Standing at a formidable 4167m above sea level, Mount Toubkal is Morocco’s highest peak. Capturing the hearts of mountaineers for centuries, Mt Toubkal offers superb views of the High Atlas mountain range as you pass through remote villages and terraced fields while interacting with friendly Berber locals.
Starting in enchanting capital of Marrakesh, you will snake through the great labyrinths of theatre and spice markets, before embarking on our journey to the great summit. Spending our nights in remote camping villages, you will learn the customs of the Berber communities and enjoy hearty home-cooked meals throughout.
This summit challenge is perfect for those who want to achieve something spectacular whilst only taking eight days away from home. However, as with every summit climb, it comes with its challenges. As such, we have put together a list of top tips you need to know before embarking on a Mt Toubkal adventure.
Tip 1: A good preparation is job well done. Train for climbing Mount Toubkal!
Well…you do not need to be a professional athlete or a marathon runner, but a basic level of fitness and good health is needed and training is highly recommended. What is going to get you to the end of your challenge is a mental commitment to the cause. As long as you set time aside to prepare for the challenge ahead, success will always be on your side!
For those who do wishes to train for their climb, we recommend that you take part in daily walks that should include uphill and downhill sections. It is also necessary to increase your endurance and confidence levels, as this will play a big part in your success.
Additionally, you could also consider the following:
1. Aerobic Training: We recommend light-to-moderate intensity activities such as long-distance jogging, swimming, cycling and walking 2-3 months prior to your trip. Aerobic exercise builds the cardiovascular system which is key when training to climb in these regions, as a strong cardiovascular system will help you process limited oxygen in a more efficient way. There is a flip side though. The more fit you are, the harder and faster you can push yourself, and the quicker you think you can ascend the mountain. This is a huge mistake! Going as slow as possible, even when you are on the lower reaches and feel great, is key to your success. This is possibly the best advice you will get!
2. Strength Training: In addition to aerobic exercise, you should also be doing light strength training, particularly for your legs, core and upper body. Building the strength of your core muscles (stomach and lower back) and upper shoulder muscles is also important as you will be carrying a lightweight pack for up to 6-7 hours a day.
3. Practice Hiking: The best way to prepare for a long hike is to do a few yourself. We recommend doing at least two long-distance hikes (over 5 hours). If you can do back to back days that would be even better. Doing a few practices hikes as part of your training has many benefits, so we highly recommend this.
4. Mental Stamina: So often, the thing that leads to a successful trip is their mental stamina. There will be times during the trek night that you will want to give up. Being able to dig deep and pull on your mental reserves is so important. Thankfully strength and aerobic activities train your mental stamina, so the more time you put in beforehand, the easier the climb. Finally, if you really wish to put your mental strength to the test before the climb, sign up for a half-marathon run. Long-distance running truly is a test of mental endurance.
IN CONCLUSION: We truly believe most people – regardless of age or physical condition – can complete this trip. All one needs to do is ensure their cardiovascular system is firing on all engines and that they have the mental strength to see the hike to the end.
Tip 2: Be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness when you climb Mount Toubkal.
Altitude sickness is an illness that can affect anyone at any time, despite their level of fitness or how many times they have trekked in a specific region. Altitude sickness can range from a mild headache and weariness to a life-threatening build-up of fluid in the lungs or brain at high altitudes.
Symptoms occur when the rate of ascent into higher altitudes is too quickly that the body doesn’t get time to acclimatise. Altitude sickness generally develops at elevations higher than 8,000 feet (about 2,400 meters) above sea level and when the rate of ascent exceeds 1,000 feet (300 meters) per day.
The following actions can trigger altitude sickness:
- Ascending too quickly (rapidly)
- Overexertion within 24 hours of ascent
- Inadequate fluid intake
- Consumption of alcohol or other sedatives
One way to avoid altitude sickness is allowing the body to get used to the altitude slowly (Acclimatisation). Acclimatisation is the process by which the body adjusts to high altitudes. The goal of acclimatisation is to increase ventilation (breathing) to compensate for lower oxygen content in the air. To compensate for this extra ventilation, blood needs to have a lower pH. In response, the kidneys excrete bicarbonate into the urine, which in turn lowers the body’s pH to accommodate for this extra respiratory effort.
During a GoKo trek, we take all the necessarily persuasions to ensure your safety and go out of our way to check in on how you are feeling to avoid altitude sickness affecting you in a severe way. The rule here is to be completely honest with your guides and group, and if you feel any of the below symptoms – speak up:
- feeling and being sick.
- serious tiredness.
- loss of appetite (you will be walking for 5-8 hours per day – it is so important to eat enough food to maintain your energy – if you feel like not eating at any point during your trip, speak to your guides immediately).
- shortness of breath.
To summarise, It doesn’t matter how fit you are, it can affect anyone and does so randomly. Therefore, please stay prepared by taking Diamox, an altitude medication, and take each day slow, drink lots of water and listen to your body (and your tour leader). However, do not fear – Mount Toubkal reaches over 4,100m, and almost everyone will experience some very mild symptoms like headaches or difficulty sleeping. If you get enough rest, each enough food, and take your daily altitude medication, success will be on your side.
Tip 3: Be aware of the best season for climbing Mount Toubkal
Despite being able to climb in the Atlas Mountains and summit Mount Toubkal all year round, it is clear that some months are MUCH better (and more advisable) than others.
When deciding when is best to climb Mount Toubkal, there are several things you much take into consideration – such as temperatures, rainfall, visibility and crowds.
Generally, the best time to visit the Atlas Mountains is usually to from March to November as the weather is dry, cool and the lack of snow makes for a much safer climb.
To note, GoKo Travels will only ever run trips to Mount Toubkal between April-September.
Tip 4: Learn about the culture and traditions before arrival
For those will previous travel experience, you will understand that visiting Morocco is more than just mountain views, camel safaris, hiking trails and tea. Throughout your journey will in close contact with people that call these regions and villages their home. This as much of a cultural trail, as it is an adventure hike. Respecting the locals and traditions here goes without saying, but we also encourage you to spend time conversing with the small families that live and own the Refuge and teahouses dotted throughout the trail. Opening your eyes to the cultures, religions and heritages is was travel is really about and no doubt it will make your journey than ever more rememberable.
The people that inhabit Morocco are a mixture of Arabic, Imazighen and Berbers. Generally speaking, the Arabric’s mostly reside in large cities while the Berbers live in small mountain villages dotting amongst the Northern regions. During this trip, you will spend most of your time around the incredibly friendly Berber people who have living within these lands for centuries.
Despite common belief, the Berber people are the indigenous people in Morocco (not the Arabic’s) and make up for around 75% of the population. Nomadic at heart, the Berber people still predominantly settle in communities nestled alone the Atlas and Rif Mountains – and are some of the worlds best farmers and mountain guides (knowing all the mountain paths like the back of their hand)
Tip 5: Understand the importance of the correct Equipment!
There is nothing worse than beginning your trek, only to realise that you haven’t got the correct equipment – or – learning that the equipment you do have is causing you nothing but grief. On any hiking adventure, it is essential that you are prepared for all weather conditions, have the correct day-pack and most importantly- your boots are comfortable and worn in.
It’s important that you make an educated decision as to which day pack to bring for your trek. Ideally, your daypacks are comfortable, house study shoulder and hip straps and has a nettle back panel for breathability – allowing the heat to escape your body. For the Mount Toubkal climb, your daypack shouldn’t really be bigger than 3litres and if you can – try to keep it below 10kg.
Your hiking boots are arguably the most important item for any trek. If your feet are in pain, get too cold or remain wet…your journey will be that much harder and will not be enjoyable in any way. Make sure your boots are well worn in before embarking on this trip and offer enough support and protection to keep your feet dry, safe and secure.
Quality hiking boots don’t come cheap, but if you speak to anyone who has been on a multi-day hike before they will tell you good hiking boots are a priority and a worthy investment.
Below we have listed some packing essentials for the Mount Toubkal trip:
NB: The best clothing for trekking is either wool or synthetic materials in layers, as this is quick-drying and can keep heat in better. We suggest a base-layer, then a mid-layer such as a light fleece jacket or similar – followed by a windproof and waterproof layer.
Tip 6: LOOK UP AND SMELL THE ROSES
Multi-day hiking is a marathon, not a sprint. Regardless of how fit you are, slow and steady really is the way to go. Being unfit is not the primary concern as altitude sickness can strike anyone at any time.
So…please look up a smell the roses! The only reward for trying to prove something by being first is nausea, vomiting and a splitting headache! Plod on at a steady pace, pause, standing to rest – and everything will be fine. Don’t care about whether others are ahead, there is plenty of time to reach the summit, so walk at YOUR speed regardless of how far behind you may think you are.
Tip 7: Choose a Good Company:
An experienced guide knows how to set the right pace for the group. What’s more, they also know how to notice and treat altitude sickness, as well as knowing the mountain trails inside out.
A good company, with fully trained guides will understand how to improve your chances of reaching the summit successfully and safely. Perhaps most importantly, good guides can coordinate a rescue in emergency situations because they have been trained in the correct safety protocols
It is often tempting to choose the lowest price when making booking decisions, especially if you’re keen to tick this bucket-list adventure off your list. But please resist this temptation when it comes to climbing Toubkal. This is about you making it to the top and coming back home safe and sound.