Climbing Mount Toubkal is serious business. It’s 4,167 metres high. In summer, it’s blisteringly hot. In winter, it’s dangerously cold. Is climbing Mount Toubkal still on your Morocco travel itinerary? Here’s our guide to climbing Mount Toubkal in Morocco.
How hard is climbing Mount Toubkal? And how high is Mount Toubkal?
Mount Toubkal, also known as Jebel Toubkal, is 4,167 metres tall (13,671 feet). It’s in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco and is the tallest mountain in North Africa.
For comparison, Mont Blanc (Europe’s highest mountain) is 4,810m, with Kilimanjaro at 5,895m and Mount Everest at 8,848m.
Toubkal (pronounced “tub kal”) requires no technical climbing and most people in good physical condition should be able to make the climb, so long as they are well prepared. But this isn’t an easy climb! Injuries and even fatalities do happen.
One of the difficulties of Toubkal is altitude sickness. At the peak, you’re only getting roughly 60% of the oxygen that you would at sea level, making altitude sickness a possibility. It’s recommended that you climb the mountain over two days to acclimatise. We did Toubkal over 2 days, but on the second day (the ascent) we still had headaches from the altitude.
When is the best time to climb Mount Toubkal?
The best time to climb Mount Toubkal is in the spring (April or May) or the autumn (September or October). We climbed Toubkal during September. There was no snow or ice on the mountain at this time of year.
Climbing Mount Toubkal in the summer is difficult due to the heat (June, July and August). Climbing Mount Toubkal in the winter is much more dangerous due to the snow and ice (November, December, January, February and March).
Whenever you climb, check the Toubkal weather forecast before you go.
Can I climb Toubkal without a guide?
It depends! If the conditions are good, you have a hiking partner and you’re an experienced climber, you probably won’t have any trouble if you hike without a guide. If it’s winter or you’ve not climbed a mountain before, I highly recommend using guide.
We climbed Toubkal without a guide, but it was obvious that we often didn’t take the easiest routes up and down the mountain. We saw some hikers with guides leading them on much better paths early on during our ascent of the mountain. At opportune moments, we actually changed our route up to follow the experienced guides and make our lives easier!
Google Map Route from Imlil to Mount Toubkal
Most people spend the night in the village of Imlil beforehand. Imlil is a wonderful Berber mountain town and is worth seeing in its own right. I recommend staying at Gite Tizi Mizik: the owner is friendly will look after your bags while you climb the mountain. He’ll also have a hot tagine waiting for you when you come back!
We stayed in the annex room at Gite Tizi Mizik, which has views over Imlil town and the surrounding mountains. The other great thing about this guesthouse is that it’s the last one on the road through to Toubkal, so you can get a headstart in the morning and have slightly less far to walk on the way back (which you’ll be glad about, trust me). Book Gite Tizi Mizik through our Airbnb link for a discount.
Mount Toubkal Climbing Route
Mount Toubkal should be climbed over 2 days:
Day 1 – Imlil to CAF Refuge
The distance from Imlil to the refuge closest to Toubkal is 10.9 kilometres. The walk from Imlil to the CAF Refuge is around 3-5 hours through the valley. The route from Imlil winds round through the town of Asni and up into the mountains from there. Entry to Toubkal National Park is free. There are vendors selling food and drinks along the way.
The incline through the valley is relatively smooth with only a few areas that are steep. On the second half of the route, the incline is very slight. However, in the heat, the walk is still hard. Make sure to take water, a hat or headscarf and if possible, leave Imlil in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the hottest point of the day.
Don’t be tempted to climb Toubkal on the first day unless you’re very fit. We arrived at the refuge around 1PM and were considering continuing up Toubkal, but after a short walk-around the refuge we realised we were more tired out than we thought. Toubkal is steep and mostly scree slopes, so it’s better to start it fresh the next morning. I’d recommend finding the start of the trail and route across the gorge as we managed to spend the first hour of day 2 walking along the wrong path.
Day 2 – Toubkal ascent and return to Imlil
The second day is the CAF Refuge to the Summit of Toubkal, back down and the return walk to Imlil. After spending the night at CAF to acclimatise, you should start hiking at first light the next morning. Sunrise will be from 05:00 to 07:00, depending on the season. You want to cross the river about two minutes after leaving the refuge. Take the left pass and continue left to cross the gorge (it’s easy to miss the path across). Do not walk further up the path through the valley as you will not be able to cross the gorge again and you’ll be heading in the wrong direction.
Toubkal is to the left as you walk up from the refuge (yes, there’s a steep black scree slope – that’s the one you want to go up). Once you’re across the river, climb the scree slopes and boulder fields for what feels like forever. The final ascent isn’t too challenging and the summit is marked by a tripod. It should take you about three and a half hours to walk to the summit, the loose rocks being the most challenging part.
There aren’t great views from the peak, but there are cute goats from the top and that’s the next best thing!
After reaching the summit, you descend Toubkal and continue the 4-hour trudge back to Imlil. The climb down Mount Toubkal is tricky because of the scree slopes that mean you often skid and can fall over frequently. Charlie fell multiple times and cried her eyes out after a particularly rocky landing. Expect to have shaky legs and tricky footing all the way down.
Here’s the walking route from Gite Tizi Mizik to the CAF refuge:
Booking a refuge for Mount Toubkal
There are two refuges on the climb to Toubkal. They are Les Mouflons and Cabine Alpine Francais (CAF). You can book the CAF Refuge using the link above, but there is nearly always space at the refuge when you arrive. We didn’t book in advance when we did the hike.
CAF costs 140 Moroccan Dirhams (MAD) per night. That gets you a dorm-style bunk bed (no blankets!). Showers are cold, toilets are lacking toilet paper and soap. The staff are friendly.
If you have your own gear, then you can camp outside the refuge in the camping ground. To be honest, this looks much nicer than sleeping inside the refuge!
Breakfast is 30d (don’t bother), lunch is 50d and dinner is 50d. We got stale bread and jam for breakfast, plus instant coffee. Dinner was better: soup, spaghetti with a little sauce, chips and chicken for the meat eaters.
I’d recommend bringing your own breakfast and snack foods from Imlil. The refuge has limited supplies and the snacks are dry junk foods like biscuits and fizzy drinks. Bring your own apples, oranges, nuts, dried fruit and msemen (Moroccan square flatbreads) to eat for breakfast and as snacks during the hike.
What to wear when climbing Toubkal? | Toubkal Packing List
For April to October, pack the following:
- Windproof jacket
- Light fleece
- Long-sleeved top
- Socks and underwear x2
- Hiking boots
- Light sleeping bag / blankets
- Water (at least 3 litres per day, you can refill at the refuge)
- Sun cream
- Lip balm (your lips get dry in the sun and wind)
- Toilet paper
- Phone / charger (some earphones and podcasts wouldn’t go amiss)
- Snacks (we went for dates and dried apricots, which were excellent snacks)
- Camping equipment (optional)
- Headlamp / torch and spare batteries (optional)
- Trekking poles (optional)
- Quick-dry towel (optional)
Note that you can rent second-hand equipment in Imlil.
How to Get from Marrakech to Toubkal (or Marrakech to Imlil)
For the trip from Marrakech to Imlil, you can either take a shared taxi (known as a grand taxi) for 75d per person, or a private taxi for 220d. At least, that’s what we negotiated! If your bargaining skills are better than ours, you might get a better deal! The grand taxi station is by Sidi Mimoun Garden.
There’s no direct bus from Marrakech to Imlil. Instead, take a bus from the Gare Routiere de Marrakech to Asni. From Asni, you can take a minibus or a taxi the rest of the way.
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