Tafraoute, Morocco - Warm Winter Trad Climbing

by Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor Feb/2011
This article has been read 16,728 times

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.

+Sarah Burmester following on perfect quartzite - a new route on Crag K., 200 kbSarah Burmester following on perfect quartzite - a new route on Crag K.
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor, Feb 2011
© Jack Geldard

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 is nestled between granite domes and sits below the Anti Atlas range of mountains and their quartzite adventure routes, 183 kbThe town is nestled between granite domes and sits below the Anti Atlas range of mountains and their quartzite adventure routes
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor, Feb 2011
© Jack Geldard

+Sarah Burmester bouldering on the granite eggs of Tafroute, 207 kbSarah Burmester bouldering on the granite eggs of Tafroute
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor, Feb 2011
© Jack Geldard

 The town of Tafraoute acts as a good base, with its hotels, campsites and shops.

+The beautiful and unspoilt vistas from the clifftops stretch miles in each direction. Sarah Burmester following a HVS., 177 kbThe beautiful and unspoilt vistas from the clifftops stretch miles in each direction. Sarah Burmester following a HVS.
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor, Feb 2011
© Jack Geldard
The climbing areas are split in two - the north and the south sides of Jebel el Kest. The south side is the closest to Tafraoute (around 20 mins drive out of town) and was the centre of development a few years ago. The north side is equally, if not more, dramatic with loads of new routes and has been the centre of much development over the last few years. It is a much further drive from Tafraoute and if you are planning to focus on this area you might be better picking accommodation closer to the crags.

Climbing in the Moroccan Anti-Atlas by Claude Davies published by Cicerone., 6 kbThe 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.

+Moroccan Anti-Atlas North, 35 kb
Moroccan Anti-Atlas North by Steve Broadbent - is described as: "The definitive guide to rock-climbs on the North side of Jebel el Kest, including Sidi M'Zal, Idagnidif, Afantinzar, Samazar and Tanalt areas.

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."

What about the granite?

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.

 

PHOTO GALLERY: Tafraoute trad, boulders and landscape

 

+Jack Geldard enjoying evening light on one of the countless virgin boulders surrounding Tafroute, 100 kbJack Geldard enjoying evening light on one of the countless virgin boulders surrounding Tafroute
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor, Feb 2011
© Sarah Burmester
+Sarah Burmester heading in to the unknown on 'Crag K' - a four pitch desert version of Gogarth's main cliff, 141 kbSarah Burmester heading in to the unknown on 'Crag K' - a four pitch desert version of Gogarth's main cliff
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor, Feb 2011
© Jack Geldard
+Sarah Burmester tackling the chimney pitch on a classic central route of 'Crag K' (E2 ish), 97 kbSarah Burmester tackling the chimney pitch on a classic central route of 'Crag K' (E2 ish)
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor, Feb 2011
© Jack Geldard
+Jack Geldard following another onsight probable first ascent. This time two pitches high and around E3., 180 kbJack Geldard following another onsight probable first ascent. This time two pitches high and around E3.
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor, Feb 2011
© Sarah Burmester

+Sunrise on the granite of Tafroute, with Napolean's Cap in the centre., 190 kbSunrise on the granite of Tafroute, with Napolean's Cap in the centre.
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor, Jan 2011
© Jack Geldard
+The Lions Face cliffs as seen from the road in to Tafroute Village. There are hundreds of routes on this mountainside., 219 kbThe Lions Face cliffs as seen from the road in to Tafroute Village. There are hundreds of routes on this mountainside.
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor, Feb 2011
© Jack Geldard

 

Logistics

 

When do I go?
Tafraoute can be incredibly hot in summer. The best time to go is late autumn through to early spring.

Who flies where?
The best way to get to Tafraoute is to fly in to Agadir and then hire a car. It is around 200km or 3 hours drive to reach the town of Tafraoute from Agadir, as long as you don't get lost!

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?
Simple hill food such as biscuits, dates, fruit and bread is all available in the small town of Tafraoute. There are also various restaurants, mainly serving tagine. The food is cheap and you can have a decent basic meal of vegetables and meat for just a couple of pounds.

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?
There is quality walking and general sightseeing. Also don't miss the famous painted boulders. Although they are getting a bit sun-faded now!

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).

+The Hotel Ryad in Tafroute - not a bad option, but not a strong recomendation either., 183 kbThe Hotel Ryad in Tafroute - not a bad option, but not a strong recomendation either.
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor, Feb 2011
© Jack Geldard

 

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