The Atlas are the most northerly of Africa’s mountains, extending in a broken chain for over 1000 miles across Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The High Atlas, home of the highest peaks in North Africa, is the western part of the range. Here the peaks, a dozen of them over 13,000 feet, form a complex of jagged ridges and deep narrow valleys running 250 miles across Morocco.
The Atlas Mountains separate the northern moist Mediterranean climate from the arid south. Northward the mountains drop steeply, while southward they slope gradually into the hot, dry Sahara, which stretches for over a thousand miles.
Fقom the ancient city of Marrakech, the Atlas skyline stretches across the horizon, creating a backdrop of inspiring beauty. Toubkal (13,665 ft.), North Africa’s highest mountain, is only 50 miles south of Marrakech.
Despite a scarcity of roads, most of the major mountains are easily accessible. The approach to the mountains is short, and there are mountain huts, plenty of good trails, and mules to carry gear.
The High Atlas has been inhabited for thousands of years by a pastoral people known by the Berbers, but who call themselves Imazighen. They live in small villages of flat-roofed sun-baked mud and stone houses, usually situated atop steep mountain slopes. Speaking Berber, they are as interesting and welcoming as they are knowledgeable of the mountains.
The Atlas Mountain summers are warm, while winter snows are very heavy. The high peaks maintain their snow caps for much of the year, but there are no glaciers. The two best climbing & trekking seasons are in the winter/spring period, from February to May, when snow is still present but temperatures are comfortable; and in early Autumn (September), when the mountains are dry and the weather is cool again before winter storms return.