Ikhibi: The Moroccan Mountain with Something Unexpected on Top

Nestled in the high Atlas Mountains, 3,887-meter Mt. Ikhibi presents a formidable challenge for trekkers. But near the eastern summit, there’s an unusual reward--a well-preserved aircraft engine that’s nearly half a century old. 

Mountain trekkers are used to encountering the unexpected, from local wildlife to campsites and more. But if you find yourself braving Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, a hunk of metal on the western face of Mt. Ikhibi can stop you in your tracks.

Mount Ikhibi

This structure is actually an old aircraft engine, the only existing evidence of a tragic crash in 1969.

Like the engine itself, the story of the crash is as strange as it is sad. On 28 November 1969, the plane–a Lockheed 749A–took off from Faro, a small town in Portugal. It was bound for Biafra, a breakaway African state that is now part of modern-day Nigeria. At the time, Biafra was embroiled in a violent civil war as it attempted to fully secede from Nigeria. In fact, the aircraft on its way to deliver ammunition to the struggling state.

A Lockheed L-749 constellation

The crew began experiencing engine problems as they flew over Morocco, and they notified air traffic controllers that they wished to divert to a closer airport. But the diversion was unsuccessful, and the plane hit Mt. Ikhibi, according to Summitpost.com.

Initial search and rescue efforts were fruitless and eventually suspended, with all eight people aboard were presumed dead.

But all hope was not lost. On 18 July 1970–nearly two years after the crash–mountaineers exploring the area discovered the remains. The Biafran government conducted a mechanical analysis of the wreckage and determined that three of the plane’s four engines malfunctioned, leading to the crash.

Today, the engine serves as a somber reminder of the untimely crash that prematurely took the lives of eight individuals. If you wish to visit the crash site for yourself, you’ll need to ensure your route includes the west face when climbing Mount Toubkal. The plane’s propeller has been situated vertically to serve as a trail marker. Throughout the ascent up the west face, you’ll encounter more pieces of scattered debris, culminating in the engine situated near the eastern summit.

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