Mount Toubkal Winter trip
This is a wonderful winter break to climb several 4000m peaks in the high Atlas of Morocco, including the spectacular Mount Toubkal (4167 metres) in winter conditions.
The mountains are only around 50 miles to the south of Marrakech and on a clear day the summits can be clearly seen from the city. The blue skies, bright sun and crisp snowy peaks are a perfect antidote to the winter of northern Europe.
These winter climbs are different in nature to the summer climb in that they will be over snow and ice and require additional mountaineering equipment such as crampons and a walking axe. Mount Toubkal is not a technical peak but you will learn some basic alpine techniques during the trip, such as walking on crampons and how to use a walking axe correctly. This trip is an excellent introduction to climbing and thriving in snow conditions and an ideal precursor to climbing Mount Elbrus or one of the Himalayan peaks.
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, which are snow capped during winter.
The gateway to the mountains is Marrakech, the red city, and Morocco's fourth largest with a population of around one and a half million. You can explore this ancient city with its exotic souks, palaces, gardens and heaving mass of dust, noise and colour.
Morocco will feel a world away from northern Europe, not least because northern Europe is still in the midst of winter. In Marrakech you will usually enjoy clear blue skies, temperatures of 20-30 degrees and enough sunlight to sunburn the unwary within the hour. The snow clad summits of the High Atlas provide a wonderful back-drop to the ochre coloured buildings of the city.
In comparison with more popular trekking and climbing areas in the Alps, the Atlas Mountains are quiet in terms of tourism. You can see something of the traditional Berber way of life, and have an appreciation of what a magnificent wilderness area this is.
Local staff in Morocco for the Toubkal winter climb
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. Most 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
Daily routine on Mount Toubkal
In line with good mountaineering practice we will be starting our climbs from the refuge early and acclimatising slowly. We will have plenty of breakfast and hot drinks before leaving the refuge and additional bread and cheese is available for you to make a snack lunch for the summit or one of our rest stops. We will usually be back at the refuge by early afternoon, at which time we will have a full cooked lunch. There will be time to relax and socialise at the refuge before dinner at around 7pm. As we are usually making early starts we inevitably go off to bed fairly early, however there is a fire in the communual area and guests are welcome to stay there until later in the evening.
Mount Toubkal winter itinerary
|1||Arrive Marrakech, go to hotel and explore medina, dining out in town|
|2||Drive Marrakech to Imlil and go to local riad, acclimitisation walk round town|
|3||Trek from Imlil to Toubkal Refuge, using mules and porters for bags, afternoon trek in the area|
|4||Mount Ouanoukrim (4089m) and acclimatisation, training on snow|
|5||Jebel Toubkal (4167m), this may be done on day 4|
|6||Trek to Imlil and afternoon back to riad for local dinner and celebrations|
Drive to Marrakech for lunch and then depart for home
optional extra days in Morocco, contact us for options
|1||450m||Arrive on international flight into Marrakech, and transport with our staff into town. There will be time to explore the city souks and the famous Jamaaa El Fna Square before a team dinner in the evening. We spend the night in a traditional and comfortable city riad.|
|2||1850m||1.5-2 hrs||After breakfast we have around a 3 hour transfer directly south toward the Atlas mountain peaks. In Imlil you can stay in a local homestay owned by our staff or opt to take a room in the beautiful Kasbah du Toubkal. After lunch we go for a walk round the town and pick up any rental gear that people may need.|
|3||3207m||5-7 hrs||After breakfast we trek up the valley to a small shrine and buildings of Sidi Chamharouch at the foot of a steepening of the trail and narrowing of the valley. From here we wind further up the Isougouane valley to the Nelter Refuge at the foot of the main west face of Toubkal and surrounded by a cirque of peaks.|
|4||4088m||7-8 hrs||Today we walk up the valley to the peak of Ouanoukrim. The mountain is Toubkal's neighbour and the second highest peak in the Atlas Mountains. First we climb the remainder of the Isougouane valley, up to the narrow but impressive col of Tizi n'Ouagane, with views out and down to the next valley. A short rocky scramble emerges on easier ground and a broad slope up to the wide plateau summit. Weather may dictate that we try to climb Toubkal itself on this day but the preference will be to spend this day acclimatising to around 4000m and sleeping back at the refuge for a second night.|
|5||4167m||8 - 9 hrs||
Ascent of Toubkal. We traverse and ascend the south facing cwm over mixed ground of snow, ice and rock, through various undulations and bowls. Eventually we emerge out into the sunlight at the col of Tizi n Toubkal at 3940m. From here we move up along the SW ridge and a little higher up get a spectacular view of the SE face of Toubkal and the black triangle of the summit trig point. Our steady acclimitisation over the last two days, and in particular our ascent to over 4000m the day before will pay dividends here as we pass other climbers on shorter programmes as they wheeze their way up the final slopes!
After enjoying the views at the summit we will make our way over to the North cwm for our descent. This is a less used route but allows a very satisfying traverse of the summit and allows us to see more than twice as much of the mountain. The descent is fairly steep but easy to complete in crampons. Eventually, we emerge out into the main Isougouane from behind a spur and make our way around to the refuge.
|6||4.5 hrs||This morning is a possible second option for climbing Toubkal but we have to get back to Imlil so most people rest in the morning and then pack up and head back down the valley to get to the riad for a shower and celebratory meal.|
|7||450m||1.5-2 hrs||After breakfast we head back down the valleys to Marrakech, possibly stopping for tea and cakes at the rather swish Kasbah run by Richard Branson. We should be in Marrakech in time for lunch leaving the rest of the day free to explore or for an evening flight. Return flights should be booked for departure no earlier than 14:00 to give us time to get back down from the mountains. Some people wish to stay longer in Marrakech to enioy this famous city.|
Mount Toubkal winter trip cost £595.00
- All accommodation in Marrakech and in Imlil
- All meals and hot drinks
- Mules to transport main bags to the mountain refuge
- Mountain guides, cooks and porters
- Transportation to and from Imlil and airport transfers
- Group equipment
- International air fare to Marrakech (currently ~£60- £100 out of Stansted UK)
- Travel insurance
- Meals in Marrakech
- Mineral water, soft drinks, snacks and showers in the refuge.
- Optional upgrade to Kasbah du Toubkal rooms in Imlil.
It is important that you take out adequate personal travel insurance for the activities on this trip. Please see our information page in the menu to the right for further guidance and suggestions. If you have any questions regarding the required coverage please do not hesitate to contact us.
Local Providers in Morocco
We use a local company run by our friends Ahmed and Ibrahim for organising the trip and providing mules and staff. They have signed up to the Adventure Alternative code of conduct and understand the criteria of the British Standard 8848 for overseas trips and expeditions. We have been working with them now for three years and they also run the small guesthouse in Imlil which we use.
Mount Toubkal winter - fitness and terrain
You do not need to be super-fit for this trip, however the climbs are fairly demanding with some long days of sustained walking with a backpack. The effects of altitude may also further tax your body. You will enjoy the trip all the more if you are in good physical shape having exercised regularly and eaten nutritiously over at least the 6 months leading up to the trip. You do 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.
Terrain on Mount Toubkal
The trek from Imlil to the Refuge is on a well established path over sometimes dusty and rocky ground. It winds its way up the valley and is generally of a gentle gradient. In its upper reaches it may be covered in snow or ice but owing to its gentle gradient it is generally passable in normal trekking boots.
The ascents of the three peaks on this trip are given the following alpine grades; Timeguida & Ras n-Ouanoukrim (F), Toubkal South Cwm (F), Toubkal North Cwm (F+), Akioud NNW Ridge (PD+)
The actual perceived difficulty of the routes will be hugely dictated by weather/snow conditions, acclimitisation and fitness/experience. The itinerary has been planned to allow a gradual increase in altitude and technical difficulty so that all the objectives are achievable by a moderately fit person with good coordination and experience of mountain terrain.
Some parts of the climbs will involve ascending, traversing or descending snow slopes of up to around 30 degrees. Subject to conditions, this is easily achievable using crampons and with guides cutting or stomping steps where required. It will however need confidence and concentration in places, including taking direction from guides and leaders.
Some short sections of the climbs also include easy angled and featured rock steps and scrambles needing both hands and feet. In some cases this will need to be undertaken whilst wearing crampons. In the majority of circumstances this is actually no harder than doing it in boots but it does again require an adaptation of techniques and careful concentrated movements.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the type of terrain or the skills and experience required, please do contact us for a more detailed explanation.
Experience needed on Mount Toubkal
The climb will require the use of crampons, ice axe and possibly a safety rope for some sections, it is preferable to have prior experience using them but this is not essential as training will be provided. By the end of the trip you will feel comfortable and confident in their use and the trip is in fact a good introduction before going to the likes of Mt Elbrus or one of the Himalayan trekking peaks.
Mount Toubkal winter kit list
The clothing you take should keep you warm, dry, protected from the sun, able to move efficiently in the mountains and be comfortable at night. There is a detailed list on the More Information to the right but the main points to cover are:
- BAGS - Large rucksack ~80 litres (for a porter to carry) plus a medium daypack ~40L (carried by you)
- SHELL - Top and bottom wind and rainproof jacket and trousers
- INSULATION - Fleece tops and jacket, warm trousers and a down jacket, hats, gloves and mitts
- BASE LAYER - Thin layers to wick away sweat and to strip down to when it gets hot
- FEET - Crampon compatible boots (B2 or B3) and trekking boots or shoes for the walk in, warm socks
- CLIMBING - Crampons, walking axe, harness, sling and some screwgate karabiners
- SLEEPING - 4 season sleeping bag, optional liner
- EATING/DRINKING - Thermos for hot drinks, water bottle and favourite snacks
- PERSONAL - Washkit and personal first aid kit, sunglasses, suncream, lipcream, towel, headtorch
Renting Equipment in Morocco or in the UK
There are small rental shops in the village in which we stay at the start of the trek. You can in theory hire gear from these shops but the rental stock is fairly limited and often quite well-used. So for example, if a large group or several guides happened to have been to the shop the day before, there may not be any decent gear left. We would therefore recommend that you bring all the items that you will need with you.
There are companies in the UK that rent equipment for use on trips such as this. Some also offer the option of buying the kit at the end of the trip, at a 'used' price, if you have grown attached to it! This is sometimes a good idea for the more specialist or expensive gear if you find that you are having to buy a number of new items at once. Examples might be down jackets, 4-season sleeping bags, crampons and ice axes etc.
Packing your bags
When the snow line is well below the Refuges we will use porters to carry your gear up to the refuge. Please pack lightly so that the bags are not too heavy for one person and bring a large lightweight rucksack liner to put all your gear in before it goes into the pack so that sleeping bags and clothing is kept dry. Most bags weigh about 12kgs and people then carry about 6 kgs in the daysack.
Clothing for the Weather & Climate on Mount Toubkal in winter
From Marrakech to 4000m on the top of Toubkal, there is a large change in temperature. On the trek and in the mountains we will need to be prepared for cold conditions with the possibility of precipitation as rain or snow. The following table gives a general picture of the annual weather variation in the valley close to Imlil where our trek begins. Obviously conditions higher up at the Nelter Refuge and on the peaks will be cold and the wind chill can make it colder. Expect as low as minus 10 Celsius on summit day in the morning.
Clothing needs to be adaptable to the variation in conditions and the best way to achieve this is through a layering system, preferably with zips in the front and even armpits. These zips can be opened and closed as we move to regulate temperature without needing to stop and physically remove garments. Another very useful way to regulate temperature is simply by putting on or taking off a hat and gloves.
You may have clothing systems that best suit your own preferences. The general idea is to be equipped with shell layers for wind and precipitation, insulating layers for temperatures down to perhaps -10 or even -15, base and mid layers for layering flexibilty and good quality boots with compatible crampons.
Whilst it could be below 10 on the summit, it could also be plus 20 or more with strong UV in the valley as we approach the refuge in the afternoon. It is likely therefore that you will leave the refuge in the morning with maybe a trekking trousers and over-trousers, base layer, warm mid-layer, soft-shell, warm jacket, windproof layer, two hats and thick gloves. By the time you return in the early afternoon you are likely to be wearing just thin trekking trousers, thin long sleeved base layer top, sun hat and sun glasses with everything else stuffed into your daysack.
Our Mount Toubkal winter trip has been planned by experienced mountain professionals to give you the maximum from your week away in Morocco, including:
- Training in winter mountain skills and techniques
- The chance to summit two peaks over 4000m
- A possible traverse of Mt Toubkal rather than just the standard up-and-down route
- A good rate of acclimitisation to altitude. This not only improves your safety but also your enjoyment of the trip
- Knowledgeable advice from our staff from the moment you make an enquiry
- Local employment that is fair and responsible and promotes development and investment in the local communities and country
- We have won multiple national awards for responsible tourism.
- Financial security is guaranteed as we are ABTOT bonded.
- We are audited and registered as complying with British Standard 8848, the only proper safety standard for overseas expeditions
- We are members of Interhealth which provides remote medical assistance in the event of an emergency
- Duration 7 days
- Numbers 10
- Altitude 4167m
- Challenge Moderate
- Comfort Mountain refuge