Mt. Toubkal and back in a day
If you're only at el Goute for a week, but would like to see some of the country, you could climb Mt. Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa and the Arab world. It is usually a two-day trip, but that takes a big chunk out of your holiday. If you are fit (see below) and you like adventures, it is quite possible to do it in a day - albeit a long one. You do this by taking a taxi to the village of Imlil, and walking from there. The taxi will wait & take you home when you get back (about 1200 Dirham). I hope these notes might be helpful to anyone interested in taking this on. There are further notes on Wikipedia under Mt Toubkal.
The village of Imlil is at about 1,750m and the Toubkal summit is a shade over 4,150m, so the overall climb is about 2,400m though you should take into account that Marrakech is at about 500m, so if you are going from el Goute, the total ascent in the day is 3,650m.
Guides: You must take a guide and I would recommend Lassi, who suggested we give it a go, having taken a group of us for a walk around Imlil (also recommended) a few days earlier. We originally met Lassi via AB at el Goute. The day rate for a guide is about 300 Dirham, which I suggest is 400 including a tip. As Mt. Tukbal is really meant to be a two-day trip I gave Lassi 800, which is good value in my opinion. (It is worth offering your guide the opportunity to pray during the day, which he probably will not take, but it's considerate, particularly on a Friday).
I set off from el Goute at 0500hrs, arrived at Imlil by 0615: we were walking by 0620. We got back to Imlil at 1700 so the round trip was just under 11 hours of which we were walking for 9.5 - 10. (Six hours up, four hours down).
We arrived at the Refuge (3200m) by 0915 having stopped for breakfast of eggs, bread & tea at the first (and only) village, Sidi Chamharouch. We had tea at the Refuge and went on (0945). You are immediately confronted by a thoroughly unpleasant scree slope, which takes about 10 minutes to cross. From that point there are three distinct stages to the ascent, and it is a fairly unremitting 2 1/2 hour climb to the summit. I used each stage to take stock and make sure there were no signs of altitude sickness, though on an ascent at this rate, it is unlikely to become apparent (sure enough the headache came later). We arrived at the summit at about 1230, so six hours from Imlil and we started back down 15 mins later. The view is spectacular.
Fitness: you must be fit, and confident of walking for at least 10 hours, with 60% of that being non-stop uphill. I loved it, but it was hard work. To give some idea, I did a (fairly flat) 100kms trail in a day, about 6 weeks before our holiday.
Clothing: a wind cheater or fleece is advisable. It will get cold and there is likely to be a wind which of course amplifies the effect. I had no kit with me at all, so I borrowed a day pack and took three t shirts which I layered up with as we ascended. There was a nasty storm as we came off the summit and I was soon soaked and very cold. It only lasted 10 mins and as we got below the Refuge and it warmed up a bit, I dried out and was fine. Light gloves would be useful, as the rock surface is rough and you will need to use your hands to steady yourself, especially in the final ascent/descent.
Footwear: It is a very rocky trail and you have to keep your wits about you. I had trail running shoes, which were absolutely fine, but I think running trainers might be too thin. You don't need full on climbing boots by any means.
Food: we had an omelette and bread at Sidi Chamharouch and we took three of the small round loaves with us to have with water during the day. I found this was fine - eating a little bit of bread with water during stops. I drank a litre of water in the car en route to Imlil, and took 2x 1.5 litre bottles of water with me. I had finished both by the time we got back to the Refuge from the summit, so bought some more there. There are drinking points (pipe sticking out of the ground) which I avoided, and a few stalls between the Refuge and Imlil where you can resupply. You could get a full meal when you get back down to the Refuge if you would like, but if you are going straight through, I would advise against the final descent on a full stomach. The Refuge is well equipped with a canteen, loos, showers and rooms, as most people stay the night there. They also sell a limited range of snickers, Mars bars etc.
Overall: it's a fantastic adventure, highly recommended, but it is a long way and you should be prepared to 'call it' if you are uncertain at any stage. The two day trip is fine for anyone of moderate fitness, setting off from Imlil after lunch, staying overnight at the Refuge, and then doing the summit and back to Imlil on the second day. My recommendation is to crack it in a day and spend the second day enjoying el Goute!
Guy Stanford - Guest, August 2017