Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Trip Report: Moroccon Anti Atlas

By Chris Watkins

I’d heard all the stories; sun, acres of golden quartzite rock, a liberal dashing of Berber culture, topped off with seemingly never ending pots of mint tea and all of it just a short flight away. Needless to say I didn’t take much convincing.

Lower Eagle Crag home of the exceptionally fine“Pink Lady”

We opted for an Autumn trip, which after spring seemed to be the best time to go. Although very arid after the long hot North African summer we found the weather to be hot and predominately dry, with just the odd isolated shower or thunder storm. Another unexpected bonus was we had the whole valley to ourselves and didn’t see any other climbers for the entire duration of our stay.

Toby Van Pooss on “Space Walk” Crag W Tifghlte

We found cheap flights to Marrakesh with Thompson (£180) hired a car (£300ish) and after 6 hours of surprisingly amenable driving we arrived at the local campsite run by the larger than life Omar. Providing you’ve brought with you a fat thermarest - as there is no grass, the site is safe, cheap and friendly and the climate perfect for sleeping out under the stars. That said hotels are pretty cheap and woulsave you bringing camping gear. We did opt for a night at the Amandiers hotel above the town mid-trip for a comfy bed, cold beer and swimming pool you know the deal.

Hotel Les Amandiers

Toby checking out the new routes book first, and drinking beer second

Although there is a reasonable amount of information available to the climbing around Tafraoute, namely “Climbing in the Moroccan Anti-Atlas” by Claude Davis, “The Rock Climbing Atlas to South Western Europe and Morocco” and various websites, in particular Steve Broadbent’s Oxford Uni climbing club site, the best sources are the new routes books behind the reception at the Amandiers hotel. We spent most evenings researching crags and studying the very useful sketch map. A digital camera is useful to photograph topos, descriptions and maps for future reference, just make sure you’ve got a battery charger to keep your camera topped up or you may have to rely on just your memory if it dies mid-route! Be warned.

Kelly and Toby Van Pooss enjoying the shade on Ksar rock

Once armed with all this information we found the crags easy to find on the whole. The more recently “developed” northern Jebel y Kest region is now served by tarmac roads which has removed some of the fun but also some of the off-road antics as well. But still be prepared to drive up to an hour and a half to some of the crags plus walk in time.

Top picture - Toby on the final pinnacle of the excellent “Barbi”, crag Yazult

In terms of hardware we found a fairly standard uk multi-pitch rack ample the kind you might take to Gogarth.

  • be more generous with cams, again small ones were useful and the camalot 3 got plenty of use
  • dozen long quick draws
  • abseil tat and a few maillons, any insitu tat is usually well uv damaged

Other than that a pair of ropes 50m should be sufficient, a multi-pitch sac for water, shoes etc (we found trainers fine for the approaches and lighter than boots to carry), comfy rockshoes, binoculars for scoping lines and finally your multi-pitch head.

Having now climbed in the Anti-Atlas I am honestly glad to have spent recent years climbing on mountain rock in Wales. The skills of route finding and dealing with loose rock, extricating yourselves safely off routes and the general steadiness on lead are highly useful lessons to have learned and will stand you in good stead.

I feel like the experience has been a really useful one. I hadn’t fully appreciated how routes change over time with the passage of hands and feet, how the loose holds are slowly removed, the time worn process of gear placements constantly being improved and made to be more obvious. I feel like the Atlas climbing experience is more pure in certain respects. There is loose rock, the tell-tale signs of previous ascents more subtle or non-existent and he fact of not necessarily having a blow by blow account of where to go make the experience more intense and therefore more exciting and ultimately more enjoyable.

Take care and take a flight sometime you won’t be disappointed! If anyone wants any further information feel free to email or contact at Joe Browns.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Great to hear about your trip... it made me want to go back!
We've just published a guidebook to the north side crags, available online at www.climb-tafraoute.com , where you can also find up to date route info and an online new-route book.