Hiking steeply uphill from the village just upstream of Imlil, we soon encountered snow on the north-facing slopes. As the trail climbed higher, the snow became deeper and deeper, until it was no longer possible to stay on the trail. Following Yusef’s lead, we alternated between scrambling steeply up the south-facing slopes that were snow-free but almost too steep to even gain footholds, and post-holing through the snow on the normal route. I cursed myself for leaving my snow gaiters at home as my shoes quickly became waterlogged with melting snow. The minor discomfort was more than compensated for by the increasingly majestic views, and as we climbed higher I was able to see the route to the base camp of Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa.
Eventually we arrived at the pass at 10,000 feet, where I craned my neck toward the summits of peaks rising another 3-4,000 feet above as we stopped for a snack. Dropping down into the adjacent valley, we stopped at a mountain refuge reminiscent of the Alps, where the hut guardian came out to share some tea with us. It was quite new and impressive, and I made a note to return and stay there when I had more time to attempt the peaks.
Continuing down the valley, we passed several Berber villages where modernity was just starting to make some inroads (literally) with a relatively road that now brought a once-a-day bus to the previously isolated settlements. Lower down the hints of seasonable change where appearing with the first buds on the fruit trees, but it was still really late winter rather than early spring.