“The jewel of Morocco has to be the Atlas Mountains. The source of its very existence, the precipitation these lofty mountains create feeds down in to the lowlands enabling life to flourish in what otherwise would be a extremely dry desert! The highest point of these life-giving mountains is of course ‘Jebel Toubkal’, towering over Morocco and the rest of Northern Africa at a height of 4167m.
Ben here, reporting on the first 360 expedition of 2023! Having trodden the trails of the Atlas Mountains a few times now, Toubkal has become a much-loved and familiar favourite.
In fact, Toubkal is a popular favourite when it comes to expeditions, it packs a punch but requires no technical skill to ascend. Add to that the beautiful approach trek, hospitable locals and sapphire skies – Toubkal really is a classic ascent that should be included in any adventurer’s portfolio.
For even more variation there are both summer and winter conditions to challenge the hardy adventurer. Spring, Summer and Autumn in the Atlas offer a welcome escape from the heat of the plains at the feet of the mountains, trekking is pleasant on dusty trails with views stretching to the scorching horizon. As we found out on the recent trip though, winter can be a very different kettle of mint tea!”
“This January, those curious and keen to start the year off with an icy adventure joined me to travel to Morocco for a winter attempt on Toubkal: a brilliant and very memorable expedition indeed.
Even as we flew over the base of our imminent adventure, the Atlas laid out as a wall of whiteness against the sky whereas in the summer, the uniform colour of desert seems to stretch and curve up towards the heavens. From afar, mountains always look more intimidating than they are. Setting off from the quirky little town of Imlil: where colourful stalls are almost stacked upon each other, a dusty network of trails bead through the ramshackled houses and a rainbow of rugs hang from the walls- all with the backdrop of the entrance to the Atlas, we begin our two days of trekking to the Toubkal refuge. In those days, we followed hardly-frequented trails, apart from local farmers and a seemingly endless herd of goats. And hadn’t come into contact with much of the white stuff – in fact, temperatures were kind to us through the day.
After two beautiful sunny days of trekking we found ourselves ready for a push on the summit. Crampons on and layered up, we set out the door to quite the weather change, the cloud was in and the breeze was up. No bother, we kept a close eye on the weather as we made our way to the top. A real test of character and one for the memory books – the group were fantastic and the satisfaction of the summit was ever sweeter after battling the elements. And with a brief round of hugs and high fives, we headed down.
Faces filled with ice and snow, every surface grew a layer of rime ice but we soldiered on until eventually near the Mouflon refuge the conditions eased slightly and we hustled inside for shelter, warmth and another well-earnt refuelling. One of the more exciting summit pushes I’ve had on expedition but it sure did make us feel alive!
Only the walk out back to Imlil in 20cm of fresh snow left to go! Who’d have thought it – a blizzard in Africa?! But as always on expeditions, who know what you’ll get next! As we headed back to the Marrakech for our banquet dinner fit for a King – tagine laden with vegetables, mouth-watering dips with bowls of fresh flatbread and olives, chicken that falls off the bone and an array of moreish Moroccan flavours that make for a satisfied belly. Only made better by the hubbub of cheers and regaling of tales from the exhilarating outing of the days before. Mission complete!”