the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains and North Africa; Jebel Toubkal 4,167m. The ascent is via the South Cwm on a good trail initially, traversing the hillside from the refuge then up steep valleys to a ridge and eventually the summit. If the weather is clear, there are excellent views from the top, right across the peaks of the high atlas. We descend using the less-used North Cwm, passing the scattered wreckage of a light aircraft that crashed in the 60's. We then emerge out into the main valley and ascend slightly, back to the refuges. We will have earned the well earned rest and refreshments when we return to our camp for our overnight stay. B,L,D|
|12||3520m||7 hrs||Our route today is over into the adjacent valley. We climb steadily in a rising traverse on a good path up to the Tizi n'Aguelzim (3520m). From here we can also make an easy optional ascent of Aguelzim North (3547m), Aguelzim South (3650m) or along the ridge a bit further to Buidoudan (3680m). From the Tizi Aguelzim we first ascend the "99 zig-zags" then continue to drop down on a good path to camp in a fantastic position on the hillside at Azib n'Tzikert. B,L,D|
|13||2930m||5 hrs||For our final day's trek we climb back to the main Imlil valley. It is quite a short climb up to Tizi n'Tzikert (2930m) and then quite a long descent although on a long path back down to Aremd and then around to our Riad in Imlil. On the descent we have a commanding view of the valley and the popular direct route up to the refuges. We also see the rock-strewn valley bottom that was the result of a devastating flood in the 1990's. We are normally back for a late lunch at the guesthouse where we can shower, change into clean clothes and relax on the roof terrace. B,L,D|
|14||450m||After breakfast Return to Marrakech, and either remain in the city, head to the coast or transfer to the airport for your flight home. B|
Atlas Mountain Trek (Toubkal area) cost: £975.00
- All food and hot drinks on trek
- Mules to transport main bags
- Local Moroccan Guides
- All accomodation on trek(tents & Lodges)
- All transportation and airport transfers
- Group equipment
- International Air Fare (~£100-£250)
- Personal travel Insurance (~50)
- Meals in Marrakech (~100-200 dirhams)
- Mineral water/ soft drinks (6-15 dirhams each)
- Hot Showers at Refuges (10-20 dirhams each)
- Single room supplements (where available)
- Optional tips to Moroccan staff (approx £30 Total)
- Additional nights in Marrakech
- Personal spending money (note Moroccan Dihrams are not available outside Morocco, we can help you change/withdraw some in Marrakech)
You do need to be fairly fit for this trip. Some of the climbs are long and moderately demanding with some long days of sustained walking with a backpack. The effects of altitude will also reduce your level of strength. You will also be walking on 12 consecutive days so you can't afford to get progressively more tired every day. Therefore, you will only really enjoy the trip if you are in good physical shape having exercised regularly and eaten nutritiously over at least the 6 months leading up to the trip.
As a guide, you need to be comfortable walking on fairly hilly terrain for more than 6 hours with a small pack of around 5kg. You also need to be able to do this for a number of days in a row. It is also important that you are relatively agile and steady on your feet. There are some sections of descent on sometimes loose scree and rubble which will require care and agility to safely navigate.
This trip has some fairly long descents (3-4hrs+) which can be hard on knees ankles and sometimes hips aswell. If you have any re-occuring or previous injuries to any of these joints you need to be confident that they are well healed before the trip. Please do speak to us and/or a relevant medical professional if you have any doubts or concerns.
Using trekking poles can be of great help for balance on loose ground and to take some of the strain off your knees. You do need to learn to use them properly for them to be most effective though. We can help by giving you advice on the trip but it is a great advantage to have used them prior to the trip.
You do also need to be in good health as we will spend some time in locations that are many hours from professional medical care. Any pre-existing medical or dental conditions should be fully appraised by a doctor and their nature fully disclosed to your insurer and to ourselves.
Type of Terrain
The ascents on this trip are not technical climbs and no rock climbing or specialist equipment is needed although some simple low-level scrambling, with use of hands as well as feet, will be needed in places.
Most of the paths are well made mule paths and in good condition, although some are steeper and looser under foot than others. It is fairly frequent that the path does include some loose scree, which can add to your energy expenditure, especially on the descent.
On some sections such as Dsoja/Tamalaroute, the south route around Lac d'Ifni we traverse steep and moderately exposed ground although the actual scrambling its self is very easy. We will assist you across these sections with guidance, advice and 'spotting' where required.
Adventure Alternative Support
Mules will transport the majority of our equipment and personal belongings, allowing you to trek with just a day pack.
- The basic idea of the kit we will take is to keep you warm, dry, protected from the sun, able to move efficiently on the mountains and able to be comfortable in the evenings and night. There is a detailed list via the menu below-right but the main points to cover are:-
- BAGS - Large duffle ~90L (carried by mules) + Medium Daypack ~25L (carried by you)
- SHELL - Top and bottoms to keep off wind/rain
- INSULATION - Layered system to keep you warm- body hands & Head
- BASELAYER - Thin layers to wick away sweat and to strip down to and keep the sun off when it gets hot
- FEET - Sturdy trekking Boots (not walking Shoes), flip flops or similar, footwear for city
- SLEEPING - Warm sleeping bag and camping mat to get a good nights sleep at the camp/refuge
- EATING/DRINKING - Water bottles & favorite energy-snacks for during the day
- WASHING & MEDICAL - To allow you to wash and maybe stave off a headache or blister
Additional Kit Info
When deciding what to bring it is useful to think about what you will be doing on the trip and what the conditions are likely to be like.
At the start of the trip we will be in Marrakech. Here it is likely to be hot but we will be walking gently around town, not carrying anything. For this you just need comfortable light-weight clothing and general shoes. As Morocco is a largely muslim country it is respectful to dress modestly, covering at least most of the length of your arms and legs. This is especially true for women. Temperatures could be up as high as 35degC in the middle of the day with bright sunlight. Sunglasses, sunhat and sun block are therefore pretty much essential.
On a general day of trekking in the mountains we may be getting up early when it may be cooler, perhaps down to 10degC in the shade. We may therefore start walking with thin trekking trousers, a trekking shirt/baselayer and perhaps a jumper or thin fleece. As we warm up while walking, and as the sun comes up above the peaks we start to get hotter. At this point we will probably be wearing a thin top, thin trousers or shorts, sunhat and sunglasses. By mid day it may perhaps be 30degC, although on high passes and peaks the wind-chill of any breeze will make it feel much cooler.
While we are walking we will be carrying just a small rucksack or perhaps 25-35 litres. In this we will have our water/wind proof jacket and trousers, our warmer top, two litres of water, camera etc and some favourite high-energy snacks. When we have finished the day's walk we will arrive at our camp and probably be keen to get our boots and socks off and walk about in flip-flops or sandals. We may then add a warmer layer as the sun goes down.
If you do not have all of the equipment that you might need for the trip, you can save the expense of buying it all in one go by hiring some items. This is a good option if you are not sure whether you will use the kit again. Several companies in the UK rent out gear for this purpose and many offer you the option of buying the kit at the end of the trip at a 'used' price.
- This itinerary allows us to travel out into the wider are of the High Atlas and see the area as it is away from the main trekking route to Toubkal. Here we will camp next to shepherd huts, wander through Berber villages and generally get a feeling of discovery and exploration.
- A carefully planned ascent profile to maximise your rate of acclimitisation to altitude. This not only improves your safety but also your enjoyment of the trip.
- The chance to travel and stay with and hence learn from local people
- A small-scale and personal service by our own staff from booking, right through the trip and even upon your return
- A system of local employment that is fair and responsible and helps to promote development and investment in the local communities and country. We have built up partnerships with local guides and drivers which are mutually beneficial and exist on a fair and open basis so that the host country and its people may fully benefit from tourism without being exploited. We are passionate about responsible tourism and our company supports sustainable development worldwide in a real way.
- We have received the maximum 5-Star rating for sustainable tourism by the Association of Independent Tour operators.
- We have won multiple national awards for Responsible and Sustainable tourism.
- Adventure Alternative underwrites the charity Moving Mountains.
- Financial security is guaranteed as we are ABTOT bonded.
- We are audited and registered as complying with BS8848, the standard for overseas expeditions
- We are members on Interhealth which gives us and you access to pre-trip health information and on-site assistance by phone in the event of an emergency.