Summit to Remember: Jess’s Journey of trekking to mt Toubkal

Ever wondered what it was really like trekking to Mt Toubkal?

Well, one of our awesome EverTrekkers Jess recently took on the challenge of summiting Mt Toubkal at 4,167m over a long weekend with her husband Owen and wrote about her journey.

The good bits, the challenging bits as well as what it really takes to make the summit and back down again safely.

So settle down, grab a comfy seat and your favourite cuppa as Jess recounts her journey to the summit of Mt Toubkal.


Day 0: The night before leaving for Morocco - It all starts here

 

If you’ve got an early morning flight, now is the time to a) eat any final treats that you aren’t taking to the mountain and b) make sure that everything on your list is packed. Depending on how early your flight is (highly recommend the 06:10 EasyJet if you’re leaving from London Gatwick!) then it’s also time to have a final nap in your own bed - before you head out bright and early for Morocco. 

 

Make sure that you’ve got: 

 

  • Your sleeping essentials (particularly if you’re in one of the tents at the refuge!) like an air/ travel pillow, antibacterial wet wipes (as the showers in the refuge are usually pretty busy and 20 dirhams per shower) and your sleeping bag/ sleeping bag liner if you’re hiring a sleeping bag out in Morocco. 
  • Your travel essentials; passport, boarding pass(es), travel pillow, book + any currency to change at the airport.
  • Your EverTrek list of climbing essentials; clothing, snacks, trekking equipment (poles are essential!) and your itinerary.



Day 1: Arriving in Morocco - and realising what’s ahead!

 

Your arrival at Marrakesh airport is exciting! It’s where your trip feels like it really begins - but before you can step out into the heat and see the palm trees properly… there are a couple of hurdles to navigate!

 

At Marrakesh airport, it’s customary to have your passport checked repeatedly so make sure you keep it somewhere handy and easily accessible.

Also be aware that security
will ask where you’re staying in Morocco - so be clear that you’re headed to Imlil and provide the name of the lodge that you’re staying in so that it makes it easier to pass through security.

Imlil Lodge was where we stayed. 

You’ll also be asked to provide your passport to other security professionals
and have your bags scanned on the way out of the airport - so keep that in mind when you’re packing your luggage and only pack what you can carry!

Most people in Morocco speak French or English - so it’s worth brushing up on basic French just to make your life a little easier as you get out of Marrakesh and into the mountains!

 

Marrakesh airport is also the last opportunity for you to grab a bottle of water, nip to the toilet and change any currency (dirhams and euros can be used on the mountain/ at the refuge) and it’s best to ask for small notes as Morocco has a tipping culture so everyone that you come into contact with will require a tip at some point during your trip.

Having smaller notes means that it’s easy to tip small tasks (like people carrying luggage to your room) fairly.

 

As you exit the airport, you’ll see someone with an EverTrek sign who’ll be responsible for your transfer to Imlil. Sounds obvious - but don’t go with anyone that doesn’t have an EverTrek sign!

Your transfer to Imlil will take 90-120 minutes and goes across some cool scenery so keep your eyes peeled!

There are some very winding mountain roads - and drivers do point out places of interest (and will even stop before you reach Imlil to show you the first view of Toubkal and take photos for you!)

 

On arrival at your lodge in Imlil (depending on arrival time) you’ll get lunch. Bear in mind that the food will look similar throughout your trip so please expect lots of salad, soup, tagine and sweet rolls!

This is your opportunity to kick back on the gorgeous roof terrace, acclimate yourself to the new altitude of 1745m and rest before a big day of trekking tomorrow!

 

You can also choose to walk down into Imlil and get any final snacks you might want from the local shops. Things like oreos, pringles, nuts and crisps are readily available and the small shops take dirhams if you want to break up bigger notes.

 

Your final job of the day is to make sure that your duffel bag is packed, ready for tomorrow and to have your rucksack ready. Bottled water is available at the lodge but you’ll need to ask for it - and you may want to leave a tip too.

 

 

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Day Two: Heading to the Refuge

 

After a decent breakfast (omelette/ bread/ jams) you’ll meet your trek guide at around 9am.

Please note that 
everyone operates on ‘Morocco time’... so you may find that things run slightly later than expected! It’s totally normal and not worth panicking about!

 

Your guide will make sure that all of your belongings (in your duffel bag) are on a mule and will have porters who begin taking your things up to the refuge for you… and you’ll finally head out to start your journey to the summit!

 

Day Two is a lot of walking - so make sure that you’ve filled up both a water bottle and your water bladder to use on the go. There are multiple little shops up to the refuge (you’ll pass four or five) where you can purchase water, fruit and even mountain merch - but you’ll need dirhams for this!

Definitely keep hydrating as you walk and don’t worry about access to water; you really will be able to pay for it on the route. 

 

You’ll also stop for lunch at a little cafe about two hours into your trek on Day Two. You’ll be able to have a seat for about 30-45 minutes and will get a salad, tagine and some bread to share. You can also purchase freshly squeezed clementine juice, tea or mint tea here and it’s a great opportunity to enjoy the view and have a quick stop.

There 
is a toilet here - but it’s basic - so make sure that you’ve got toilet paper in your rucksack to use and hand sanitizer!

 

After about 6 hours of trekking up meandering, relatively wide, paths, you’ll find yourselves at the refuge. The mules and porters will have made it up well before you - and you’ll find that your tent is ready with your duffel bag inside!

(Note - During colder and winter months, you'll be staying in the Refuge itself but during the hotter months, it's much cooler and nicer to say outside in a tent)

When you arrive, your guide will also encourage you to eat some snacks that the porters have put out in advance (mint tea, popcorn and some sugary biscuits!) so make sure you use this time to eat, hydrate and relax! Read a book/ have a nap or just watch the local goats frolicking around the mountain and let yourself chill out! 

You’ll also discover that there is very little phone signal at the refuge - so if you’re planning on contacting home regularly before your trip, just know that it’s unlikely to be possible whilst you’re at the refuge.

The refuge itself has basic amenities but is in a good location and there are lots of other people who’ll also be heading to the Toubkal summit at different times - so if you’re going solo, it’s an opportunity to make some new friends!

 

In summer, the refuge has limited electricity. Electricity is turned on (including lights) at 6am and lasts until 9am and then on again at 6:30pm with lights out at 9. You will need your headlamp to access the toilets and showers so make sure you always have toilet paper and a light when you head in!

There’s also a little tuck shop at the refuge which takes both euros and dirhams and has a decent stash of chocolate/ sweets/ toiletries/ water and other essentials if you need them.

 

You’ll head to bed nice and early after your guide has given you the timings for Day Three… and if you go in summer, you’ll be lucky enough to be surrounded by goats, sheep and mules as you get into your sleeping bag!

It’s really picturesque and a great opportunity to take photos of the surrounding mountains at dusk… but remember that the goats and mules 
do think that it’s funny to play and ‘scream’ at night.

Don’t be worried about weird sounds - but 
do take earplugs (and wear them!) if you’re a light sleeper so that you get a decent rest.

 

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Day Three: To the summit… and beyond!

 

Today’s the big day! You’ll wake up and have a decent breakfast (porridge/ bread/ various jams and spreads) before you set off. Make sure that you have adequate water and snacks for summit day… and that if you’ll want more water on the mountain, that you take chlorine tablets to make the water safe. There are no shops/ toilets on summit day - so make sure that you take everything you need for a smooth trip.

 

Day Three is about steep inclines and scrambling to get to the summit - so make sure that your boots are comfortable and tied correctly and that you’ve got your favourite socks on to avoid blisters! You’ll definitely need your trekking poles for summit day - so make sure you’ve tried them in advance and know which heights work best for you.

 

Mentally, Day Three requires a lot of resilience - particularly if this is your first/ most challenging trek yet. It’s not hugely far to the summit - and over the entire trip from the refuge to the summit and back to your tent, you’ll cover about 4.5km. But it is a constant incline - and you’re operating at a high altitude so make sure that you stay hydrated, eat regular snacks and keep going!

Your guide will take good care of you and make sure that you’ve got the very best chance of making it to the summit - but it’ll require grit, mental resilience and a lot of walking to make it to the top for those epic views of North Africa!

 

As you ascend, you’ll get to see mountain waterfalls, different rock formations and there are views galore.

Don’t forget to take photos so that you can look back on the journey later! 

 

 

 

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When you get to the summit, there are plenty of photo opportunities. Take a minute to rest, breathe and eat/ drink so that you’re ready to head down. The views are absolutely amazing - and your guide will let you stay at the summit for a reasonable amount of time (weather dependent) so that you can rest, recharge and take in the view before descending. 

 

" It’ll require grit, mental resilience and a lot of walking to make it to the top for those epic views of North Africa!" 

 

Your descent will take longer than you think… so make sure that you stay focused and use your trekking poles to support your legs. They’ll likely be wobbly and tired so it’s super important to follow your guide and take it easy for the descent. Take it at your own pace and don’t be afraid to slow down if you need.

 

If you’re on a four day trip, you’ll descend to the refuge for a final night in your tent… and if you’re on a three day trip, you’ll descend to the refuge, have lunch and then make your way back to Imlil!

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Trekking back to Imlil:

 

Your legs have done a lot of walking - so be prepared for sore muscles during your trek back down the mountain to Imlil! On your way back, you’ll be able to pass the same shops as before - so you can get more water and snacks if you need them.

 

You’ll also take a different route back to Imlil and won’t return to your original lodge.

(Note - On the Toubkal Roof of the North Weekender 4 Day Trek, groups will stay in Imlil for this night before departing Morocco the next day.

Instead, you’ll arrive in a shady area where the mules can rest and you’ll have a final outdoor lunch of tagine, eggs, salad and bread before your taxi transfer arrives to take you back to Marrakesh!

Now is the time to say goodbye to your guide and porters (and the mules!) and give them a tip before you leave Imlil. 300-600 dirhams is enough for a tip and you can give it to the main guide who’ll distribute it amongst their team.

 

On arrival in Marrakesh:

 

Your taxi transfer back to Marrakesh will take 90-120 minutes and you won’t have the opportunity to shower before this so make sure you’ve got your antibacterial wipes to hand if you want to get rid of some of the sweat/ grime from your trek :) 

 

Your taxi driver is likely to ask if you’d like to visit the feminine Berber co-operative where they make argan oil - and if you want to stop, you can have tea/ snacks there. Dirhams are the accepted currency.

 

You’ll then be on your way to your Riad where you’ll spend your final night! 

(Note - This night in Marrakech is only for the Toubkal Roof of the North 8 Day Trek)

 

On arrival in Marrakesh, there is a (small!) walk to your Riad and you’ll find that your taxi driver will get a porter to take your luggage from the main road to your Riad for you. Please be aware that these porters will ask for tips - so make sure that you have small notes to hand.

 

Arriving in the Riad is your opportunity for a much needed - and very welcome - shower. Towels are provided at the Riad and there are also a couple of small pools. Whilst amenities are relatively basic, your room will have a shower, air conditioning and you’re in the centre of the bustling Medina… so there are plenty of opportunities to rest, relax or head out and see more of Marrakesh before you head home.

 

If you do decide to head out, please make sure that you make a note of the Riad and street name before you leave. Phone signal can be haphazard in Marrakesh so it’s worth having all the important details to hand so that you can get back easily! You can take a short walk to the square to see the market - or simply find the local restaurants to grab some good food and congratulate yourself on an epic adventure!

 

Your taxi transfer will arrive about 2.5 hours before your flight. Marrakesh airport isn’t far and it doesn’t take long to check in. Your taxi driver will call the Riad that you’re staying in and you can get someone to help you navigate to the taxi meeting point and help with your luggage. Don’t be afraid to be direct in asking for help or directions. Make sure to tip your taxi driver - and arrive with your passport and luggage for a safe flight home.


Finally - make sure that you’ve got all your epic photos and stories to tell your friends and family back home - and most importantly, tag EverTrek on Instagram and Facebook with your photos so that we can share in your EPIC mountaineering success!

Jess ' Summit Seeker' Pearman

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