Summer and Winter ascents of North Africa’s highest mountain

There's nothing quite like topping-out on an African 4000er...and there's nothing quite like the alluring taste of lamb Tagine when you get back to Marrakech, or the rejuvenating feeling of a post-climb rub-down at the local hammam! This is what life is all about. Crisp mountain air, towering peaks, outlandish culture and exotic massage. Sign-up without delay!

The Moroccan High Atlas mountain’s offer many attainable summits, including the enigmatic J’bel Toubkal (4167m), the highest peak in North Africa. The mountain gives its name to the National Park in which it lies – its beauty and accessibility making it a very attractive proposition to those short of time and in need of a mountain hit. Energetic trekkers will have the opportunity to bag Toubkal West (4030m) on the way down.

This is a flexible programme and ascents of other 4000m peaks in the area can also be arranged, these include Timesguida, Afella, Biguinoussene, Ras and Akioud. Most of these climbs, including Toubkal, are suitable for first timers. It would also be possible to combine a Toubkal climb with a trip to M'goun in the Central Atlas (this would involve a fair bit of driving, but it's totally do-able).

Let me know if you would like to extend your trip to include ascents of other mountains.


Day 1: Arrive in Marrakech. You will be met by the guide at the airport and taken to the gite in Imlil (50 miles).

Day 2: Trek from Imlil (1750m) to the Neltner Refuge (3200m), 1450m of ascent. In summer, we follow good paths and use mules to carry most of the luggage. In winter, porters will forge a path through the snow. On the way up, we stop at the shrine of Sidi Chammharouch (2350m) for lunch. At the refuge we stay in dormitory accommodation. Food will be prepared by our cook.

Day 3: Two options are available: 1. Acclimatisation trek to Tizi n'Ouanaomuss (3684m). This is a high pass which gives great views of Lac D'Ifini and the Tifnoute valley. A short day which gives you time to adjust to the altitude. 2. Head for the summits of Ouanoukrim Ras (4083m) and Timesguida (4027m). These 4000m peaks can be climbed in a 5 - 6 hr roundtrip and offer stunning views of the range. Basic scrambling skills are required.

Day 4: Toubkal ascent. Start early to ensure that we get the best of the weather and the views. If conditions allow, we will ascend by the North Cwm and descend by the South Cwm to add variety to the climb. However, during the winter months, the North Cwm can be icy and it may be necessary to ascend and descend via the South Cwm. After tea at the refuge, walk back to Armed where a vehicle will be waiting. Return to Marrakech, hotel.

Day 5: Return home

Route Information/ seasonal variations

Toubkal is a high mountain so you will feel the altitude if you climb too quickly. Even if you ascend slowly, you will feel out of breath as you near the summit because it becomes more difficult to breath in the thin air at this altitude. By spending an extra night at the refuge before you attempt the climb itself, you will make things much easier because your body will have had extra time to acclimatise.

Although acclimatisation is the key to climbing high mountains, the fitter you are the easier you will find the climb. It's a good idea to do some pre-climb training.

There are two normal routes from the refuges to the summit, and we follow the same routes in summer and winter; South Cwm route (up and down via the South Cwm) and the North/South traverse (up the North Cwm and down the South).

Under summer conditions, the route consists of steep scree paths with occasional sections of scrambling. In winter, climbers will usually require crampons and a walking ice-axe and it takes longer to climb the peaks. However, the ascent (by either route) is not technical and you do not necessarily need prior experience using an axe or crampons.

Imlil to the refuge


A reasonably fit person will take 4-6 hours to walk from Imlil (1750m) to the refuge (around 3200m) in summer conditions. The return leg down will take 4 hours or less.


It’s difficult to put a time on the same ascent in winter because snow conditions vary from day-to-day. If conditions are favourable, it will take about 5 - 7 hours to get from Imlil to the refuges . The return leg down will take 4 - 5 hours. These times depend on the height of the snowline and depth of untracked snow.

Toubkal summit via the South Cwm route


This takes anywhere from 4 - 6 hours depending on fitness under summer conditions.
The terrain on this route consists of steep scree with no exposure and no scrambling unless you decide to climb Toubkal West on the way down. The route to the summit of Toubkal West is short (1 hr up, 45 mins down) but steep with easy but exposed scrambling near the top.


The climb to the summit from the refuges on the South Cwm route is graded at Alpine F, which means that basic skills are required. It’s OK for beginners to climb under the watchful eye of the guide. It’ll take 5 - 7 hours depending on fitness/ ability and snow conditions. Basic snow-plodding at a maximum angle of about 35 deg.

North/South Traverse


It’ll take anywhere from 5 - 7 hours in summer conditions. The terrain consists of mostly steep scree, with some scrambling on the final approach.


Ideally, we will attempt the North/ South traverse of the mountain but this is not always possible. In windy, inclement or icy conditions the North Cwm is best avoided and we may use the South Cwm route instead. In winter, this route will take 6 - 8hrs and will involve basic snow plodding and scrambling over Alpine F terrain. Expect scrambling, the occasional icy patch and wind on the final approach.

View from Toubkal's summit in summer conditions.

Photo: Summer conditions on Toubkal.