Beware the road!
If you drive from Marrakesch to Ouarzazate you have to pass through the Atlas.
The road is steep and narrow, with no protection at its edge, and sometimes you have absolutely the feeling of driving over the hell. Be very careful and beware also of vehicles coming the other direction.
No banks after Marrakech
In our hurry to leave Marrakech we forgot to go to the bank to get more money. We assumed we'd find an ATM at Asni or Imlil. However, when we got here there were none and we were face with surviving on 800 Dh (about 80 Euro) between us for 3 days.
Given that accommodation in the refuge was 150Dh a night this would be a real struggle. Luckily, we had a bit of emergency sterling which we managed to exchange at the CAF information point in Imlil at a rate of 15Dh:1pound. This still only gave us 1250 overall which was just about enough for 3 days.
I would advise everyone to bring enough cash from Marrakech. In fact, take more than you plan for, as you may need to spend an extra night here at the refuge or spend more than you bargained for on food, transport, or equipment like crampons.
Access to Water in the Mountains
Water is scarce and expensive in the Atlas mountains. For example a bottle of water at the Toubkal refuge will cost you 12 Dh compared to the normal price of 5Dh in Imlil. Hence, it might make sense to stock up before you leave Imlil, though you do have to carry more in this case.
Also, if the refuge is busy the bottled water quickly runs out and there stock isn’t replenished until mules bring up more the next day. Hence, make sure you buy some before you leave the refuge as there is nowhere to buy it beyond here.
We panicked on the morning of the climb when we realised we had only a quarter litre remaining and all the water in the refuge had been sold. Luckily we had iodine tablets so we filled up a 2 litre bottle from the water in the refuge (boiled as we were a little paranoid) and dropped some tablets in these. It took 2 hours for the water to cool but it was very important we had it as it took us 7 hours to climb the summit and get back to the refuge.
Ridge Below Toubkal
The only really scary moment on the Toubkal ascent is on the final ridge before the summit. Here you must walk along a very narrow path while to your left a steep slope drops a long way. I was behind a guided group on this traverse so I was very careful and went very slow. This is the only section of the hike where an ice-axe would have been useful - i.e. if you fell, it might slow your descent. The ridge is about 30 metres long and once you clear it it’s a simple walk to the summit.
The Toubkal ascent is mostly straightforward though extremely tiring in parts, especially if you haven’t acclimatised properly. We did the whole thing in two days from Imlil and this was quite tough going, especially as we carried our own gear,. I think three days would be ideal to acclimatise properly. Take one day for the trip from Imlil to Toubkal, one day for the climb and then descend on the last day. We combined the Toubkal climb with the descent to Imlil in one day and it meant almost 11 hours of straight hiking with only a brief break at the top and at the refuge on the way down.
This could be upsetting
I found the small zoo behind the Asni hotel and restaurant quite upsetting. There were only a few animals, but they were kept in small, dingy cages and did not look happy. I mentioned it to the guide, who said I wasn't the first to comment on it, so perhaps by now something has been done about it.
Watch for those corners
When riding round those corners, don't do 75kmph like our guides did, the edge seemed awfully close at times, and my heart was in my mouth once or twice.