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Winter Toubkal (2013)
Transport - Minibus, on foot.
Accommodation - Hotel (2nts), refuge (3nts), gite (2nts).
Meals - 7 breakfasts, 5 lunches & 5 dinners.
We often have multiple itineraries so please check to see which itinerary is suitable for you, by selecting the relevant tab.
Fly to Marrakech
After your flight, you transfer to your first night’s accommodation and check in. Even today, the name Marrakech conjures up images of scenes from the Arabian Nights with its busy souks (markets) and twisting alleyways. This remarkable city, dating from the 11th century, never fails to satisfy the curiosity of adventurous travellers. It has everything, from the graceful architecture of the Koutoubia Minaret which dominates the skyline, to the throbbing atmosphere of a medieval fair in the great open square, the Djemaa el-Fna, at the heart of the medina. Hotel – 1 night The hotel is located just outside the city walls around the old Medina. It is about a 25 minute walk to the main square Djemaa el Fna but close to local shops and restaurants
Aremd; Marakech city tour & Aremd orientation walk
This morning you wake early to an unfamiliar sound - the muezzins calling the faithful to prayer in the various city mosques; your first contact with Islam. After breakfast please meet with your tour leader in the hotel reception at 08.00. You start with a walking tour of the historic centre with a local guide. This takes in the main sights but the most exciting part is when you enter the sprawling souk. Here individual trades and crafts are concentrated together in a single street or area, so all the shoemakers are next to each other, as are the jewellers, the potters, the weavers, etc. This is the best place in Morocco to sharpen your bargaining skills, and you may be tempted by the extraordinary variety of merchandise on display.
Later you leave Marrakech and drive across the plains towards Tahanaoute, an ancient marketplace on the edge of the mountains. The landscape changes as the plains gradually give way to mountains, with the impressive snow-covered peaks of the High Atlas looming in front of you. Following the road right to its end you arrive in the village of Imlil (1790 metres above sea level). From here it is about a 45-minute walk to your mountain base, a typical Berber house in the village of Aremd with views up the valley towards Toubkal. Gite d’étape – 1 night (BLD)
A gite d’étape consists of a village house with simple single sex dormitory rooms each with space for approximately 4-8 people. Each room is generally furnished in traditional Berber style with a mattress on the floor. The eating room is also furnished in the traditional Berber style. Communal facilities usually consist of a couple of showers and toilets. Gites are generally found in villages on walking routes. Showers (sometimes hot ones!) may be available in gites but these will be offered at an additional cost of around 70p to £1.
Trek to Neltner (3207m); base camp
This morning you will meet the mule handlers and the mules. All baggage and provisions are carried by mule - the multi-purpose all-terrain vehicles of the mountains. Used to plough fields, carry loads from valley to valley (often up incredibly steep and narrow tracks), turn threshing machines and even act as taxis, ferrying people between the villages, they are an indispensable part of Berber life in the mountains. Even these incredible animals have their limits and if snow conditions prevent them from going further, porters will be used. After all the luggage has been loaded on to the mules you will start your climb up to the Neltner refuge. From Aremd, the trail leads past orchards up the floodplain of the Mizane Valley climbing steeply as it zigzags up the mountainside. Along the way you reach Sidi Chamarouch (2310m), a place of pilgrimage for Moroccans who come to the tomb of the local marabout (Muslim holy man). You can only see the shrine from across the gorge, as it’s forbidden for non-Muslims to cross the bridge to the other side. Beyond here the trail climbs steeply through a series of switchbacks, traversing the flank of the valley high above the river. At some point you may well hit the snowline where it will be time for you to don your crampons, before arriving at the Toubkal base camp at Neltner (3207m). Once you are settled in you will receive a briefing on winter walking and an introduction on how to use your crampons and ice axe as well as basic snow survival skills. Today involves approximately five hours walking. Your cook will prepare all meals for the group whilst at the refuge. Refuge – 3 nights (BLD)
The refuge at Neltner is a stone building operated by the French Alpine Club. Accommodation for up to 80 people is provided in communal dormitories. The refuge can get very cold, so make sure that you come prepared with a 3/4 season sleeping bag. If you fill up your water bottle with hot water and wrap it in a sock, it acts as a very good makeshift hot water bottle! There are toilets and showers as well as a lounge room with a small fireplace. There is a charge for showers (expect long queues) and the refuge normally also charges a small fee of about 50p per night for communal firewood.
Ouanoukrim (4088m); Acclimatisation walks; ascent of Ounakrim
Today offers you the chance to summit Toubkal’s sister peak of Ouanoukrim; the main aim of this being to get you completely comfortable with all your equipment. Sitting at over 4000 metres the views from the top will give awesome vistas across to Toubkal and the other snow-capped peaks. You’ll start off gently along the valley before starting to ascend. There are several possible routes to the summit and your leader will choose the one most suitable for the conditions and the group’s ability. Approximately 6-7 hours walk. (BLD)
Ascent of Toubkal(4167 m); return to Neltner
Early this morning you set off for North Africa’s highest peak, Jebel Toubkal (4167m) - the goal of many mountain walkers who visit the High Atlas. There is a steep final climb that may involve some scrambling, but the effort is rewarded by superb views from the summit of the Atlas range. On a clear day it’s even possible to make out the hazy outline of the Atlantic coast to the west, and the sands of the Sahara Desert to the east. After resting on the summit, you make your way back to Neltner. Approximately eight hours walk (five hours ascent). (BLD)
Return to Aremd (1880m)
This morning you will have your last foray into the snowy heights around you. Most likely you’ll head up above Neltner to the tight gorge of the Tizi Ouanoums Pass. Whilst not a peak, the pass offers the opportunity to look down the southern side of the mountain to the glacial Lac D’Ifni, shimmering emerald green below. Retracing your steps you’ll return to Neltner for lunch. In the afternoon you’ll descend back down the valley to Aremd for your last night in the mountains. Those not wanting to do the morning walk can wait at the refuge for the group’s return. Approximately 7-8 hours walk (three hours if only descending from Neltner). Gite – 1 night (BLD)
Although the walks described here are the itinerary we plan to follow, depending on the weather conditions and the group’s ability, your leader may choose to rearrange the order of the hikes or substitute alternatives.
A short walk of about 30 minutes leads to Imlil where you will meet your driver and vehicle to transfer back to Marrakech (1 ½ hours drive). After the rugged Toubkal climb you will enjoy seeing the lush green walnut trees, terraced fields and colourful dress of children in the mountain villages. On descending from the mountains you cross the plain to enter the imperial city of Marrakech whose old town is surrounded by a cordon of protective ramparts. The afternoon is free to explore the souks or enjoy a revitalising hammam (steam bath). Hotel – 1 night (B)
The trip ends for Land Only clients. Those on group flights transfer to the airport and fly home. (B)