Morocco’s Toubkal Circuit – day 4

Once again the guided hiking group nearby was up and gone before I’d even woken up.

I started up into a very cool gorge section. It was dark and hazy.

This is Azib Imi n’Ouassif (2841m), a crossroads of several gorges where some people camp.

From here it’s a steep climb to the pass at Tizi n’Ouanoums.

Escapee goats live on these inhospitable cliffs. There’s not much to eat.

It was a bit of a relief to reach the second high pass of the circuit. From here it was all downhill … at least while carrying full pack.

Descending the pass was supposed to be a bit treacherous. As I crossed it wasn’t all that bad.

I could see some of the Iceland group having lunch at the bottom. By the time I got there they had begun climbing a secondary trail up the other side to the 2nd / 3rd highest peaks in north Africa. Their guide stayed back having hurt his ankle. In fact he sent the group cook as guide in his stead.

I had some lunch too. Then, with plenty of time, followed. Weather looked good.

The scramble to one Ouanoukrim summit — Ras Ouanoukrim (4083m) — in a hail storm turned out to be the highlight of the entire circuit. We had a blast.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

I hustled over to another lump of a peak — Timzguida (4089m) — which we later found out to be 5m higher.

In fact my phone had it (wrongly) at 4100m.

Once safely down, the others headed off briskly (as they always did) to rejoin their group. One of the men, Dorfi, had once led a 3 week horse trek across Iceland. This weather was nothing to him. He wore a wool sweater under a waterproof poncho on that trip. Never got wet.

In no rush I walked slowly downhill to Toubkal Refuge (3207m).

I’d plan to wild camp again … until I saw the massive complex. It looked intriguing.

As it was raining too I decided to camp at Refuge Mouflon and sign up for the 7pm dinner. It was pretty good.

I charged my batteries in Mouflon after dinner and watched an episode of Better Call Saul on my phone as I waited. Then headed out into the rain to my tent.

Morocco’s Toubkal Circuit – day 3

I had camped at a site called Azib Likemt with a guided German group.

They were up and gone long before I finished my coffee.

I followed the last of their horsemen up and over a low pass.

From the col you descend to the impressive Berber village of Amsouzert (1797m).

When water is available this mountain range is incredibly lush.

It’s a very interesting place. I could see staying overnight here.

Many homes had satellite dishes.

In fact, I later decided to recommend future hikers start at Amsouzert. It’s on the N10 highway connecting Marrakesh and Ouarzazate. A private taxi is the easiest way to get here.

Not stopping at the many shops and restaurants, I continued up up up to famous Lac d’Ifni back in the National Park.

It’s incredibly rugged with the trail forced high above.

Here I debated whether to stop at the lake. Or continue up towards the gorge climb for the next day.

Pushy shopkeepers decided it for me. I don’t like being harassed while hiking.

So it was out onto the massive spring flooding wash of stones.

Surprisingly, I couldn’t find any water until I reached camp.

Once again I camped near a guided group, this one from Iceland.

I chose my tent site as safest from rockfall.

It was still fairly early in the evening so I did some wandering, mostly laughing at the goats and sheep coming down from the gorge for nightfall.

Morocco’s Toubkal Circuit – day 2

I woke at dawn. Shared a couple of cups of coffee with Aziz.

Then told him I might return if I couldn’t find the route.

I climbed back up to the paved road surprised to find this hotel.

If I was to do the circuit again I’d hire a cab in Imlil to deliver me here on the paved road. Begin the hike next morning.

I still had no idea where to start the climb up to Tizi Likemt (3550m), the first high pass.

Happily I saw a brightly coloured people walking down the highway in my direction. It was an Israeli couple who had just finished the circuit the opposite direction.

Waiting on them was the smartest thing I did all week. They told me the entire circuit is available on Maps.me. I had downloaded it in advance. My navigation problems were solved.

Maps.me saves the day again.

I’m sure they thought I looked too energetic. Over-confident.

I was raring to go.

On the other hand, this poor carnivore might have been a bad omen.

The climb was very long. And not all that thrilling.

Looking backward …

There’s a Japanese donated weather station at the pass, but you can’t see it from the side I climbed.

It was hot and sunny. No water.

My Darn Toughs did all 5 days of the hiking. I switched to camp socks / shoes each evening.

It was a long, hot descent as well.

In fact, a pass this high first day is stupid. That’s not smart acclimatization. On the way down I resolve to NOT recommend these first 2 days to future hikers.

Here’s the first water I’d seen in hours. All water sources should be treated in these mountains unless you see it coming out of the mountain with your own eyes.

I was happy to reach the river. A German group had already claimed the best spot.

Further along I enjoyed a couple of pots of coffee.

This is a summer grazing settlement. Animals and their keepers will head down soon when snow threatens.

The next section climbing through a gorge was very entertaining. One of my favourite bits.

I finally camped at an open area on another creek near yet another guided hiking group.

Dinner in the dark was coucous, soup, raisins and peanuts. For Morocco I switched from my usual instant mashed potatoes base to couscous.

Morocco’s Toubkal Circuit – day 1

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Toubkal is by far the most popular and important trekking destination in Morocco for serious hikers.

It’s easily accessible from Marrakesh.

Lonely Planet

Unhappily I couldn’t find either camping fuel nor english language hiking guidebook for Toubkal in Marrakesh.

Lonely Planet said there were good gear shops in the trailhead town of Imlil (1740m).

My hostel in Marrakesh told me where to find the shared cabs to Imlil. But that turned out to be my greatest navigational challenge. Shared taxis sprawl across several streets. A tout finally took me to the right one.

In 2018 locals paid 35 Dirham to get the 64km to Imlil. Foreigners 50 Dirham. ($5.40) Cost seemed to be non-negotiable.

Vans don’t leave until full … plus 3-5 more people.

It’s less than 2 hours from the hot city to the much cooler High Atlas mountains.

Imlil is an impressive and popular tourist town.

Unfortunately the best gear shop in town — Atlas Extreme — was closed when I arrive. For an hour? A day? A Week? None of the neighbours seemed to know.

I’d wanted this guidebook for the trip. But Trailblazer doesn’t sell a digital version. I needed a paper copy

https://www.amazon.com/Moroccan-Atlas-Trekking-Planning-Marrakech/dp/1905864590

I managed to get some used stove fuel and the map of the region instead at a tiny stall. The map ($10 plus) was fairly useless. It doesn’t show the circuit route. I did have the 5 page Lonely Planet description on my phone.

Not wanting to wait around, I got off on to the “trail” as quickly as possible.

departing Imlil

It was a hot, sunny day. I saw very few water sources.

Why was I walking on a paved road?

Only one stretch took me off-road and up through a village.

These mountains are massive.

I looked forwards to getting away from the heat.

On this excellent road I saw very few vehicles. A lot of sheep.

I walked up this valley past Berber villages Talate n’Chaoute, Tamguist and Ouaneskra.

Many locals ran out to greet me urging I stay in their homes or camp in their yards. I was unimpressed by most explaining that I planned to hike until 7pm.

Finally I passed a young man with a Canada cap. Stopping to chat with that group I met a guesthouse manager named Aziz. I liked him instantly. Everyone who passed by had a friendly word with him. Popular and charismatic.

I decided to “comp” at Gite Entre Les Vallees. Aziz was surprised I didn’t want instead to sleep in any of the 13 empty beds he had inside.

His location is ideal. A new bridge is being built across the river right next door. Soon he’ll have all the traffic.

Before dinner I went for a walk on the other side of the valley to try to see my route for the next day. It looked intimidating.

I still had no idea which of those passes was the one I’d need to cross.

I did meet some French hikers who’d come up with a rent-a-car to climb a peak on this side of the valley. Acclimatization. It was over 3000m.

The first time I went to take a photo of a Berber woman in the fields she called up to me NO PHOTOS. I respected that injunction for the rest of the trip.

my hiking jacket – Columbia OutDry Ex Gold

I’ve was very happy overall with my OutDry layers purchased December 2017. But within a few months the decals on both jackets started flaking off.

After about 7 months the OutDry coating on the down jacket began peeling off.

Columbia was very responsive when I contacted them. They want me to send them the jacket at my expense … then they’ll assess whether it is normal wear-and-tear or whether it’s my fault. That’s too much time, cost and bother for me. Especially if they somehow determine this was my fault.

I’m not sure I want an unreliable replacement.

Instead I’ll warn you here about the OutDry on the down jacket. It’s too sticky, I feel. Don’t buy that product.

The OutDry rain shell I really like. And I’m still using it as my main waterproof layer.

Here’s their email response:

All of our Outerwear and Equipment products benefit from our “Limited Lifetime Warranty”. This covers any manufacturing defects in the material and workmanship but excludes normal wear and tear and does not cover products that have been misused, neglected and the natural breakdown of materials over time. Receipt of purchase may be required. This Limited Lifetime Warranty lasts for the expected lifetime of the product from date of purchase. Coverage ends if you sell or transfer the product.

Shipping Information. Customers are responsible for shipping items to Columbia Sportswear. We will cover the cost of return shipping. We recommend that you ship your product with a reputable carrier that can provide tracking information and proof of delivery, such as Purolator or Canada Post. Customers are responsible for their product until we sign for delivery. Columbia Sportswear cannot be held responsible for packages lost in transit

All warranty claims are subject to evaluation by our warranty department and if your product is deemed out of warranty, it will be returned to you as is. If your product is deemed defective but unrepairable within a reasonable amount of time you will receive a Virtual Merchandise Credit equivalent to the MSRP value. Depending on the season or product, it may take longer to repair certain items. We will discard your product if it is covered under our applicable warranty when we provide you with a Virtual Merchandise Credit. If you would like your original product returned to you, you will not receive a Virtual Merchandise Credit, please check the box on the printable warranty form.

First option when possible is to have it repaired locally and send us the receipt for reimbursement up to $35 plus taxes per repair. All receipts require stamp of retailer/business and a clear description of the product and the repair that was performed.

The second option would be for you to send your item to our warranty department. Please proceed to the brand specific website and follow warranty instructions as it pertains to your item to receive your claim #. Furthermore, we ask that our clients pay for the initial one-way cost of shipping and we will cover the return cost. If product is not repairable a Virtual Merchandise Credit will be emailed to you to shop online, as stated above.

All our inspections are taking approximately 4-6 weeks from the received date.
Please note: Your products must be cleaned prior to shipment according to its care instructions. Products received that are deemed insufficiently cleaned will be returned to the customer unprocessed.

 

____ Original post from May 2018:

GearJunkie posted a sponsored ad from Columbia. This is the opposite of transparency in advertising. I’m disappointed. ☹️

The article, at first glance, looks a legit review.

Here’s my legit review. Columbia paid me nothing.

Top layer is the new Columbia Men’s OutDry Ex Gold Interchange Jacket

It’s fairly heavy with the removable Omni-Heat Reflective inner layer. For most hikes, I’ll leave that liner at home carrying only the 2 layer shell.

I tested it in the rain while cycling. With seam tape it feels entirely waterproof. And it’s reasonably light.

It has no pit zips.  Breathability is not nearly as good as Columbia claims. In fact, I’d say breathability is LOUSY.

I paired it with the new Columbia OutDry EX Gold Down Hooded Jacket

For most hikes I will bring this along, replacing my usual down hooded parka.

The most compelling reason I decided to go this direction is the OutDry™ EX outer layer. It seems obvious to me that down jackets should be waterproof. The down is not hydrophobic, but doesn’t need to be as it won’t get wet.

I’m confident I’ll never be wet nor cold with this system. The hoods are excellent.

Some feel the fit is boxy. I’d agree. But I like the extra room for more layers underneath.

For warm hikes I also picked up the Frogg Toggs Men’s Ultra Lite Rain Jacket as an alternative.

This is what the cool thru-hikers wear. It’s not breathable at all. But at US $14.22 you can’t lose.

All in all I’m very happy with my new OutDry system. It has got some bad reviews, however.

Gortex` wets out. Starts to fail after a few years. It’s the fabric of deceit. I’ve never trusted it.

Here’s how Outdry is supposed to work. Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

 

Green Trails in India

Indiahikes.com is our favourite hiking site for the subcontinent. Very professional.

Since 2011 they’ve been promoting hiking in India. One problem was poor infrastructure for waste management on the trails.

To stay sustainable for the future, all their hikes are litter-free. In fact they pick up more than they bring. Indiahikes groups carried out over 2 tons of trash last year.

Film maker Lakshmi Rebecca — a non-hiker — joins the company on India’s most popular hike, Roopkund. She filmed the adventure.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

India can’t rely on governments to solve waste management. Organizations like this are needed.