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eldiente

[TR] Taghia Morocco - Au nom de la reforme 6/3/2011

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Trip: Taghia Morocco - Au nom de la reforme

 

Date: 6/3/2011

 

Trip Report:

In early May, Stephanie I took a two week trip to Morocco with a one week trip to the Taghia Gorge in the High Atlas. Taghia is a magical place and a dream for climbers, this has got to be some of the best big wall climbing in the world. If you took Zion Canyon and attached it to Yosemite you'd get close to the scale of Taghia. If you like climbing big walls on clean rock away from the crowds, this is the place to be. Although the climbing is sporty (bolted) Taghia feels like alpine climbing to me; no airplanes dropping you off at the base of the climb, no gondolas to whisk you to the cafe at end of the day, and no rescue service. Just climbing rocks in the middle of nowhere Africa with lots of Mint Tea and all the Laughing Cow cheese you can eat.

 

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View out the front door.

 

I'd like to say we climbed some crazy routes, but unfortunately we had a run of bad luck that thwarted our efforts. Lost luggage, bad beta, stomach flu, flooded streams, and all kinds of logistical hassles that come with traveling in a developing country. After so many problems I was happy to have climbed anything at all even if they were the "bunny slope" routes of the area. After losing 15 pounds due to African stomach bugs, I had no push, weighing 135 makes climbing real easy but I didn't have the energy for hiking or the longer routes that required hauling.

 

Routes we got up or tried to get up. Grades are based on what we found in the hand written journals at the Gite (guest house) and my humble opinion. Logistical beta lower.

 

 

* "Au nom de la reforme"- 5.11 300M +200M of low 5th class. Sustained and perfect!

* Possible new route* on Ifrig "South East Corner" Left of" Belle Berbere", Solo. 300M 5.9.

*Attempt at Belle Berber, off route bail.

*Attempt at unknown route left of Canyon Apache, lost on approach, scary stream swimming.

*Unknown route left of Canyon Apache. 5.11- or 5.10+ish 400M.

 

 

Au nom de la reforme. 5.11 300M +200M of low 5th class.

 

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We spent out first day hiking around the Valleys drooling at all the walls and trying to figure out what to climb. Not an easy task as there is hundreds of routes in the journal at the Gite, the topos are hand drawn in Spanish or French so trying to make sense of it all was a bit stressful. We picked a route to the summit of the obvious tower in front of the Village, on the topo Daila Ojeda had written "fantastic!" That's a good recommendation coming from a girl who climbs 5.14 on Spanish limestone.

 

What a good start to the trip! After a few approach pitches the route goes striaght-up a clean head-wall with sustained vertical face climbing in the mid 5.10 range with a few short 5.11 sections. Reminded me a lot of the upper headwall of Levitation 29 at Red Rocks but just a bit steeper and being limestone, WAY more fun. I fulfilled a lifelong dream and got to climb a tufa on the last hard pitch. The face climbing came to an end on a 5.10+ pitch and a nice tufa was off to the left. I could have inched over and latched it, but just for fun I got a "running start" and did the all points off dyno to grab the tufa and swung my feet out. Climbing stuff like that makes me want to sell my trad rack and move to Spain.

 

The summit ridge is a bunch of 4th and low 5th class terrain to reach the summit. A few cams could be used but mostly just running it out and belaying off of blocks or bushes. On the summit we got our first taste of the afternoon thunderstorms that happen just about every day. The temp dropped to the 40s, wind, rain, and lighting much like you'd get in the Rockies during the summer. Not too bad as the rain let up after about an hour, however the descent is down a dry (wet) waterfall system that tuned into a mile long slip and slide, sketchy.

 

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Gear. Bolts with bolted belays. Optional medium cam rack for approach pitches and summit ridge traverse.

 

Approach. 1-2 hours up the right side of the tower. Stream crossing 15 minutes from the hut. Bring sandals and leave them after crossing stream so that you can switch into approach shoes. Hiking off in sandals is tough, very rugged terrain.

 

Descent. Off the back (facing away from village) Down climb 10M from summit to a bush with rap slings on them. You can rap from here with 70M rope, the topo says you need doubles for this rap but a single 70M worked fine. Walk climbers right to get back into obvious gully that you came up, steep exposed gully down climbing. Watch out for rockfall from goats. Possible to leave pack at the base of the route and snag it on the way down.

 

Possible new route on Ifrig "South East Corner" Left of" Belle Berbere." Solo 300M 5.9.

 

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On a rest day I went up and did what might be a new route on the shoulder of Ifrig. I say "might" as the local kids climb all over the place, I saw a little boy soloing in rubber boots. I didn't see any signs of previous travel but who knows. As a whole this wasn't a great route, sort of contrived as I didn't have a rope on and kept weaving to the left looking for the easiest terrain. After two approach pitches, the route starts 20-40M left of " Belle Berbere" in a nice corner/cracks system that went at 5.9ish for 50M or so. The crack was too sharp to jam but offered some nice stems. After this I moved left through some easy terrain to get into nice corner and block system that took me most of the way to the top. This area had the best climbing of the route with lots of 5.6 and a few steps of 5.8. I drew up a bad topo and stuck it in the guide next to a new topo for a multi pitch 5.13. As sort of a joke I put the topo in as "SE Corner" as it reminded me of that other wondering route that many of us enjoy soloing, The SE Corner of Beacon Rock. Hahhah.. I suspect some visiting Euro will take one look at my topo, frown and use the paper to roll a cigarette.

 

 

Unknown route left of Canyon Apache. 5.11- or 5.10+ish 400M.

 

 

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Route goes up the left side of Canyon by the beam of sun on orange rock

 

Not sure of the name or the grade of this climb, but starts left of the well-know Canyon Apache. Sorry not many pictures, we were battling heat, rain, and then cold. I thought this route was kinda rough, not really hard climbing but just a lots of whacky pitches, roofs, traverses and the like. The spacing between the bolts on this route got my attention, on two occasions you have to get 20-25 feet above tied off tufas on 5.10 terrain. The last pitch is an airy horizontal traverse (mid 5.10) to get to the top of the wall, falling here for the leader or follower would suck. Cool route but I wasn't having much fun with the weather that day. This is probably the easiest "good" route in the Valley.

 

 

Approach. Short (1 hour) but not trivial. Canyoneering and swimming required up a narrow slot Canyon. When you come to waterfall blocking the way, look for a bolt to the right. Tie up some slings and French Free off this bolt and around waterfall.

 

Descent. 2-3 hours down. From summit move far right on top of cliff before going down the last of the gullies. Down climb 4th class gully aiming for farm field behind huts.

 

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The hike in involves a lot of getting wet and climbing around waterfalls.

 

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Looking up the route, a party on the 2nd pitch ahead of us.

 

Beta Beta Beta.

 

I should have hired Ivan to write this TR, he could spin an epic tale of Moroccan traveling but I lack such talents. Suffice to say that traveling in Morocco is crazy. Just getting in a taxi is more adventure then you'd get in a years worth of climbing. With that in mind we had a really tough time planing this trip, there is a lots of internet chatter about climbing in Morocco but most of it is just "Joe Blow sent 5.14 in Morocco," not very useful for planing a trip.

 

Taghia Overview.

 

Taghia is a small village located on the East side of the Atlas Mountains. About 200 people live in this village at about 6,000 feet. The nearest town is a 3-5 hour hike or mule ride to another small town of Ahanesal. From Ahanesal it is 2-4 hour jeep ride over a high pass to the first "real" town of Azial. The terrain is incredibly rugged, there is literally not a flat bit of Earth to be seen within a 100 miles. The houses are built on stilts as there isn't flat land for a normal house. It is dry and cold, similar climate to Western Colorado. Taghia is ringed on three sides by limestone walls up to 3,000 feet tall with many other walls in adjacent canyons. From the village you are 15-minutes to 3 hours from the climbing, right out your door.

 

Staying in the village is a real treat. You stay at one of two guest houses and the families legitimately seem glad to have you stay in their home. It is a great way to see the daily life of these people, they have a very hard life in such a harsh climate but they seem happy and I never saw any tension among them. Note that there is no market or anything to buy in this town, bring it all in. For gifts the children really need sandals, bring a few spare pairs to leave behind.

 

Getting there.

 

*Fly or take a train to Marrakech. Note the train from Casablanca to Marrakech is crowded and doesn't have much room for gear.

*Option 1. Spend $300 US and hire an SUV from Marrakech all the way to Ahanesal, 8 hours.

*Option 2, Bus from Marrakech to Azial (6 hours) Ask around Azial for a fruit truck to give you a ride to Ahanesal (2-4 hours $50-$150 US)

*Once in Ahanesal a local will show you to a Gite and feed you ($20US) The father of the house will arrange mules for you.

*Mules/hike-in 3-5 hours to Taghia.

 

Staying there.

 

*Language, they speak Arabic and French, not a word of English.

*There are two Gites in Taghia, the mule driver will show you where they are.

*Gites offer a mattress to sleep on, breakfast and dinner. ($15US) Bring a sleeping bag and pad in case they are full.

*No need for tent or stove unless doing multi-day wall climbing.

*Food. Breakfast is bread and jam. Dinner is soup, bread, cooked veggies and goat meat. They sever the same thing every day. (bland) Bring wall food and snacks unless you like eating dry loaves of bread for lunch.

*Water. They offer bottled water but be aware that they have no way of recycling the empty bottles and burn them. Bring a filter or tablets.

*No booze! Arabs don't drink or sell the stuff. Bring a flask.

 

Weather.

 

*Spring and Fall are rumored to be the best. Spring was nice as the Valley was still green and the waterfalls were flowing.

*Weather was 60s in the day, maybe upper 70s in the sun. High winds were normal.

*Afternoon showers were common, not a lot of rain but windy and very cold. During the storms I was wearing three layers.

 

Climbing details.

 

*Bolted limestone routes, most of the routes are 200M to 900M. Routes are put in ground-up so spacing of the bolts varies.

*Rock is very clean, super sharp, mostly face climbing on vertical terrain with some roofs. Climbing tends to be sustained, not a lot of one-move wonders on the routes we did.

*The journal at the Gite showed 200+ routes, most long routes with a handful of crag routes.Topos in French and Spanish.

*Most of the routes are in the 5.11+ to 5.13 range, there is a half dozen routes in the 5.10-5.11 range.

*There is a bunch of long adventure trad climbs on the ridges, up to 20 pitches long at 5.9 for example. Downside is that these climbs look really dirty following chimney systems.

*Gear: Draws and small trad rack. Routes are mostly bolted but lack rap anchors for bailing, bring bail gear and cord. Most of the routes are walk-offs.

*Helmet! Goats on top of the walls send rocks down, some lose flakes too.

*New route potetinal? Endless. There is Half Dome size blocks of rock there that haven't been climbed.

*Crowds, not really. There was 20 other climbers in the Valley when we were there although it seems like a lot of people all want to tick the same moderate (5.12) routes.

*Bring sandals, almost all of the routes require crossing streams and in some cases swimming.

 

Photos. More pictures here

 

 

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Girls get to ride the mules, the guys get to walk.

 

 

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Village life.

 

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Big Walls several 5.13 routes go up this.

 

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The Valley on the hike in.

 

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Gite down in Ahanseal

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Youssef Rizki's home where we stayed for 7 nights.

 

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The living room/den/dining room at the Gite.

 

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Marrakech insanity.

 

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Breakfast is the same every day.

 

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The beaches are nice, a good way to end a climbing trip.

 

 

Edited by eldiente

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you mean beckey hasn't snagged all those virginal lines already?!? :)

 

I should have hired Ivan to write this TR

indeed! where's the great goddamn tsunami of profanity? :) guess we have to settle for good pictures and a good story... :P

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Ivan you'd be stoked, there is TONS of potential for new aid routes there, most of the big climbs go up on aid and then get bolted for free climbing. There isn't much crack, from reading the topos it looks like people hook entire pitches on lead and stop every so often to drill a bolt.

 

OR if you really have to climb crack, there is gnarly 5.13 gear only route that goes through a roof crack called "African reality." The roof is so big you can see it clearly from the village a few miles away. Aside from the 5.13 roof pitch, the route looks like miles of poorly protected limestone off-width. Given how sharp the rock is, I think you'd need to wear chainmail to survive that route.

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few foreign lands seem willing to let me in :)

 

out of curiousity, what stoked your imagination to visit this pearl? never had heard of it before...

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Thanks for posting. Awesome adventure. Makes me nostalgic for days of free-wheeling international travel. More US people need to get out and see the world, IMHO.

 

 

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If you are Spanish, 5.12 limestone counts as moderate. We got passed by a male/female Spanish team that was climbing 5.10+ terrain in their approach shoes, they didn't even have climbing shoes on their harness.

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