Tea on Toubkal

By Jamie Layzell

From the moment I left the airport, everything felt a very long way from the UK.

It was a lot hotter than I had expected - it didn’t help I’d worn my walking boots and insulated jacket to save weight in my luggage - and men instantly began thrusting signs in my face and insisting that I get into their taxi in a mixture of French and broken English. I had read about this and how to deal with it back home, so I asked how much they were charging and, on their (extortionate) offer, I’d sigh and walk off. As unnatural as this technique felt, it seemed work after a while and I got the price down to about a third of what they were asking in the first place!

I had wanted to visit the High Atlas for a while after reading a few articles about the mountains and the traditional Berber culture there; climbing Toubkal seemed the logical choice for a great short trip. At 4,167 m, it is a good height and doesn't involve any serious acclimatisation. I would be climbing just as the Winter conditions were fading, which would make it a simple hike to the top. There are many different ways to climb via different routes or using various methods of support, but I decided to carry everything I would need with me and to camp rather than use one of the two refuges below Toubkal. This would make the journey a bit tougher, but the sense of achievement upon completion would be worth it.

Leaving Marrakech, everything changed

As the taxi left Marrakech and ventured further into the mountains, everything felt very different. The people were more relaxed and friendly, the temperature cooled, and it was obvious that where we were headed really was going to be remote. As soon as I reached the village of Imlil at 1,800 I met a man named Lahcen who offered me a room for the night. I accepted his offer and he led me up the hill to a great guesthouse calledAuberge Dar Adous,tucked away in a small valley. For the rest of the evening I explored the village and drank tea, chatting to other travellers about their experiences in the surrounding mountains.

Nestled among the hills, the village of Imlil

I set off early the next morning and began to make my way up to near the refuges at about 3,200m, where I was planning to pitch my tent. It was very sweaty going, but there were a few places to rest and grab a sit down in the shade and a pot of tea en route. The route wasn't particularly hard going but the mixture of heat and altitude made it feel tough, by the time I got to the refuges I was ready to relax and of course, drink yet more tea.

Carrying my shelter on my back meant I had more to carry, but the sense of accomplishment was worth it

My home for the night: the Alpkit Ordos 2

I had made some friends on the way up so we had arranged to meet early the next morning to make our way up to the summit. We set off bright and early to beat the slushy snow and variable weather conditions that hit later on in the day. Straight away I could tell that the altitude was going to make this tough, and it did. It took us a few hours but we all struggled on and eventually made the summit in perfect conditions. There was fantastic views in every direction and we passed a good half hour simply taking them in.

Heading for the summt of Toubkal

Another few hours later, we were back down to the refuges and, you guessed it, had another pot of tea and a carb filled lunch to fuel us the rest of the afternoon as we trekked back down to Imlil. We made it down early evening and said our goodbyes, Lahcen had arranged me a cheap taxi back into Marrakech where I had booked a hostel for the night before my early flight. As soon as my head hit the pillow I was out like a baby until my alarm went off the next morning.

All in a long weekend!

I wished I could have spent more time in the High Atlas, and even to spend a day or so in the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, but I had a feeling that the Alpkit Heroes would be missing me, so I had to get back home! I will definitely be returning at some point and would recommend the Toubkal trek to anyone who wants a mini-adventure at a very reasonable price!

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