Brief Description of Toubkal
Situated in the heart of the Atlas Mountains, in southwestern Morocco, Jbel Toubkal, or Toubkal for short, is the highest mountain in the country and the most popular mountaineering destination in North Africa.
Located just 63 kilometres (39 miles) south of the country’s capital, Marrakesh, in the middle of a national park that bears the same name, Toubkal is easily accessible and considered to be a trekking peak.
In spite of requiring no technical mountaineering skills to climb, the peak does provide a physical challenge. With more than 2,000 metres (6,600 feet) of prominence, Toubkal is an ultra prominent peak.
However, the challenge is well worth it. Visitors often spend the better part of a week trekking to the base of the peak and making the ascent, visiting traditional Berber villages and enjoying some of Morocco’s most breathtaking scenery en route.
Quick Facts about Toubkal
- Along with being the highest point in Morocco, Toubkal is also the tallest mountain in the Arab world and the 29th highest in Africa.
- While most mountaineers and trekkers come to climb the peak in the spring or autumn, plenty of others come during the winter. While the ascent is technically more challenging, it is a great opportunity to train for tougher climbs in the Alps or elsewhere.
- With a prominence of 3,755 metres (12,320 feet), not only us Toubkal is an ultra prominent peak, but it is the seventh most prominent peak in Africa and 36th most prominent in the world.
History of Toubkal
The first official ascent of Toubkal came on June 23, 1923, when the Marquis de Segonzac, Vincent Berger and Hubert Dolbeau made it to the summit of the peak via what is now called the normal route.
However, it is highly likely that the peak was climbed far earlier. Inscriptions on stones found on several of the country’s highest peaks have been identified by archaeologists as artefacts of pagan rituals that took place on them.
Based on this evidence, as well as the relative ease of climbing Toubkal, it is highly likely that local people summited the mountain far before Europeans arrived.
Experience Required for Climbing Toubkal
Mount Toubkal is widely considered to be a relatively easy destination for mountaineering. The simplest routes up to the summit of the peak do not require any technical mountaineering abilities.
However, there are still several different challenges that climbers will need to overcome when making an ascent of Toubkal.
Due to its high prominence, altitude sickness is one of these challenges. As a result, it is important to acclimatise before the climb or have previous experience at 4,000 metres (13,100 feet).
Also due to this high prominence, the peak is quite physically challenging. Some sections of the trail are steep and require scrambling. Many guides recommend spending three months doing endurance, strength and flexibility training prior to the climb.
Main Routes up Toubkal
There are three main routes that lead up to the summit of Toubkal. Two routes are appropriate for trekkers, while one requires technical climbing abilities.
The Ikhibi Sud, or normal route, is the most commonly taken to the summit. From Toubkal refuge, the route involves scrambling up a scree slope to a hanging valley and then climbing another slope up over a col, before making one last ascent to the summit crest.
The other trekking route is the Ikhibi Nord, which is slightly easier than the normal route, but less frequently taken as it is a bit longer. This route begins from the foot of the peak and approaches the same hanging valley from the opposite side. From the hanging valley, the route is the same as the normal route.
The West-North-West Ridge (ONO Arete) route is the longest and most technically challenging. Climbers will make their way through a series of towers and gaps rated as Class III/IV up the ridge and on to the summit.