Ascent of Jebel Toubkal on 2011-09-05

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Andrew Tibbetts
Date:Monday, September 5, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Jebel Toubkal
    Elevation:13671 ft / 4166 m

Ascent Trip Report

We climbed this as a day hike, the day after Jebel Igdet, using the usual route from the N, starting at Imlil (N31.13726 W7.92055). We arrived early evening of the previous day and were immediately shepherded into a parking spot by a young lad keen to arrange cheap accommodation and presumably, guiding, mules and other essentials. As all we wanted was to park up for the night and take ourselves up the hill in the morning, we drove back down the valley and found a meal. This wasn't straightforward: at 7.30pm they seemed to have stopped serving hot food. Immediately the only other customers (a Moroccan family) shared their meal with us! We then found a quiet spot to park, and slept in the car as planned.

Mon 5. We drove back to our chosen trail head, a few hundred metres before the village, and started hiking at 0520. In contrast with last evening, Imlil main street is almost deserted: someone with a faint torch; a dog. The dog turns out to be a guide dog: it stays with us for an hour and shows us a few shortcuts!

At the fork at the top end of the street we turn R, then shortly L at N31.13525 W7.92029 then in 50m straight on at an alley, soon passing the Kasbah du Toubkal. The path winds up through trees, with a few flights of steps, then crosses L of a small stream and passes the Kasbah du Imlil (N31.13187 W7.91961). It then crosses back to the R side of the stream and shortly, paint marks indicate a zigzag up right (N31.13060 W7.91969).

It is now light enough to do without the head torches. At the next main zigzag, there is an obvious shortcut L which the dog takes and we don't. The dog wins. We emerge onto a drivable track. Below us (L) is a deep gorge, with the village of Aroumd on the steep hillside opposite. We pass an impressive building on the L side if the track. Shortly afterwards it is possible to turn sharp L across a bridge into the village. However we go straight on, passing several buildings, keeping to the R side of the valley until the main trail turns L, passes some fruit trees then forks R (N31.12152 W7.92125) then obliquely crosses a wide dry stony riverbed (fairly obvious trail; a few variations).

On the far (L) side of the dry riverbed, the path zigzags steeply uphill then a trail joins from the L. We gather this is where one of the routes via Aroumd joins. From here the route is fairly unambiguous (there are a few zigzags which the mules take and hikers mostly bypass on the uphill side). We find ourselves overtaking a mule. This is in contrast to treks such as Aconcagua and Ararat where mules/horses travel much faster than walking pace.

In time we pass a tiny shack (shop, we discover on the way down when it is open). The path descends a little and crosses to the R side of the stream. Immediately above the path is the small village of Marabout (N31.09797 W7.91256, 2313m). A notable feature is a large quartzite boulder (from the path it looked - improbably - like a large snowball!). At the top of the village is a cafe/shop, then the path zigzags steeply up, then rises more gently parallel with the stream. At last the sun hits us, and the scenery comes alive. Even at this elevation it is quite warm. We start to meet hikers and mule parties descending as we approach the refuge (N31.06294 W7.93789, 3200m).

After a brief rest nearby we bypass the refuges and head up L towards the boulder field. Note that the best ascent route keeps R, just L of the stream. We took the more direct (scree) path - this is best left for the descent. The path zigzags through stable boulders then exits L. It is mostly easy to follow once above the boulder field (paint, cairns, worn rock). It ascends a rocky valley, then moves onto the RH slope. There is a steep loose section where concentration is necessary to find safe footing. Then the angle eases towards the ridge. Then we turn L and climb the ridge (some more steep loose ground). Suddenly there is a view of the imposing summit cliffs across a cirque, and leading down R is a striking red ridge. It is now an easy walk to the summit. The highest point is a graffiti covered rock with a small trig bolt, next to a shelter (N31.05979 W7.91488).

There are about 20 other folk on the summit, although it is nearly midday and many have already gone down. We get talking to a Portuguese couple. She spent 7 years in the UK as a girl and has excellent English.

We were at the summit in 5h50 from Imlil. After 25 mins we head down - some slipping and sliding but we stay upright. Always there are just about enough stable rocks if you concentrate. We pass a large English party. We are down at the refuge in 40 mins and go into the lower one (Moufflon) to shelter from the sun and to rehydrate (food and drink on sale). Then we descend the rest of the way more gently. There are a lot of chough in evidence; mostly Alpine (yellow billed). We see a flock of about 100 just below Marabout. It is very hot in the lower stages. Imlil is back to its usual vivid chaotic self: we are happy to wander straight down, retrieve the car and escape to a quiet spot for a picnic. Or so we think: within a few minutes some young lads appear, and in a few minutes more they are making a nuisance of themselves so we move on.

However we are very happy with the way our day-hike plan has worked out: 10h50 round trip.

Tomorrow is a travel day before Irhil M'Goun (our third Moroccan ultra, another long day hike, if the plan works). We decide we've earned a hotel night so we head into Marrakech and check into the comfortable and remarkably affordable Atlas Asni (approx N31.62194 W8.01085), on Avenue de France near the airport. We head for M'Goun late the next morning.

Toubkal photos

Trip outline:
Sat 3 Sept: arrive in Marrakech
Sun 4: ascent of Jebel Igdet
Mon 5: ascent of Jebel Toubkal; Marrakech overnight
Tue 6: travel to Imi n-Oulaoun
Wed 7: ascent of Irhil M'Goun
Thu 8: travel to Oulad El Haj
Fri 9: ascent of Adrar Bou Nasser
Sat 10: ascent of Jbel Ijmou'a Salaim; drive to Marrakech (mostly on motorway)
Sun 11: flight home

How to escape Marrakech!
If you are here to climb Toubkal you will probably take a grand taxi. However if you are driving, note that the way out southward isn't easy to find as there are few signposts. Proceed as follows:-
From the airport parking, turn L (S) then first L (E) at N31.59654 W8.02579
At N31.61484 W7.99515, turn R
At N31.61053 W7.98931, turn R again
At N31.59272 W7.98562 pass a Carrefour - useful for stocking up
At N31.53900 W7.97058, fork R
At Tahaout (N31.36654 W7.94629) turn L at roundabout
At Asni, turn L (N31.24237 W7.98431 approx) for Imlil
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:8226 ft / 2507 m
    Extra Gain:66 ft / 20 m
    Round-Trip Distance:22 mi / 35.4 km
    Route:Normal route
    Trailhead:Imlil  5577 ft / 1699 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 2+
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:6 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 30 Minutes

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