I was inspired to visit Mt. Toubkal because of the awe-inspiring sceneries, but The Travelling Foxes haven’t had the opportunity to visit Morroco yet. So we’ve collaborated with Jeg Lee (@sh00tfromthehip), an experienced climber and amazing photographer to share his journey with us.
Mt. Toubkal is a mountain peak found in southwestern Morocco, Africa. It is the highest mountain in North Africa and the Arab world. It is a popular destination for many climbers because it is only 63km south of the city of Marrakesh, a major city in Morroco.
1. What made you decide to climb Mt. Toubkal in Morocco?
Me and my original climbing buddies were planning on an out of the country trip last November 2016. This will only be our 2nd out of the country trip as a group since we climbed Mt. Kinabalu way back in 2005. The trip was sort of a 10th year anniversary thing.
So we were thinking of places to go and many ideas came to mind – Maldives, Peru, and Turkey, to name a few. Then we narrowed it down to those countries we can visit without a visa. We wanted to avoid the hassle of applying and we wanted to make sure that all of us will be able to join the trip.
Then one friend suggested Morocco. We had a Eureka moment! The place was very ideal; no visa required for Filipinos and it is in Africa (not a usual destination for people from the Philippines). As the usual go-to person, I was assigned to create the itinerary.
Being an avid hiker since 1996, the first thing I researched was if there were any mountains we can climb that will be suitable for beginners as well. So Mt. Toubkal came up. After doing some research, I found out that Mt. Toubkal is the highest point in Africa at 4,167 meters above sea level. It is a 13 km trek to the refuge and another 2 km to the summit. What got me excited when I was doing my research was that there is snow during winter and spring. There are also donkeys that you can rent if you do not want to hike.
2. Was the mountain scenic – if yes, what did you see?
Yes, the mountain was very scenic. The mountain range looks like the alps during winter. The mountain is mostly rocky but there are parts where you can see different types of flora and fauna. We saw crows at our first rest stop. Then wild mountain goats along the way. There are also olive trees and apple trees during the first part of the trek. The higher you go up in elevation, the mountain becomes mostly rocky. The refuge at 3,000 meters is like an abandoned fortress with snow covering the area. There is some sort of a pyramid at the summit and there is a 360-degree view at the top. You will see the atlas mountain range and the desert below. It really has an amazing view.
3. What was your most memorable part of the climb?
The most memorable part of the climb for me was when I finally reached the part of the mountain with snow on it. This was my very first snow experience and of all places, I did not imagine that I will be experiencing it in Africa!
4. What was your most hated part of the climb?
Of course, I hated the part when we were leaving. If only I can stay there for a few more days. I wanted to try more activities like snowboarding but I did not have the equipment.
5. Would you climb Mt. Toubkal again?
Yes, it would be nice if I can try snowboarding on its slopes. When we were climbing, I saw a group of people with ski equipment with them and I thought to myself, I wish I can go back and try it. Another reason would be doing drone shots of the mountain. I did not have a drone yet when we were there. It would be amazing to try the “active track” feature of the drone while climbing or even snowboarding.
6. How does an avid Filipino hiker get to Mt. Toubkal? Can you explain your journey there (the booking, which flights, where did you stay, did you take a bus to the starting point?)
Morocco is visa-free for Filipinos, so it is quite easy to get there. What we did was to book a flight from Manila to Hong Kong via Cebu Pacific then an Emirates flight to Casablanca, Morocco. This was a much cheaper option than booking an Emirates flight from Manila to Casablanca. I think the difference was around 10k. You can always get your Manila – Hong Kong tickets at a lower price because of seat-sales. We stayed in Casablanca for a night at Hotel Central to rest (we just came from a 30-hour journey from Manila). From Casablanca it was a 4-hour train ride to Marrakesh which was where we met our guide. And from Marrakesh it was a 2-hour van ride to the town of Imlil which is our jump-off point. We rented a place via Airbnb while in Marrakesh. The place is in the old medina, around a few hundred meters away from Jemaa el-Fnaa – the famous market square in Marrakesh. Then from the town of Imlil, it was a 13km trek to the refuge where you will sleep for the night and another 3 km from the refuge to the summit early in the morning the following day.
7. How do you suggest a hiker needs to do to prepare for the hike to Mt. Toubkal?
You just need to do your normal routine exercise. I suggest you do a few laps in the pool – it really helps. No special training needed for the climb; as long as you are physically fit and do not have any lingering ailment, you can summit the mountain. If you are going to climb during the winter months you will need winter gear (base layer, fleece, windbreaker, bonnet, boots, and winter gloves). Do not be like me, I used Php 25.00 gardening gloves from Ace Hardware! I could not feel my hands during the whole trek. Haha! We climbed during spring but there was snow and the temperature at the summit was around -4 degrees Celsius and the wind chill was around -9 degrees Celsius.
We hired a local guide outfitter and it cost us around Php 6,000.00 (~ USD 115.00) per person for the whole overnight trek. This includes everything; the transportation, guide fees, climbing fee, and food. The food was awesome and the serving was more than enough. If you plan to rent a donkey, it will cost you an additional Php 600 (~ USD 11.50.00) (one-way). But the donkey will just take you up to where the snowy part of the mountain starts (during winter/spring months). But if you are climbing during the summer months, it can take you up to the refuge.
8. Any other comments?
Of course, if you are going to climb in any part of the world, please ALWAYS follow the Leave No Trace principles. It is quite sad that the summit marker of Mt. Toubkal was full of grafitti.
To see more of Jeg’s adventures, follow his Instagram account: @sh00tfromthehip
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