Saturday, December 17, 2011


In November Nikki and I had a great trip cragging to Tafraout in Morocco. We flew from Manchester to Marrakesh and arrived just before dark. Soon we'd found our super cheap, super small hire car and were on the road. Eight hours later we arrived in Tafraout after a white knuckle ride involving a run in with the local gendarmerie, a chipped windscreen (the result of being undertaken by a Golf going over a hundred) and lots of narrow, winding mountain roads.

Nothing was open so we had a few hours kip in the car, before checking into a hotel and having a another few hours sleep.  We stayed in Hotel Salama, which is about £20 a night for a double room with en suite.  There were a number of other cheaper options, some better than others.

Nikki by Robin Hood Rock. Photo: Ripley.

We then headed to Robin Hood Rocks, one of the roadside crags in Steve Broadbent's guide.  We did a couple of nice VS routes. The routes were ok, but they weren't as good as they were hyped up to be in his guide. We headed back to Tafrout feeling pretty underwhelmed.

Nikki seconding a VS at Robin Hood Rocks. Photo: Ripley
The next day we headed to Tizgut armed with Claude Davies' guide. This guide is pretty minimalist. Route descriptions consist of: The route's name, approximate length, UK tech grade and first ascentionist. In addition to this there is small photo with the line of the routes drawn on them. This makes the climbing rather exciting and to my mind is much more adventurous than the over starred sanitation of the Broardbent guide.*

Me high up on Tizgut Arete. Photo: Sommers.
At Tizgut we warmed up on a 4c before climbing the brilliant Tizgut Arete. The rock around Tafroute is quartzite. It is pretty compact, meaning gear is either bomber or non existent.We found the rock to be high quality save for the occasional loose hold.

Me leading pitch one of Tizgut Buttress. Photo: Sommers.
We returned to Tizgut later in the week and climbed the fantastic rising girdle traverse Tizgut Buttress.  I wasn't brave enough to attempt Joe Brown's fearsome looking Tizgut Crack.

Tizgut Crag. Tizgut Arete takes the right hand arete of the big crag. Tizgut. Tizgut crack starts up the big corner in the shade. Photo: Ripley.
The highlight of the week was definitely the Lion Face. This feature dominates the valley and came highly recommended from my mate Dave, who described as similar to a TD rock route. I didn't tell Nikki that though!

Nikki on the Lion's Face. Photo: Ripley.
We got up early and scrambled up the long gully system to the base of the climb. This was hard work and committing.  Getting down with a broken ankle or similar would be rather interesting. Eventually after several hours and some dodgy short roping we arrived at the start of the climbing. I felt pretty committed.

Nikki belaying high up on the Lion's Face. Photo: Ripley.
Our postage stamp sized topo wasn't much help so I set off following my nose. The climbing was pretty easy, but very bold in places. Thankfully it wasn't super sustained and there were only a couple of pitches of 5a. Eight pitches later we were chuffed to be on the top. Back at the car, after the long scramble down we were both tired but happy after a great day in the hills.

We had a rest day the next day and visited the painted rocks. These granite boulders, a few miles south of Tafraout, were painted by some mental Belgian, who must have sampled more than his fair share of psychedelics!

The painted rocks - weird! Photo: Ripley.
On the last day we did another nice VS, before driving back to Marrakesh and flying back to wet old blightly.

It didn't rain once in our week in Morocco and I'd thoroughly recommend it to anyone who fancies an autumn cragging holiday that doesn't involve Spain or bolts, not that there is anything wrong with either of those things!

What to take:
  • 60 metre half ropes
  • A standard UK trad rack including hexes and a big cam.
  • Suncream and Sun hat.
  • Abseil Tat
  • Helmet
What not to miss:
  • The painted rocks.
  • Breakfast at Hotel Les Armadiers.
  • A visit to Maison Troc - the local carpet sellers are very persuasive; we came back with a rug!
  • Restaurant La Kasbah owned by the above carpet sellers.
  • Post cragging beers at Les Armadiers.

*I should point out that the two guide books cover adjacent areas and there is little overlap between them. If you want to climb on the North side of Jebel El Kest you need the Steve Broadbent guide. However the minmalist style of original guide book is much more adventurous and it is a shame that Broardbent didn't follow suit with his newer book. (Instead he focused on over starring his own routes!)

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