Peter Riley and I have just got back from a really successful trip to Morocco (making it 5 continents in 8 weeks for me!), where we climbed some amazing routes, and even left our own mark in the form of half a dozen first ascents. I’ve heard a few people raving about the Anti-Atlas area of Morocco, and the really adventurous rock climbing centred around the mountain town of Tafroute, so I thought it was about time I checked it out.
Tafraoute is pretty easy to get to now, with Easyjet flying you straight to Agadir, from where it is a 2.5 hour drive to the hills. Unfortunately we arrived to rain, which we were assured was very rare in November, and this was the last bad weather we saw in 2 weeks, so we got plenty done. I quite like to climb for a few days and then have a day of relaxing, but when I suggested this approach to Peter it was quickly rejected in favour of going at it like a bull in a china shop….everyday. Now I’m home and looking back on the quantity of routes we did, I agree with him but the body did protest on a few mornings!
What really struck me about the climbing around Tafraoute was the sheer volume and quality of it, and the real sense of adventure. There is far more unclimbed rock than climbed rock, but even the routes in the guidebook can be a handful as many of them have never been repeated, and descriptions are often vague and unchecked. Indeed, the old Cicerone guidebook provides a sentence or 2 for a complicated hour long approach, and then has a photo, and a technical grade to cover routes of up to 800 metres. The new Steve Broadbent guide to the northern areas is much better, but the lack of paths, occasional loose rock and the infrequency with which most things are climbed means that the majority of routes still feel pretty exciting.
I wouldn’t recommend Tafraoute as a beginner’s destination, but if you have plenty of rock climbing and general mountaineering experience, and aren’t looking for an “easy” holiday, then it is incredible – providing sun, amazing rock and genuinely adventurous climbing.
Some highlights would have to be -
* “The Great Ridge of Samazar” (VS 5a, 650m) & “Labyrinth Ridge” (VS 5a, 800m), the 2 longest routes in the Broadbent guide, both on the Great Rock of Aylim.
* “Throw us a bone” (E1 5b, 80m, First Ascent). Peter’s route, and an audacious line up a really unlikely looking Arete on Crag U – a great effort by him to spot it and have the belief that it would go.
* “The Great Corner” (HVS 5b, 200m) on Crag ND. Incredible line, incredible climbing.
* “Profanisaurus Pinnacle”. A 25 metre free standing pinnacle that we made the first ascent of – just pure fun.
Me celebrating the first ascent of Profanisaurus Pinnacle. Photo Peter Riley.
Me doing a bit of gardening on a belay ledge. With lots of loose rock, and deserted crags, the rock trundling in Morocco is amazing! Photo Peter Riley.
A typical descent in the Anti-Atlas. Photo Peter Riley.
Peter emerging from the crux of The Great Ridge of Samazar
Me near the top of Labyrinth Ridge, with the Great Ridge of Samazar on the right. Photo Peter Riley.
Enough rock to last a lifetime.... Photo Peter Riley.
There not a huge amount of information out there about the climbing around Tafroute, so feel free to drop me an email for any info about it, it really is worth the effort to check it out.
After a huge amount of travelling over the last 4 months, a week of couch dwelling beckons, and I can’t wait! That said, it looks like Scottish winter might be getting underway….