Todra Gorge - Moroccoby Glyn Jones Feb/2008
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What do you need?
Not a lot really. Minimum a 60 metre rope, 12 or more quickdraws, a bag full of maillons, harness, shoes and chalk. If you fancy multi-pitch routes – take trad gear, slings, a helmet and cams.
You need your passport, insurance, loose cotton shirts and long trousers both for women and men to keep cool but respectfully dressed. Toilet paper is also a very good idea! The language is Arabic but French comes in handy too. In the Gorge we found English speaking Moroccans due to the tourists visiting (even the children know many words in many languages).
A few words to help you on the way are "Salam-Alekum" (hello), "Massalama" (goodbye), "Shukran" (thank you).
Women – to minimise any possible culture conflict – wear clothes that cover your arms and legs (even a headscarf will help). Moroccan women that wear scantily clad clothing tend to be prostitutes. Also, if you wear a wedding ring you get more respect (that male culture again!).
How to get there
By air - There are cheap flights to Marrakech (Easyjet from Gatwick for example). Once you are there you need to fill out a visa form (do it on the plane to save time).
Note - you cannot get Dirhams outside of Morocco. We used the hole in the wall at the airport arrivals.
If you are not hiring a car then take a bus (5-10 DH) or taxi to the main bus station of Marrakech near Route Principale N°24, it's near Gueliz. The Grande Taxi area is just behind the station.
The bus to Tinerhir (about 15km from the gorge) should be around 90DH and will take 7-10 hours – est.
The taxi drivers might want to fill the taxi with other passengers (to get a higher fare). You may have to wait quite a while - especially in the afternoon when everyone is sleeping. Sometimes in these circumstances a 'fee arranger' has guided you to your taxi or helped in some way. These men expect a small tip.
Don't put too much faith in taxi drivers estimates of time - if they say a taxi will be back in 30 minutes then it is more likely 90 minutes to 2 hours – their life is a much slower pace. A taxi from Tinerhir to the gorge proper will cost 10DH.
We decided to return to the UK by taking the overnight train from Marrakech to Tangiers, ferry to Spain, overnight to Madrid and the Train Hotel to Paris – now that's fun! Got the idea from a holiday programme and http://www.seat61.com/Morocco.htm.
There are many options to play with. Wild camping (not liked by the locals), camping, roof top sleeping at certain hotels, stay with a Berber family or one of the range of 'hotels'.
There are approximately 20 crags to climb on going from trad to sport, slab to roof. Plenty to choose from and, as it is a gorge; there is always a crag with shade on it. The crag names from the start of the gorge.
Don't forget there is bouldering too.
Buy water outside of the gorge - Water costs 5 - 7DHs outside of the gorge (ie, the shop next to the Etoile Des Gorges) but 10 - 12DHs inside the gorge (you defo need 2 litres a day). Meat is in most main meals so that could be fun for the less carnivorous traveller.
Ask someone that has coins still left over from their trip to give you 10Dh (each) for the bus from the airport to Marrakech – everyone gets banknotes from the cash machine but the bus driver will run out of change eventually.
Cash machine is in Tinghir. The markets are funky too for gifts and food. The food is better and cheaper here and in the gorge in comparison to Marrakech.
Maillons, maillons, maillons – take some. Chalk – take it – it's hard to buy out there.
Oh and look out for the goat – he climbs down from the top of the gorge (around a mile high) every day to drink in the river and then goes back up – His route is about 5+.
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/ buy the book – well worth it (2007 edition has hotel web and email links and a corrected map of the gorge)
http://www.javu.co.uk/Climbing/Articles/TodraGorge/TodraTopos.shtml for a few topo examples and a map of the gorge.
Thanks to rock waif, Wangy and rehab21 for their photos.
Glyn Jones is a regular contributor to UKC. He has returned to climbing after a eleven year hiatus and an addition of metalwork to his body (a motorbike accident in 1996 meant that Glyn almost lost his leg). He started climbing in 1987 and at his peak climbed Heading the Shot (E5) in the Dinorwig slate quarries and is still a slate-head. Glyn loves belaying his better half as she climbs much better than him! However, he's got his eye on an E3 for 2008.