Hello everyone! I’m Lottie. Welcome to my winter hiking guide on Mount Toubkal. I’m from a small town in Cheshire (northwest England) that no one’s ever heard of and I have been hiking properly for around 13 years.
I was always pretty outdoorsy as a kid – playing in rivers, climbing trees and camping all the time. But it was actually an old boyfriend who got me into ‘proper’ hiking. Although my relationship didn’t last, my love for mountains certainly did! Now, I try to take at least one mountain adventure every year.
Morocco was on my list for a long time. It was after I came back from hiking Mount Kilimanjaro in summer that I decided to book Mount Toubkal specifically as a winter climb. Winter mountaineering is an area I want to develop, having done bits over the years, and Toubkal is so conveniently located for us in the UK that it seemed like the perfect time to go.
My Incredible 4-Day Winter Hike up Mount Toubkal
The trek itself was a 4-day excursion. We hiked from the Imlil village to the Toubkal Refuge, which sits at just over 10,500 feet in the valley below the summit. There are two refuges here, one slightly higher than the other, and I have been told on good authority the higher one is much better.
It was bustling with other climbers and had a great atmosphere. The next day we climbed up to two smaller summits: Timzguida and Ouanoukrim which had the most fantastic views. The climb was tough as we had to ascend a large ice gully that was worn much like a bob-sleigh track, cross some narrow cols and then a bit of scrambling thrown in for good measure!
The climb up to the summit of Mount Toubkal the following day had more of a ‘hike’ feel to it. While crampons were still necessary to walk on the ice, the steepness of the terrain was nowhere near what it was for the other peaks – making it much more accessible. We set off at the early hour of 5:00 am and managed to summit in three hours, arriving just after sunrise. It was absolutely magical to see the snow-capped peaks light up in pastel pink colors and to see the route we had just climbed in pitch black!
What the Terrain is Like at Mount Toubkal During Winter
The Imlil valley is lush and covered with fruit trees, nut trees and Berber people tending to their animals. The terrain hiking up to the refuge was rocky but with clear paths. Everywhere is so well-traveled with guides, tourists and mules that it’s not too tough underfoot. The scenery higher up is classic alpine: rocky with pretty flowering plants and succulents, as well as small settlements and shepherd huts dotted here and there.
As we approached the refuge, the landscape changed dramatically. Everything was covered in snow and definitely had an epic winter feel to it. But I would love to go back in summer and see the difference!
Using Local Guides & Staying at the Toubkal Refuge
The accommodation for the peaks is Toubkal Refuge. It has to be booked in advance but your tour company can do it for you. I’m not 100% sure, but I think for the refuge and any climbs from there, a guide is necessary.
Wild camping is permitted in the Atlas Mountains, but again, guides are always recommended. I think mainly because it’s such a huge source of income for the Berber people and they believe so firmly in protecting the environment. I would always recommend going with a local tour company. Plus their knowledge of the area is second to none. It’s a win-win!
Highlights of the Hike: Toubkal & Ouanoukrim Summits
Reaching the summit of Toubkal was incredible. I think summiting at sunrise made the experience that much more emotional. It was just joyous to be on top of the mountains and see the whole place come to life! There were also less people around at this time of day which made it seem more of an accomplishment – pretty much having the summit all to yourself.
That being said, the summit of Ouanoukrim was my favorite spot on the excursion. It was a harder climb, had a bit more of an edge and in my opinion the views were better! You could see Toubkal in all its glory, putting the next day’s climb into perspective. It was also a quieter summit. A lot of people day trek up to Toubkal but this was for the multi-dayers who are not just there to tick off a summit, but there because they love the mountains.
How Much Hiking Experience do you Need for Toubkal?
In summer, I would suggest that Mount Toubkal is accessible to most fit hillwalkers. In winter, you would benefit from having previous knowledge of winter hiking and using winter gear (crampons, ice axes, etc.). However, it’s definitely not a prerequisite! The most important thing is having a good level of fitness. It’s not a race and it doesn’t matter if it takes you all day.
Tips for a Winter Hike up the Mount Toubkal Summit
Rent gear! If you are eager to try Toubkal as a winter trek but don’t have all the gear, then rent it from a tour company. I like to travel light so I rented crampons because it saved space (and weight) in my bag. You can rent pretty much everything you need: poles, sleeping bags and even a duffel bag! So definitely look into that. It’s a great way to travel on a budget, save the expense and also it’s more economical in case you never do it again.
Get into hillwalking if you haven’t already. The only way to gain fitness for the mountains is to be in the mountains. I’m not saying hike up to Yr Wyddfa every day, but if this is a first time challenge for you, then get out into the hills! Start with a couple of miles and work your way up to bigger distances, on different terrains and in different weather conditions.
Lastly, take moisturizer. This seems like a strange thing to suggest, but believe me, your skin will thank me. The Atlas Mountains are wedged between dusty plains to the north and the Sahara to the south. ‘Dry’ doesn’t even come close. Thanks for reading about my Toubkal winter hike!