Is Mount Toubkal and are the Atlas mountains safe to travel after the recent Scandinavian murders? After having trekked these mountains only weeks after the event as a solo traveling female, I’d argue yes.
I’m only into my second day in Morocco before I heard about the murders of two Scandinavian girls.
“Have you heard about the two girls who were murdered a couple weeks ago? Everyone is talking about it. This is rare though, and these girls were traveling alone without a guide.” says a friend I met up with while in Marrakech.
I don’t bait for more details and leave it at that.
I sign up for a winter trek with a local company and learn there is one other girl who will be joining me. Two girls? Is that enough for safety in numbers?
It’s only one day before my pickup from Marrakech and when I tell a friend abroad that I’ll be going on my first winter and altitude trek in North Africa’s tallest mountains.
“Did you hear about the beheadings?” says friend.
Ugh, I really hate hearing about this news. I view this one isolated event the same way I see the mass shootings we hear about all over the news in the not so scary USA. I say “not so scary” with a bit of sarcasm.
I search the keywords to pull up the article about the two girls and see an image. Immediately I close out and remind myself not to feed into the fear mongering news. I’m NOT going to instill fear in me.
It’s game time, and the other girl and I am picked up Marrakech and on our way to Imlil, the base village before many Atlas mountain treks. There were a couple of opportunities for us to talk to each other about what happened, but she and I were both on code that both of us wanted to remain ignorant of what happened and enjoy our trek.
We are almost up the hill via car to our riad but are stopped for our first police checkpoint. Two police officials approach the vehicle and ask for our guide’s documents and our passports. They ask him a few questions, and we make it to our final destination.
That afternoon our mountain guide takes us on an acclimatization hike, we enjoy a nice lunch on the hill, and then make our way back down the mountain to rest up for our 2-day ascent in the morning. It’s quiet here.
We leave around 9 am to ascend for about 6 hours up Mount Toubkal. There aren’t many people on the trail. My trekking buddy and I continue to avoid talking about it, but then we reach a shack about halfway up, and our guide stops about 100 feet downhill of it.
He points uphill and says, “This is where it happened.” and then proceeds to tell his story. “Nothing like this has ever happened here, and it was not by our people. I saw the girls with my own eyes after it happened and was sick for a week. Everyone cried.”
My guide continues to go into the story in grave detail that I’ll spare you. We walk next to the shack, and my guide points at the dirt near my feet at where it happened. It feels grim and eerie, but no signs of a crime. My guide and trekking buddy begin walking ahead of me, and I sneak in the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” in a crossword motion over my face and chest. I’m not religious, but it’s something that we used to do when I was young, and it brought comfort to me at that moment.
There were three other checkpoints on the trail. Our guide had to provide his information, and the police officials were documenting our passports. At least they care, I’m thinking. Hearing my guide’s personal story and the several checkpoints reassured me. We’re still the only two females I’ve seen on the trail.
We’re at base camp now and finally, see other women (though only less than a handful). The rest of the trip feels quite normal. We get to the summit and never felt unsafe with our two nights at the refuge.
On the way back down the hill, I noticed more groups of women and more trekkers making their way up the trail. This is a good sign.
If you’re a solo traveling female or girl traveling with an all-girl group – I’d recommend hiring a guide to go. In fact, I think that’s the only way you’re allowed up the hill now after the incident. Hopefully, this eases some of your concern. If you have any questions, leave me a comment in the box below.