Rabat - Mount Toubkal rests in the Atlas Mountain Range, and is the highest mountain peak in North Africa at 13,671 ft, or 4,167 meters. MWN Reporter Zoe Zuidema records her two-day trek to the summit of Toubkal.
Rabat – Mount Toubkal rests in the Atlas Mountain Range, and is the highest mountain peak in North Africa at 13,671 ft, or 4,167 meters. MWN Reporter Zoe Zuidema records her two-day trek to the summit of Toubkal.
In the dry, arid heat of the small mountain town of Imlil, Mohammed greets three hikers: those he’ll be leading to the summit of Mount Toubkal over the next two days.
I’m in this group, and I’m ready for what I imagine will be a strenuous, but manageable, trip. As we begin our hike through the steep, rocky trails of Imlil, I realize that I’m in for many more hours of sweating, heavy breathing, and wishing I had never agreed to do this.
The first day of the hike winds through towering craggy peaks, dotted with shrubby trees and often with a river meandering between their feet. Small shops built from clay and sticks appear along the trail. We stop at one for lunch, where a sun-wrinkled man in a knitted cap serves us sandwiches. We scramble across the boulders lining the river to dip our heads in ice-cold water before continuing on the trail.
That evening, we arrive at the base camp: a large rocky structure hosting hikers from across the world that have come to summit the mountain. We settle into our bunkroom with three friendly Canadians, and wrap ourselves in layers for the cold night ahead before another round of climbing.
The next morning, we awake at 4 AM. We step into the dark brisk air, shiver, and crane our necks to see an endless supply of stars. The nearest light is miles away; the sky is clear and deep, and the Milky Way is visible from end to end. Mohammed turns on a flashlight, and we start the steep climb up boulders and over jagged edges in the dark.
As the air gets thinner, hiking becomes more difficult. We stop to catch our breath as a grown Moroccan man nearby vomits from exertion. We smile at the good sign and keep going.
We reach a pass just as the sun starts to rise. Golden light splatters every mountain in view, and we are higher than everything in sight. The sky is finally washing from black to blue and orange, and we can see the peak towering above us.
We plod further and, finally, reach the metal structure that marks the top of Toubkal. Oxygen levels are at 60 percent – our lungs burn and our legs shake – but the view is unlike anything I’ve seen. A freshly risen sun blazes across endless mountains, which fade from blue to gray to bronze. We stand in awe for half an hour. Staying at the peak for longer results in altitude sickness, and Mohammed smiles as he gestures for us to leave.
We begin the slippery descent, tumbling down heaps of stone, with the outline of the Atlas Range still hovering in our eyes.