Salamwalaykoom, Welcome to Morocco madness and the Toubkal two step trot.

The team all flew into Marrakech from Manchester on Saturday 25th feb, 3 and half hrs later there we were there, and there I was, 33 years after hitching down to Marrakech to the sound of Crosby, Stills, and Nash ringing in my ears. Things HAD changed…….. We got in quite late so got straight into the Hotel Le Grand Imilchil, which is about 20 mins from the airport, and about 20 mins from the main drag, so if your into Kfc, Pizza Hut and the Golden Arches then your in luck and about 35 mins from the Souks etc.


Sunday 26th:  Got re-packed, had breakfast, gathered the team together and met our local guide, Mohammed, and our driver. We had a 2  hour drive to Morocco’s main ski area/resort at Qukaimeden at 2600 metres, to start the first part of our acclimatisation trek to Toubkal. The place was very busy, and to be honest the skiing looked good, with some REAL potential for off piste action and short day tours, but you’d have to get yourself up, as there are only a hand full of lifts.


We then headed of into the wild blue yonder heading for a Tizi, which is not a temperamental child like fit; it’s a pass, or col. The one in particular was called Tizzi n’ou Addi, I’ve seen it spelt slightly differently; it’s at around 2960 mts and was partially snow covered. The view down the south side was stunning, I’d been listening to The Green album on and off during the walk up, so was in that sort of mood. The trail on the other side wound its way down and around the hillside to our over night stop at a village called TACHEDIRT, which is apparently the highest in Morocco ????? at 2300mts. 


 

The surrounding hills, well… just get out there and have look for yourself, I sat on the patio with mint tea and a set of bino’s for hours spotting routes all over the place, ridges, buttresses, tight gully lines, and as for ski ascent and descents, just as many, there were 4 Swiss folks ski touring, staying at the same place and were having a whoooooop of a time. Much mint tea was drunk and tagines eaten that evening.



 

Monday 27th:  We headed down the Imenene valley and up to another Tizi called, Tizi Tamatert, then headed down the wooded hillside, to pick up the trail above Imlil, which is the main jump off point for most folks doing Toubkal. We were heading for Aremd where we stayed the night and Jimbo had a slight toilet incident, which resulted in a major digging project by the locals.


Tuesday 28th :   The team now head up the valley to the Toubkal Refuge, easy walking with some grand views, and again a multitude of both climbing and ski potential, with some good looking ice falls further up the valley on left hand side as you’re walking up. We arrived at the refuge late afternoon, got ourselves sorted then went out for an hour or two to work on  some axe and crampons skills, whilst watching the ski touring doing some great turns in almost perfect snow……..


The hut is a cold place. It does have a fire and if you’re lucky enough to get close to it, its super warm, but you do have to run the gauntlet of the guardian and strategically place yourself right in front of it before the Euro’s get in there first. Spotted some good ice falls, steep, just above the hut, would have provided a good bit of sport, if you had all the gear with you.


Wednesday 29th:     Earlyish start with the idea to get one of the Twin sister peaks, Quanoukrim, in the bag that day.


We headed up towards the Tizi n Quagane, at 3700 mts, the snow was a real pain in the bottom area, deep and bottomless in places. Snow shoes next time, or ski’s. What I didn’t want to do was wear the team out the day before the main event. So with this in mind we had a bit of a conflab, convo type of thing, Mark said he’d like to try and go on for the summit, and the rest of the team would descend. Mark and Mohammed then carried on and I and the rest of the team plunged back into the snow again for our descent. Now as we are on the subject of bottomless snow, mine was going that way too, and it was as unpleasant as the snow we were trying to walk through. As we arrived back at the hut, the world fell out of mine………….


Thursday 1st March:   SUMMIT day. I had spent a shocking afternoon the day before and night, camped out on the loo, so was really in no fit state to go up the mountain; Mohammed luckily was chomping at the bit, so off the team went. I resumed my little camping trip to the toilets. The team arrived back later that day in good time having topped out in cold, clear windy conditions, but topped out all the same, well done one and all………


Several gallons of tea later, everything was re- packed and we head down the valley back to Aremd, where I was hoping they had finished the digging and fixing of the loos ……..


Friday 2nd March:  Final pack and a short walk down the road to Imlil to get picked up for the drive back to Marrakech, which took about and hour and half and some pretty tight clenching on my part. The boys were on a mission to find food and beer once they got back in to town, so let them get on with it, and by all accounts they had a great evening.


Saturday 3rd March:   Basically a day spent around town, sorting things out, getting packed, ready for our flight at 8pm.


So folks all I can say is, go have a look for yourselves, there is plenty of info out there on the High Atlas Mountains with many companies running trips out there, I was working for ADVENURE PEAKS on this week, and a vast amount of all sorts of things to be doing, from off piste skiing, ski touring, peak bagging, also climbing routes, and new routes to be had.


Here’s the team, and good company for the week, thank you all.

                        Michael Taylor

                        Paul Round

                        Marc”Tiga” Tyler

                        James Sheard

                        Russell Arrandale


                       Mohammed our local guide


I used a copy of Des Clark’s new book, Mountaineering in the Moroccan High Atlas and found it very useful, I am also lucky to have a copy of Le Massif du Toubkal, ( 1942 ) in French and would have to say still the most complete guide there is for the region. There is also a Spanish topo type guide book as well, which might be quite handy to have.