Climbing the highest peak in Northern Africa

In Africa, Travel Guides
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It all began in the summer of 2015 when I and a friend of mine decided spontaneously to go to Morocco for New Year and we bought the tickets right away!

Morocco! The theme is not new but the prospective is different!

No doubt when you hear Morocco you imagine desert and camels, souqs, spices and probably the ocean. But do you know that the highest peak in Northern Africa is located videlicet in Morocco! Its name is Jbel Toubkal and its altitude is pretty impressive – 4167m!

So! What is the highest point you have ever had lunch at with your legs firmly on the ground?

Yes, to us, it is 4167 m – we climbed the peak and yes, we went there quite spontaneously!

The preparation period for the hike was super short – barely 3 weeks even knowing that we were going to climb the peak in the winter season which implies higher risk and requires greater training. Luckily I was certain in our capabilities and the weather was perfect.

Starting point of the hike was a city called Imlil. Imlil is around 70 km away from the famous Marrakech and to go there you need to catch a so called Grand Taxi or simply a big taxi. The experience of traveling with a Grand Taxi, I am sure, is like nothing else you’ve ever experienced! The car is an old pale yellow Mercedes with a local driver but the passengers must be at least 5 so the drive could start, even better if they are six. Don’t worry about the rules of the road – in that part of Morocco there aren’t any ::).

When we reached the city, we rented quickly 2 pairs of crampons by the local mountain and souvenir shop after some bargaining (Moroccan people really enjoy bargaining), because they told us that there was a lot of ice at the higher parts.

Usually at the end of December there is at least 1m snow in Imlil which is 1740 m above the sea level. That particular year (2015) was very strange and there was no snow at all in the city, even the outside temperature was pretty high – around 20 degrees. Our goal for the day was to reach the hut – Refuge de Toubkal which is 3207 m above the sea level.

Our mule

Our backpacks were extremely heavy because we were carrying most of our luggage with us. That’s why we decided to rent a mule and thus also to support the local economy – it wasn’t so expensive and it was a good fun to speak with the mule guy. He was telling us stories and legends about the peak and showed us the place where the girls that couldn’t get married were jumping from into the river. The hike was quite nice with great panoramic views. There are also some small shops where you can buy something to eat or drink or just to sit for a moment if you are tired. We drank fantastic orange fresh – those kinds of fruits in Morocco are really delicious!

After around five hours of walk we reached the Refuge. It was full with people – local and foreigners all together around the fire in the only warm room. There was even one group sleeping in tents in front of the refuge. The waterfalls were frozen; the landscape resembled the story of Snow White – real fairy tale.

Can you imagine the sunset at 3200 m? Beautiful.Sunset at 3207m!

And so many stars in the sky…

The next morning we woke up early, fresh and enthusiastic, ready for the real hike – only 900 m vertical drop but the terrain is really steep, icy and snowy. We took our breakfast firstly, then prepared bottle of water, some chocolate and sandwiches and put them into one of the backpacks. We didn’t forget to take with us also a small bottle of Bulgarian Rakia for the peak – this is a tradition. What else could you possibly say when you are at 4167 m but “Nazdrave!”?

And we headed bravely up.

The hike from the refuge to the summit could be divided to three stages – the first one is shingly and dusty; the second – icy and snowy and the third one, just before the peak itself – rocky. Each of them requires constant attention. The only thing you can think about at the moment is that you are approaching your goal slowly but constantly. You have all the time you need, you are alone with your thoughts, you know what you want and that you will have it soon enough.

On the TOP of Morocco!

 

All the people from the hut were walking together in an Indian thread up towards the summit and after some hours we were already on the top. On the TOP of Morocco! The emotion, the view, the euphoria – everything was so unique. Even not speaking the same language as the rest of the people, you share together a moment of pure joy! 4167 m and no altitude sickness! The goal is reached, now is the time to breathe deeply and to have some minutes of peace. And of course, to have the lunch you have carried in the backpack for so many hours.

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay very long time on the peak because we were a bit afraid of the way back and wanted to walk very slowly and carefully. We put again the crampons. It was scary. The good news was that we were a whole group of people and we were all helping each other – when you are in the mountain you are everyone’s friend and you help as you can.

The way back to the hut was far more difficult but we remained calm. At the evening in the only warm room of the refuge all the people were talking about the hike, about Jbel Toubkal, we were sharing positive emotions, interesting stories and a lot of smiles.

On the next day our mule guy Ibrahim came exactly at 10:00 a.m. to take our backpacks one more time. He brought us a small present – apple from his own garden –big, red and juicy. We were heading back to Imlil knowing that we will experience the Grand Taxi again.

Jbel Toubkal was our first impression of Morocco and we were happy.

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