It’s Sunday, 7.30am. A crescent moon hangs low in the sky, kissing the top of the steep, snowy slope. The sun is hidden behind the towering peaks, but the mountain is beginning to take shape in the early morning light. Ahead, the deep cut walls of the valley flatten out and I can see where the path swings left, towards our goal. Mount Toubkal.
I’ve been awake for three hours and walking for two. I pause to take a deep breath of the thin air, hands on hips, staring at my boots.
“You have to suffer to remember it,” says my guide Mohammed, grinning as he pats me on the back. He has the look of a man out for a casual stroll rather than one leading a group of hikers to the top of Morocco’s highest peak. At 4,167m, Toubkal is the tallest mountain in North Africa, a challenge for even the most seasoned of hill walkers.
Take on Mount Toubkal in just one weekend (MuchBetterAdventures)
I’m here with Much Better Adventures, a British tour company which has recently launched its Epic Weekends Series, aimed at helping adventurous travellers maximise their time off with the minimum of fuss.
“Things like climbing Toubkal are the kind of once-in-a-lifetime experiences that sit on our bucket lists, but stay unticked because we either run out of annual leave or are put off by the usual prices and complexities,” says Sam Bruce, Much Better Adventures’ co–founder, who I chat with before leaving the UK. “We’ve done all the hard work to strip all that away.”
The tour I’ve joined, Climb Mount Toubkal and Explore Marrakech, requires two days away from your desk. There’s the chance to snoop around the souks and mosques of Morocco’s most famous city on the Friday, before staying at a traditional riad and striking out for the mountain on Saturday morning, overnighting to a mountain refuge in preparation for the final assault on the summit. Visitors can choose to arrive whenever they like on the Friday and can even fly back to the UK…