> Climbing atop Mt Toubkal in Morocco during early March <
Snow in the Sahara? Almost true...
The High Atlas is North Africa’s greatest mountain range and it contains some of the most intriguing and beautiful regions of Morocco and of Africa at such. The landscape of the Atlas Mountains varies from season to season: winter drops meters of snow that leads to gushing river valleys in spring. Summer brings an unforgiving sun, while the autumnal sunlight brings the browns and reds of the peaks to life.
In our view, the highlight of the Atlas is Toubkal National Park, home to the impressive Jebel Toubkal (4.167m), the highest peak in North Africa, as well as numerous mud-thatched Berber villages that appear locked in time. In its valleys are many remote pinnacles and passes (Tizis in Berber; cols in French) ready to be explored, together with several worthy crests and hamlets that can be reached on trekking routes along mule paths. The travel from north into the mountain system was spectacular. We saw clearly how the Atlas range is a physical barrier between the green plains and olive landscapes in north and the rocky gorges, vast sand dune seas and the Sahara in south.
We spent one week during wintertime to summit Mount Toubkal with perfect weather on the summit day, while subsequently doing the summit circuit via Ourika Valley only to experience a rendezvous with a snowstorm in approximately 3.200m height. One of the benefits of trekking in this region during winter is to experience snow along the trek, to reach the summit with crampons and relevant gear, and to meet very few travelers. The mountain can be quite busy in other seasons.
Besides trekking, we traveled quite a lot in North Africa. For more climbs on the African continent, check our climbs of Mount Kenya, the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda, and the Nyiragongo in the DR Congo.
THE HIGH ATLAS
A winter climb of 4.167m Mount Toubkal on the roof of North Africa
Arrival in Marrakesh. We had breakfast in Djama-el-Fna and discussed the planning of transport into the mountains.
One of the largest souqs of the Arabian world can be found in Marrakesh. Still, it is hard to find the right things. We had a hard time finding ethanol / methylated spirit for our stove.
Imlil is a small typical Berber village situated in a stunning location, fairy-tale like especially in winter. For Toubkal, this is the stopping off point for 90% of walkers or trekkers looking to climb the highest mountain in N. Africa.
We slept in tents during the night and it was extremely cold, probably minus 10-20 *C.
We had one guide to helps os along the trek. As around for winter guides in Imlil. There are about 16 guides that have completed a winter training and assessment course in France.
Most people head up the south col as it is the most straightforward way up the mountain. However, there are a lot of other ways up the peak.
Standing on the peak in the middle of winter with beautiful snowy summits around you - it's hard to believe you're in Africa. It is a remarkable part of the world to be in.
Anders is putting on his crampoons