Asni, Morocco

ASNI  region 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 place you need to get into is IMLIL, 11 miles 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.  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 notice board in the square.

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 (two and half mile from Imlil) and thence through the hamlet of Sidi Chamcharouch to the Toubkal refuge hut (8 miles from Imlil – 5/6hr in all), at the foot of the mountain. The refuge gardien is usually prepared to cook meat or vegetable tajines 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) trail to the summit.

( From Rough Guides )

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