Asni, Imlil and the ascent of Djebel Toubkal
The end of the line for the Marrakesh buses and grands taxis, ASNI is really little more than a roadside village and marketplace – and a spot many hikers pass straight through to get up into the mountains. If you're in a hurry, this is good reasoning, though it's no disaster if you have to stay overnight. The all-year youth hostel (under £5 / $8) has no cooking facilities and you'll need your own sleeping bag. Just beyond the hostel, a last taste of hotel luxury before the mountains is offered by the Grand Hôtel du Toubkal (£10-15 / $16-24). Both hostel and hotel will store baggage for you if you want to carry a minimum load into the mountains. Heading on, the place you need to get to is IMLIL, 17km into the mountains on a rough road; pick-up vans and taxis shuttle back and forth from Asni, along with larger lorries on Saturdays for the Imlil souk. The established trailhead for Toukbal, Imlil comprises a small cluster of houses, along with many provisions shops, a prominent CAF (French Alpine Club) refuge and several cafés. Most hikers choose to stay at the CAF refuge, which is open all year round and provides bunk beds, camping mattresses and blankets, as well as kitchen and washing facilities and luggage storage. In addition, Imlil has two hotels, the Étoile de Toubkal (£10-15 / $16-24) and the more basic Hôtel-Café Soleil (£5-10 / $8-16), while several houses offer rooms. A first stop in Imlil should be the "Shopping Centre", run by Lahcen Esquary, an experienced Atlas guide who speaks English well. Other qualified guides are listed on the noticeboard in the square. ( Bureau de Guides Imlil , Climbing Info )
The ascent of Djebel Toubkal is a walk rather than a climb after the snows have cleared, but a serious business nonetheless: this is North Africa's highest mountain (4167m). The walk to the base is enjoyable in its own right, following the Mizane Valley to the village of Aroumd ( 4Km from Imlil ) and thence through the hamlet of Sidi Chamcharouch to the Toukbal refuge hut (12Km from Imlil – 5/6hr in all), at the foot of the mountain. The refuge gardien is usually prepared to cook meat or vegetable tajine for guests, though beware that the hut can be very busy – and crowded. Most people set out early to mid-morning from Imlil to stay the night at the main Toukbal refuge, setting out on the ascent at first light the next morning in order to get the clearest panorama. At the refuge you're almost bound to meet people who have just come down – and you should certainly take advantage of them and the gardien for a description of the routes and the current state of the ( South Cirque ) normal ascent route to the summit.
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