Trip Report - Taghia Gorge, Moroccoby Virgil Scott Jul/2009
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From Taghia we spent a day hiking around looking for good sections of cliff that didn't have routes already. We found a nice looking wall on the north facing side of the gorge in the Agoudal N'llamchane area - the only other route up the face was a long trad/aid route climbed in the 1980s by a Spanish team.
After a six hour hike, with the help of some donkeys, we arrived at the start of the gorge with our gear. Over the next couple of days we checked out the walls of the gorge and looked for a place to set our camp. While walking along the top of the plateau on the south side of the gorge a storm started brewing and Hal had a close call with some lightning - the air suddenly felt charged and his walking pole started making electric crackling noises, we threw down our poles and ran away to lower ground.
Progress was slow scrambling down the gorge; we stopped often, jaws agape at every corner, greeted by massive unbelievably cool-looking walls. Each stretch was more inspiring than the last, by the time we reached the bottom of the main face we were so psyched we were pretty much involuntarily clambering up the bottom.
Every afternoon at exactly 5 o'clock it rained or hailed heavily, we called it storm o'clock. Having spoken to other teams we expected at worst two or three stormy days in September and brought no waterproof clothing. The first storm caught us with our pants down - washing ourselves in the stream at the start of the gorge. Meanwhile our crucial 140m static rope, which we had left on the riverbed further down the gorge, was being washed away.
On the afternoon before we reached the top storm o'clock hit harder than usual – rivers were running down the wall, and on the opposite side of the gorge an enormous waterfall appeared. The next day when we reached the top we were greeted by Youssef, the owner of the Gite in Zaouiat which we had stayed at for a night, "cinq personnes?" he asked. A body had turned up in the river in the village so he had come with his son as a rescue party.
A lucky let-up in the storm routine meant we had a beautiful sunny day to free the route - superb climbing in a stunning location. We named the route Storm O'clock. It has 19 pitches, totalling around 620m in length, with the hardest pitch being roughly 7a. A small miscalculation meant we didn't bring quite enough food and over the course of the 4 weeks we each lost between 5-8kgs – I'm not sure whether this made the climbing easier or harder!
The team would like to thank; the Imperial College Exploration Board, Sir Richard Sykes, Hilti, Lyon Equipment, First Ascent, and the University of London Dunsheath Expedition Award – for making the trip possible.