- Morocco is an interesting and attractive country and this is a nice mountain challenge that offers the chance to get some winter skills experience. I think however that our trip was slightly different to what most people encounter, so I've written an honest account of what it can be like for people to bear in mind. I would hope that anyone booking this trip would be aware of the limitations that location and weather potentially impose. If you're good with that, then brilliant. This is what happened with us...
The snow came in heavy and hard and we found ourselves walking up to the main refuge in challenging weather with (true) reports of someone dying ahead of us. This would appear to be the tragic result of poor decision making on their part meaning that they were out overnight. They did not have a guide. On safely reaching the refuge, we made our first summit attempt the next day. Visibility was poor and the wind and snow still very hard going so we only made it about half way and no one questioned the decision to turn back on safety grounds.
The next day we tried again and started with poor visibility but otherwise better conditions. About half way up, we had the truly beautiful moment where the skies cleared within moments and we were treated to gorgeous eerie light changes suddenly followed by the postcard-like views we had all been hoping for. Wonderful. We went on to summit successfully and the usual cheery group photos and celebrations. We felt extra proud for making it through the deep virgin snow that had added even more to the challenge.
We completed one other walk that was both lovely and challenging but were unable to fit in Ouanoukrim due to our two Toubkal attempts. We descended in clear skies and blazing sunshine and despite our best efforts, all got burnt. We passed people who were clearly ill-equipped for possible weather changes and who had left for the refuge too-late in the day.
I had a really rewarding time with a great group and our experiences gave us a good if sometimes sobering idea of what the mountains can really be like. Explore's itinerary was well-chosen and we were excellently supported by our guides and crew. Meat-eaters and vegetarians were all impressively looked after and where there was flexibility in accommodation, Explore had done well. The Toubkal refuge it should be noted can get a lot of moisture building up meaning your sleeping bag etc may get a bit damp and / or your breathing might be affected. It is however surprisingly warm. As is probably obvious, you may occasionally spend more time than anticipated here.
I totally recommend this trip and for most people, I'm sure it'd be the straight-forward, clear skies type-experience we ended on. But be properly prepared just in case...
Published on: 01 April 2016