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.

free offline maps for hiking

In South America early 2018 I quickly learned that most every tourist was using the free maps.me app every day.

I was using Google Maps offline.

Google has the best map data in the world.

Maps.me uses Open Street Map data.

Soon I was using both apps and comparing the results. Google Maps offline might be better but it’s far more complicated. You must define the exact square area you want to download. Files sizes are huge.

Maps.me does only one thing. And it does it well.

Opening the app in a new geographical area while on wifi results in one prompt asking if you want to download the maps for your current area. It’s dead easy.

Offline it uses GPS to pinpoint your location.

Surprisingly some hiking trails are included in the Open Street Map data.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

If interested, download the free Maps.me app to your mobile device. Browse the Maps.me support – Getting started.

 

hiking Reflection Canyon, Utah

… The route is long, rough and remote — the trailhead from Escalante, Utah takes 2 to 3 hours to get to during periods of good weather — and you still have to navigate 8-9 miles off-trail through fully-exposed sand and sage brush, across slickrock, and up and down rutted desert ravines.

Don’t be fooled by the name either. This long, exposed hike is not really through a canyon …

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 16-18 miles out-and-back (26-29 km)
  • Days Needed: 2 days
  • Peak Elevation: 4,466 ft.
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 1,234 ft.
  • Best Travel Time: Late March to May and September to October
  • Permits: Required (see below)
  • Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult

Highlights

  • A stunning final vista
  • Beautiful sunrises and sunsets
  • Fabulous photo opps
  • Solitude, expect to see few other backpackers
  • Star-studded night sky
  • You can take your dog

Clever Hiker 

We’ve added Reflection Canyon to our list of best hikes in North America.

Cam Honan – Arthur Range Traverse, Tasmania

Cam Honan has hiked everything. Everywhere. But for me his most impressive trips have been his extreme Tasmania epics.

Floating rivers on his NeoAir mattress, for example.

For us mere mortals, he summarized his advice on a route called Arthur Range Traverse.

It’s only 48 miles (77km) but will take you 10-14 days, on average. With no resupply. You carry all that food on your back.

If not already decided there’s no way that sounds like fun, click through to …

Arthur Range Traverse Planning Guide

Nahuel Huapi Traverse – day 4

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles 

 Refugio Segre (Italia) to Bariloche

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | video | info page

After surviving day 3 I assumed day 4 would be a breeze. A stroll down to the lake.

No. ☹️

It’s very difficult and perhaps the most dangerous section of all.

It’s another early morning scramble to navigate along the far side of Laguna Negra. Some fixed ropes help on the downclimb.

Alone I was following the Lonely Planet route on my phone, increasingly distancing myself from all the day hikers heading a different direction up to a famed ridge lookout.

Very unsure, I changed heading and followed them up to a fantastic vista.

Tronador

Turns out there are at least 2 routes out of Laguna Negra. Almost nobody does the LP variation any more.

From the ridge it turned out I’d be the only one that day trying for Lopez hut and Bariloche. Everyone else decided to take the easy way down including the big guided hiking group.

I was feeling fit and healthy. The weather perfect. Again.

I had to go for it.

Next — what else — a scramble along another ridge.

The views were beautiful today. Prettiest yet.

I came to the long, painful scree descent to another green, boggy valley. I crawled under a scrub tree at the bottom just to get some shade.

The similarly long ascent is on large, loose, sharp frost shattered rock. Going up is dangerous. I met 2 Argentinians descending there. SUPER dangerous. The worst of many bad slopes.

It took me about 2 hours of steady climbing to finally gain the ridge. It wasn’t until this point that I was convinced I would make the Traverse. The lake looked very close.

This was my final pass. It’s all downhill from here.

How to descend? Both left and right looked possible, but neither was appealing.

Turns out the trail takes you directly over the top of the rocks blocking the route.

There’s Lopez hut way below. Hours below.

It’s all scrambling to get there.

This seasonal snow melt tarn is one of the water sources for the hut.

I was getting close to civilization, however.

Here’s a water catchment pond at the hut. Not looking potable.

I got bad vibes in every way from Lopez hut. It’s privately run. Avoid it if you can.

I had lunch. Then headed down a likely looking trail with an escort.

Turned out I’d chosen a disused path on the wrong side of the creek.

Once we crossed to the true right, I quickly found the main trail down.

It was about a 2 hour wait for the next bus to town.

Jumping off close to my hostel I ran into British friends who had just returned from a different hike. We enjoyed a big carne and red wine feast at a Parilla restaurant on the lake.

Celebration. 🍷

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | video | info page