Climbing Mount Toubkal – 10 Tips to Summit
Sore knees, a smile, the view from the top. As trekking experts we visited our partners in Morocco and there we couldn’t let a climb of the highest mountain of North Africa go by. Here are our best tips for climbing Mount Toubkal!
Tip 1: There are many ways to climb Toubkal – Choose the option that suits you best
We did a so-called Berber Villages & Toubkal Summit trekking tour. This means that the first days you will walk through the different Berber villages, experience the local culture and sleep in local Gites. The end of this tour consists of climbing Mount Toubkal where you can choose between a 2 or 3 day ascent. Curious which one suits you? Then please keep reading.
2 or 3 days for climbing Mount Toubkal?
Are you an experienced hiker and not afraid of a challenge? Then you can opt for a two-day climb of Mount Toubkal. The first day you climb to the so-called Refuge (as in the 3-day version) at 3200 meters where you eat and sleep. From here you start the next day around 4.00 am in the morning for your ultimate push to the summit. After 3 to 4 hours of climbing, you reach the climax, Jbel Toubkal at 4100 meters and enjoy an endless view all around. After reaching the summit it’s time to relax… guess not! If you go for the two-day trekking it means you will descend all the way to Imlil: the starting point of your ascent on day 1. In between, you will stop at the Refuge to enjoy a well deserved and much-needed lunch that will provide you with an extra energy boost.
If you go for the 3-day climb then the descent is divided into two days. On the day of the climb to the top of Jbel Toubkal, you will leave later, around 6 in the morning, and in the afternoon you will return to the Refuge where you will also stay that night. The next day you will leave for the descent towards Imlil. If you want to take it a bit easier and enjoy the nature and tranquility around you to the fullest, then this hike is your choice.
As we have combined our Toubkal climb with the Berber Villages, there are many more options. Would you like to combine climbing Mount Toubkal with a visit to the Sahara? Check out the offers of our partners here.
Tip 2: A good preparation is half the job. Train for climbing Mount Toubkal!
Are you in good general condition and do you think that climbing Mount Toubkal is a walk in the park? Do you realize that climbing a mountain is a sport in itself and that it requires specific training if you want to be prepared? In addition to climbing, descending is a heavy burden on your joints such as your knees. Here are a few tips to get you well prepared.
Hike and hike more!
Walk and walk more. One way to become good at what you do is by practicing. The best practice for hiking is therefore hiking. Since you are interested in a multi-day trekking adventure, we assume that you already like hiking. Do it more often. If you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by hills or even mountains, it’s time to see them more frequently.
A misconception about trekking is that climbing is most difficult for your body. Wrong. Descending is actually more demanding. When you hike downhill, your quads are put to work. If you notice too much muscle pain and weakness in your quadriceps during a walk, it may be wise to add some strength exercises to the mix. If your quads and glutes are suffering, your knees and ankles may also find it difficult.
You don’t need to be a member of the gym, because just using your body weight can give you the results you want. Depending on how you feel, you can do two sets of 10 lunges, 10 squats and 10 step ups once or twice a week. If you want to push yourself a bit more, you can try to add some pull ups and increase your routine. However, it is really not necessary to go a step further in building up your muscle power. You can already enjoy trekking when you have mastered the basics, hiking. This is not a fitness competition.
Tip 3. Be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness when you climb Mount Toubkal.
If you surpass 3,000 metres, you may suffer from altitude sickness. Since you sleep at 3200 meters altitude during the first and possible second night of your Toubkal climb, it is good to be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness so that you can possibly do something about it.
Symptoms of altitude sickness start to show within a few hours after arrival at high altitude and include nausea, shortness of breath, headaches and an inability to make a physical effort. A general feeling of fatigue will take away all the joy you experienced when things were still going well. You may have difficulty falling asleep, experience dizziness, and suffer from severe headaches. Here are some tips to help prevent this.
Listen to Your Body
Listen to your body. Your body tells you when it needs rest. Listen to it carefully. Be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness and talk about it. Let your friends, your guide, your porters know how you feel and take a break when your body wants you to. Don’t let it get any worse.
Eat. Eat as much as you can. Don’t skip your meal in the Refuge while climbing Mount Toubkal, even if you don’t like what you have on your plate. Your body works hard and needs a lot of carbohydrates in order to make extra kilometres and to be able to bridge more altitude. Forget about your diet and buy those extra snickers. Trekking is hard work and can easily burn more than 4,000 calories a day. Eat, your body will thank you.
Before and after food comes water. Then there is water again. Really, you will have to increase your water intake. This is a lot easier when it’s hot and you’re sweating, but at high altitude you need to be disciplined. Drink 3 to 5 litres per day and drink another cup of Moroccan tea. You’re hiking and not partying – so leave the alcohol for after the trip. Alcohol stimulates mountain sickness and that’s not just because alcohol dehydrates you. An advantage during your trekking in Morocco: Alcohol is hard to get in this Islamic country and tea is the most popular drink and is also a specialty.
Tip 4: Be aware of the best season for climbing Mount Toubkal
It’s always warm in Morocco, right? If you go to the coast or fly to inland cities such as Marrakesh (Toubkal is nearby) then it is indeed all year round pleasant or even hot. We climbed Mount Toubkal in May and flew to Marrakesh. Where the thermometer in Marrakesh tapped 40 degrees Celsius, we hiked through the snow on Toubkal a few days later. As you can understand, the season has a direct influence on the weight and packing list of your trip to Morocco.
During the winter period (November to March) Toubkal is often seen as something that should not be climbed. We strongly disagree with that. Do you want to see beautiful snowy peaks, do you like a physical challenge, are you willing to feel alone in the world? Then climbing Mount Toubkal in winter is for you. Expect everything to be covered with snow from the Refuge (3200 m) and the temperature to be well below zero at night. If you are thinking of climbing Mount Toubkal in winter you need Ice Axes (ice axes) and Cramp Ons (cramp irons). These can be rented in Imlil, the starting point of your trek, for about € 5,- per day.
Autumn or Spring
Are you climbing in autumn or spring? This means that you have to prepare well for both the heat and the cold. During your first day on the way to the Refuge at 3200 meters it can be very hot on the trails. The sun is relentless, so prepare yourself well with sunscreen (factor 50), a cap and sunglasses. Tip: Bring a shirt with a collar (polo), scarf or buff. From our experience we know that your neck can burn very badly.
On day 2 when climbing Mount Toubkal you can still expect snow and the temperature is probably around freezing point. Long pants, a good coat, hat, scarf and gloves are highly recommended.
You might not expect it, but the summer period is the busiest period for climbing Mount Toubkal. Both locals and tourists flee from the heat of the inland and the cities and go to the mountains to cool off. In the Atlas Mountains it is still somewhat pleasant during the summer season, even for a hike. Make sure you are well prepared for the sun. During the last stretch to the top it can still be cold, so make sure you bring long trousers and a good coat.
Tip 5: Prepare for a hellish night in the Refuge, and blissful nights in the rest of Morocco’s accommodations
If you go hiking in the Atlas mountains there is a good chance that you will book a flight to Marrakech, which is an hour’s drive from Imlil. Usually the starting point when climb Mount Toubkal. Marrakech is definitely worth it and you should not bypass it before or after your hike. Here you can stay in the many so-called riads. A riad is a large, often rectangular, traditional two-storey house, built around a small courtyard. The courtyard serves as a garden lounge where meals are served. This also explains the origin of the word Riad, an Arabic term for garden. Riads were the homes of the richest citizens, such as traders and courtiers. Read here our blog about the best tips for your stay in Marrakech.
Gites and Refuges
If you don’t go directly to the summit when climbing Mount Toubkal, but you decide to trek through the Berber villages as well, you will stay in the local Gites. These are the local hotels that have been arranged by your trekking company. They will bring you back to basics, but are equipped with all necessities. Expect a shared bedroom, a cold water shower and a squat toilet. The hospitality of the locals and the delicious food will make you realize that you don’t need the unnecessary luxury at all. Tip: make sure you have a warm sleeping bag as it can get cold at night and the gites generally don’t have any heating.
If climbing Mount Toubkal is on your agenda, there is a good chance that you will be staying in a so-called Refuge on the last night before you climb to the top. We stayed in the Refuge du Toubkal where we shared a dormitory with about 30 people. A mix of snoring people, sweaty feet and the adrenalin prior to the climb to the summit resulted in us hardly sleeping
An alternative choice is the Refuge Les Mouflons which is at the same altitude with more luxurious and more expensive cabins. If we did this climb again, we would be willing to pay more and our choice would certainly have been made. Tip: Check with your trekking company prior to your climb where you are going to stay. If you climb in the summer you can also choose to stay at 3200 meters in tents. Make sure you have a good sleeping bag as it can still get cold at night.
Tip 6: Don’t be a cheapskate: Tip your guide and porters who make climbing Mount Toubkal possible
For every hike you do in the Atlas Mountains you will get a guide, mules, cooks and porters as well. These people will make you understand what Berber hospitality means like no other. During our Berber Villages & Toubkal Climb we were surprised every day with the most delicious dishes, tea and snacks in between. On top of that, our luggage was already there every time we arrived at our destination.
The salaries in Morocco are not comparable to those in the Western world. A little more or less tip can make a big difference for a Moroccan family. During our trek we have kept € 10 per day per person as a tip. In our opinion a good guideline. We were also extremely satisfied with the service provided.
Tip 7: Your ultimate packing list for climbing Mount Toubkal
As mentioned earlier, good preparation is half the battle. That certainly applies to the things you take with you when climbing Mount Toubkal. Find below your ultimate packing list for your Toubkal climb!
Make sure your daypack is not too small, at least 25 litres or more. In the end, there is still a lot to be done for a full day of hiking. And if you start in the morning with a fleece or sweater on, it’s nice if it fits in as well.
Make sure your daypack is comfortable, you can wear it all day long. Good shoulder straps and preferably a sturdy waistband, which distributes the weight better. If you sweat easily, a special layer to absorb sweat can be pleasant. Also an extra T-shirt for on the go is nice. When you arrive at a high pass or resting place, you can change your wet shirt and don’t cool off as fast. Also check if (the belt of) your daypack has handy pockets or a good mounting for your camera or water bottle.
What should you put in:
- Rain clothing
- Fleece pullover
- 1 or 2 Water bottles. You must be able to take at least 2 litres with you. Drinking a lot is important when it’s hot and if you sweat a lot. It is also important to drink a lot when acclimatising to the altitude (> 3,000m.). Mineral water is for sale during the trip in the villages for 10 dirham (approx. € 1) for a bottle of 1.5 liters. You can also have your water from the mountains boiled by the cook; you can also bring heat-resistant bottles to cool the water down.
- Camera, sunscreen and a small first aid kit; plasters, bandages, betadine, rescue blanket and some paracetamol. Paracetamol helps well with starting altitude sickness complaints and quickly gives some extra energy when things are not going as well physically as they should be;
- Flip flops or sandals are nice during breaks or after your trek.
- Only in winter (approx. end of October to mid-May) with snow higher in the mountains: crampons and ice axes for the Toubkal ascent. Equipment can be hired in Imlil before you start the hike to the mountain hut at 3200m.
For the night
- Sleeping bag, liner and pillow cover
How warm that should be depends on the time of year. In the summer, especially in the low-lying villages, it can even be warm and an extra sheet bag is recommended. A pillowcase is a good addition. If you go to the Toubkal refuge (3,200m!) and camp there, know that there is still a chance of night frost in the summer. If you spend the night in the mountain hut, you will sleep in a room with more people and the temperature will remain above 0.
- Sleeping mat (Only for camping)
When you go camping, you don’t have to bring a tent. Two-person tents are included. Thin sleeping mattresses are available for the participants. Experience shows that participants prefer to bring their own well insulated sleeping mat.
- Ordinary weekend bag
The bag you hand over for luggage transport (max. 15 kg) is transported on mules. You can leave things that you don’t need during the hike at the hotel. A separate bag to leave your belongings in is handy. A (too large) hard case is not practical for the carrying baskets of the mule. The luggage is secured in the carrying baskets with ropes. On the way the luggage sometimes rubs against each other and is under pressure because of the lashing. Make sure that vulnerable items are well protected. A sturdy weekend bag will do just fine. This is also handy for you to pack and unpack during the hike. If you prefer to use a large backpack or duffel bag, you can of course do that too. To prevent straps or ties from being damaged, a ‘flight-bag’ as extra protection is a good tip. Plastic grocery bags are handy to pack your things neatly and offer (extra) protection against (possible) rain.
- Solid hiking boots
Hiking in the High Atlas means many ascents and descents on stony ground. Sturdy hiking shoes are recommended. Hiking boots help to reduce the risk of sprains on often rocky surfaces. In the summer you can wear light yet sturdy shoes; category A/B (in winter B/C). Make sure you have a good profile! In the winter, especially if you want to climb Toubkal, crampons with straps are also a good idea. Also bring plenty of socks with you.
- Crampons / ice axes (Climbing Mount Toubkal in winter)
In winter and in snow higher up in the mountains crampons and ice axes are needed for climbing Mount Toubkal. These can be rented locally (approx. € 5,- per day).
- Trekking poles
If you like hiking poles, be sure to take them with you. The descent from the highest mountain, Mount Toubkal, is partly on a slope with gravel; many people certainly enjoy walking with trekking poles there. Also on other stretches the mountain paths are quite difficult for people from the low countries.
Flip flops or sandals
Nothing beats taking off your hiking boots on the road or on arrival. For lunch and at least for the evening it is nice to also have slippers or sandals with you. It is also good to know that you when you are in Morocco you take your shoes off and therefore also on the mat and mats you sit on during meals. Also bring warm socks for the evening. Also in the mountain hut ‘Refuge du Toubkal’ mountain boots ‘in house’ are not allowed, there are (limited) plastic slippers for the guests.
Put as much of your toiletries as possible in small bottles and vials. A thin towel and a thin washcloth will dry faster. When you’re camping, you can often ‘bathe’ a little near a stream. For women, a shawl or something like that is practical.
Flashlight or Headlamp
A flashlight is useful for a gîte / mountain hut trip and indispensable for camping. A lamp that you can put on your head is practical, and necessary when climbing Mount Toubkal because you will walk very early when it is still dark.
Games, a magazine or a book
For the evening and the longer lunch break. In the gîtes / Berber homes and in the mountain huts there is electricity and you can also recharge your batteries.
Fast drying windproof hiking clothes
We really don’t recommend a pair of jeans. Once it is wet, it dries too slowly. You don’t need the most expensive clothing, but airy, sporty clothing is recommended.
- Camera (possibly an additional memory card!)
- Large weekend bag (possibly ‘flight-bag’ for protection)
- Bag for things you don’t need during the trek and want to leave at the hotel.
- Hiking boots (A/B, winter B/C) and possibly trekking poles
- Sandals or slippers
- Sleeping bag (approx. -5˚C), sheet bag, pillowcase. With camping also a sleeping mat.
- Daypack (≥ 25 liters).
- 2 water bottles good for min. 2 liters.
- Rainwear (jacket and pants)
- Sunglasses and a cap.
- Warm sweater or fleece (Toubkal: gloves, hat, and scarf)
- Long pants, also for hiking.
- Shorts (not too short) or exit pants
- Some quick-drying T-shirts. Also, something with long sleeves and possibly a collar or scarf to protect against the sun.
- Underwear and swimwear.
- Quick drying towel, washcloth, possibly a wrap for women.
- Toiletries (in handy small bottles)
- Sufficient socks
- Long underpants (thermal), leggings or pajama pants.
- Toilet paper, paper handkerchiefs and possibly disinfection gel.
- Flashlight and or a headlight.
- Handy things you can use on the road to repair something like a pocket knife, safety pins, needle and thread, glue, piece of rope or cable tie, tie-wrap, tape(for your inflatable mattress).
- Hip and neck bag for important papers (passport, ticket, insurance emergency number).
- And in winter or snow: crampons and ice axes! (locally for rent for € 5,- per day).
Tip 8: Adapt to and respect the local culture around Mount Toubkal
If you go trekking in the Atlas Mountains, you will automatically have to deal with the local Berber culture. Realize that you’re a guest and respect the culture that doesn’t always correspond to the Western views that you may have.
Morocco is predominantly Islamic, so showing too much exposure is considered inappropriate. Low necklines and short skirts look different from covered shoulders and a slightly higher shirt or shirt. A shawl or scarf can help. A longer pair of shorts (bermuda) is also more appropriate for men.
Taking the time to say hello to each other is also important in Morocco. The international ‘Salaam Aleikum’ (peace with you) can be used at will. If you are addressed with ‘Salaam Aleikum’ you answer ‘Aleikum Salaam’. And ‘Shukran’ is Arabic for thank you.
We did our trekking, during Ramadan. This meant that our guides and porters were not allowed to eat or drink during the day. It is appreciated if you understand this. They don’t mind if you eat and drink during the day. Alcohol is also hard to get during Ramadan and it is very expensive in Morocco.
Tip 9: Book your Mount Toubkal ascent with a reliable trekking company
In May 2019 we visited all our partners in Toubkal for a joint review on quality and certification. If you want to be sure that you book with a reliable trekking company, book through Bookatrekking.com. On this page, you can find our full range of trekking tours and providers for climbing Mount Toubkal, hiking tours through Berber villages and all tours combined with a visit to the Sahara.
On Bookatrekking.com you can easily compare and book local providers and hikes. In addition, we have the lowest price guarantee. Have you found the Toubkal ascent of your dreams? In that case, you can proceed with the booking. At Bookatrekking.com you pay a deposit of 15% of the total amount. You pay the remaining amount on location prior to the trek directly to the trekking company.
Bookatrekking.com only uses the safest payment methods. Once your booking has been received, your space is reserved, your spot is safe and you can already look forward to your chosen trekking.
After you have booked, you will receive an e-mail confirmation with all the necessary information and the contact details of the trekking company. If you have any questions or if you want to short circuit something, you can get information directly from the right person. Of course you can always ask us your question. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The trekking company will also receive your details and can therefore always contact you and provide you with additional information.
Tip 10: Be lucky with your travel companions before your Mount Toubkal climb. Inshallah.
Inshallah, “God willing”. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, but with whom. Sometimes all these clichés are true. During our trek through the Atlas mountains and the ascent of Toubkal we had very nice travel companions, guides and porters which made this trip unforgettable for us. Sometimes you just have to be a little lucky.