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Mount Toubkal Winter Expedition – February 2024

Our 8 Day expedition to Morocco, with the main aim of climbing Mount Toubkal under winter conditions ran between 22nd and 29th February.


Day 1 – 22nd February – Landing to Aroumd

This is the travel day, not only to Morocco for most, but also into the Atlas Mountains. After meeting at the airport we got into our minibus and enjoyed a varied 90 minute journey to the village of Imlil. Along the way we stopped at an Argon Oil Co-operative, in which we experienced some great hospitality and got to see some of their products. Once at Imlil we disembarked and then walked for about an hour up to the village of Aroumd, which was to be our base for the first couple of nights of the trip.

Once at Aroumd we settled in to our fabulous accommodation at Mount Toubkal Lodge, and we were hosted by Hassan and Abdul. The team were fed well, and then it was off to bed to shake off the travel tiredness and prepare for the first proper day of the trip.

 




Day 2 – 23rd February – Tiz N Mzik Acclimatisation Day

Having already raced up to 2000m, we don’t follow the trend most tour itineraries do and then head to the refuge at 3200m, we take an acclimatisation day. We had a nice leisurely start, and by 10am we were booted up and joined by our guides Mohammed and Abdel.

It was a nice warm, clear day for a hike, and we slowly ascended up the valley to the pass at about 2,500m. After a short break at the pass we continued upwards some more to the top of Tiz N Mizik where we soaked up brilliant views and had a picnic lunch. Having spent some time at over 2,600m it’d help break the strain on our bodies as we made way to the refuge the following day.

On our descent we dropped to some waterfalls, beside which there is an orange juice vendor, serving some of the nicest orange juice you’ve ever had.




Day 3 – 24th February – Aroumd to the Refuge

This is one of the biggest days of the expedition in terms of altitude gain, and we set out from Aroumd with the same plan as always when walking at altitude – slow and steady. The trails start relatively easy and gradual gradients help you rise up to the dwelling of Sidi Chamharouch. We stopped for snacks and yet more juice before cracking on up. With about 900m of ascent still to go from Sidi we zig-zagged up steeper trails steadily. It was quite a warm day and some of the team found this quite tiring, but we kept the fluids going in, and after about 5.5 hours we arrived at the refuge.

The refuge has dormitory accommodation, and after being shown to our room and picking our beds we had a late lunch and chose to relax. The team were all in bed by 9pm, sleeping off the efforts of the day.





Day 4 – 25th February – South Col Acclimatisation Day

Again, our itinerary shows a twist as we add in an additional day. The main purpose of this day is to provide yet more acclimatisation before heading for the summit, but it also provides the opportunity to get to grips with winter walking equipment as well as a contingency day for the summit bid if push came to shove. Our main objective of the day was to reach the ‘South Col’ at an altitude of 3,700m. We set out from the refuge at about 7:30am with the crampons already strapped to our feet. For those that hadn’t had much, or any time in crampons we ran through the skills and then they had loads of chance to practice. As we drew nearer to the col the gradient increases and it was an opportunity to deploy ice axes and display their use.

We reached the sun-drenched col and enjoyed some lovely views from it, as well as a well-earned break. Depending on a few variables, there is sometimes the opportunity for folks to continue ascending in order to tick off one or two 4000m peaks. We opted to climb to the peak of Ras (4085m). The terrain soon changes and becomes a scramble which provided a different experience for those who opted to ascend. About half way up the scrambling abates and a long slope is tackled in order to reach the summit. On here, a couple of the team were wondering if they’d made the right choice to expend additional energy ahead of their Toubkal summit bid, but impressively they dug in and made it to the top.

Our descents back to the refuge were much faster and after yet more fantastic meals made by our cook Hassan, we were once again in our dorm beds trying to get some rest before the big day.




Day 5 – 26th February - Mount Toubkal Summit Bid – and back to Aroumd

By this point the team were well gelled and into their groove, so once our 4am alarm went off we were up and ready to go – even a bedroom door-based altercation couldn’t stop us.

We took on some breakfast and by 5:30am we were suited and booted under the starry skies ready to climb Mount Toubkal. It doesn’t take long on the ascent for the slopes to steepen, but the group knew all they had to do was walk slow and steady. Mohammed and Abdel continued their faultless guiding performance and patiently led us up onto the higher slopes of the mountain. By the time we reached ‘the saddle’ the ground became snow free (thanks to having been exposed to the sun and wind), but it was super windy and the group now had a battle on their hands. It was not only very gusty, but it was now at least -15 degrees Celsius. Up we plodded, with various members of the team pushing themselves further than they’d ever been – not only in terms of altitude, but also in terms of physical and mental fatigue.

At 10am after 4.5 hours of climbing we all stood atop Mount Toubkal. As an expedition leader this is always a very rewarding moment, but also a point I force myself to really focus on the task at hand –we still had a very long day ahead and as we know, getting to the top is only 50% of the journey!

Our descent was just as gusty so it was nice to lose the height quickly, and once below the saddle we all started to warm dramatically, to the point that there was a mass exodus of down jackets and waterproofs.

After 7.5 hours of setting off we arrived back at the refuge very happy, and also very hungry! Everyone had a bit of a freshen up and a change, getting into lightweight clothes and shoes ready for the 10km and 1200m descent back to Aroumd. Hassan cooked us our final meal in the refuge and we then set off down the trail. It was clear folks were weary from the day, but everyone trekked on down really well. It was shortly after 6pm when we arrived back at Mount Toubkal Lodge. It was a mad scatter for showers and clean clothes, and then that evening Hassan made us an unforgettable meal.

 




Day 6 – 27th February - Aroumd to Marrakech

The happy, yet tired team had some breakfast and then we set off on an easy walk back down to Imlil. At midday we were picked up by our minibus and taken back to Marrakech. We checked into our amazing Riad and then agreed to meet up later that evening. During the afternoon people enjoyed some time to relax and then we had a celebratory meal together at the local Sky Bar, all backdropped by an excellent Moroccan sunset.





Day 7 - 28th February - Marrakech

Marrakech really is a fantastic place, with so much to see. This day is for the team to do as they wish. Many of us went to see the local gardens, followed by an explore of the Souks. That evening some of us took to eating from the stalls in Jemaa El-fna which really is an experience in it’s own right too!


Jemaa El-Fna in the daytime


Day 8 – 29thFebruary - Home

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and this day is reserved for the team to get back to their homes (or to extend their holiday should they wish!)




 A lovely video made by trip trekker, Jo.

 

Expedition Leader Summary

‘This trip really was fantastic! We of course got very lucky with the weather throughout, the ground conditions, and our in-country guides were incredible. The expedition team, many of which didn’t know each other previously, gelled amazingly well. This cohesion really added something to the trip. The support, care and almost continuous banter was amazing and I think some life-long friendships have been made.

It's always good to help people achieve a goal, especially when you know they’re pushing through their previous boundaries. On this trip we did sadly have a couple of people who opted not to head to the summit for various reasons, but this is also part of the game we play when we trek up big mountains at altitude. The decisions can be very tough, but again, I am proud when people make sound decisions which ultimately protects their welfare.

Thank you to everyone that put their trust in LMG Treks & Expeditions to host their winter ascent of Mount Toubkal, you’ve all been amazing company.’

Matt Le Voi



If you want to learn more about this trip, please head to the following webpage: https://www.lmgtreksandexpeditions.com/mount-toubkal

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