Tafraoute, Morocco - Warm Winter Trad Climbingby Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor Feb/2011
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Morocco is home to several popular climbing destinations; the sport climbing of Todra Gorge, the huge limestone big walls of Taghia and of course the high peak of Jebel Toubkal. But that isn't all Morocco has to offer.
The picturesque granite eggs of Tafraoute are well photographed and offer some interesting bouldering, but sat above them, not quite as photogenic and not quite as well known, is an almost endless spread of quartzite mountain crags, littered with hundreds of traditional routes.
The well featured and easy-angled rock lends itself to protect-able traditional climbing, mainly in the VS to E2 bracket. The crags are generally between two and four pitches long, and can usually be gained with a thirty minute walk. The winter climate is agreeable; climbing in the sun in T-shirts in January is not uncommon, and in more inclement weather a light wind-top or a thin fleece is usually sufficient to keep away the chill.
The area has been developed in the most part by British climbers, and much of this development was spearheaded some years ago by a group of the 'old guard' - the likes of Joe Brown, Claude Davies and co.
These climbers found that out in Morocco they once again had virgin cliffs, comparable to Gogarth in scale and quality, on which to satisfy their exploratory climbing ambitions.
The routes are very akin to British mountain and sea cliff adventures, not so long to necessitate ungodly alpine starts but long enough to be full days out, with route finding, gear placements and a full hill experience all guaranteed.
The town of Tafraoute acts as a good base, with its hotels, campsites and shops.
The first guidebook to the area - Climbing in the Moroccan Anti-Atlas by Claude Davies - covers around 25 crags on this south side, and although there have been many new developments since its publication, will give you enough climbing to get your teeth in to for a two week visit. I liked the book and found it gave just enough info to get you to the route, but didn't try to sterilise the experience of adventure climbing. By this I mean the book doesn't give route descriptions or overall grades, just topos with lines and a technical grade, leaving much of route finding and adventure, and making all routes feel akin to a first ascent.
New routes climbed after the guide book was released are generally documented in the large and strange hotel Amandiers in Tafraoute.
A new guidebook has been recently released covering the north side of the mountain.
This full-colour photo-topo guide details 55 crags and over 650 routes in this recently-developed trad-climbing mecca north of Tafraoute, with detailed descriptions and photo-topos."
One word to describe the granite of Tafraoute would be 'crumbly'. The boulders and outcrops do offer some routes and there was some sport climbing developed by a Spanish team around 10 years ago, however the rock quality is not really up to a standard that would justify a visit in its own right.
The granite boulders do offer a welcome distraction from the mountain trad routes though and offer an opportunity to explore some of the smaller hills surrounding the town.
If you are looking for somewhere to visit for pure bouldering, I can't recommend Tafraoute, but they are worth a few hours of exploration, and if esoteric bouldering is really your thing could have a good time here, there are thousands of blocks.
More info on the granite routes is available here: tafraoutclimbing.blogspot.com
Top British climber James Pearson recently had a trip to Tafraoute to climb on the granite - you can read a bit more here: UKC News.
When do I go?
Who flies where?
You can hire a car at the airport in Agadir, but be warned, even though Morocco is quite a cheap country to visit, hiring cars will be quite expensive. You can bargain with the rental agencies at the airport, they will probably drop the price by up to 50%!
Flights and hire cars can all be easily booked on line before you go with a bit of google research.
Where can I buy gear and food?
There is no climbing shop, so any climbing gear needs to be brought from home. Some of the local carpet salesmen will swap their trinkets and rugs for bits of old climbing gear if you feel like getting rid of some old kit.
What else is there apart from the climbing?
|Where do I stay?
The town of Tafraoute has many hotels, restaurants and a couple of campsites that are filled with Europeans trucking through Morocco in their motor-homes. A good option is to turn up in town and see what you can find. The accommodation ranges from super budget (and quite grim) places in the centre of town through to reasonable hotels. The largest hotel, the Amandiers has a swimming pool and the only bar in the town. We stayed at the Hotel Ryad, which is very close to the Amandiers, and was ok (photo below).