/ Toubkal Winter Conditions

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Si Cox - on 09 Dec 2013
There's been a bit of activity in the Toubkal area of the High Atlas recently, so seems timely to throw up a conditions thread for those planning to head out and those who have any updates on conditions.

The headline at the moment is that snow conditions are lean for this time of the year.

Snow so far has been limited to a couple of brief storms, interspersed with substantial thaws, so the cover is thin at the moment. Toubkal, Ras and Afella are pretty much all in the same boat: http://www.the-mountain-people.com/blog/high-atlas-conditions-update-8-december-2013/

Further to the west of Toubkal, a party undertook an high level traverse on Erdouz, which is normally a good mountaineering objective, but found it to be pretty bare: http://firstlightexpeditions.org/erdouz-traverse/

Ice, on the other hand, is forming as reliably as ever, with the consistently cold conditions. The icefalls in the gorge just above the Toubkal refuges are fully formed, and make for some good sport in the afternoons or rest days: http://rob-johnson.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/summit-success-in-morocco.html

You can see some of the icefalls in the first link above, which are just above Sidi Chamharouch on the way to the refuges. These can become very fat later in the season, but the water sources are plain to see without the snow. Last year a BMC-funded expedition had a crack at them, but they've probably been climbed in the past: http://www.thebmc.co.uk/media/files/international/2013%20expeditions/Moroccan%20High%20Atlas%20Exped...

In terms of the forecast, snow is said to be on the way, but that's been said more than once already this season...
Si Cox - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to Si Cox:

Latest update is that snow has been melting every day, and the snow that was mentioned to arrive is no longer forecast.

Like I said before, Mountain Forecast is hit and miss, but temperatures remain consistently low, which will be good for the ice.

http://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Toubkal/forecasts/4167

Hope to have some further details later in the week.
Jimmy O - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to Si Cox:

This might be out dated information now, but we were there last week. We booked the tickets in the summer assuming the conditions would be as normal. They were not! We climbed the WSW ridge of Toubkal. Excellent climb. There were patches of solid snow on north facing slopes and the ice falls looked solid enough to me, but my partner didn't like the look of them!

There is always the drive down to Tafraout for the winter rock.
Si Cox - on 15 Dec 2013
In reply to Si Cox:
Despite freak snowfall in Jerusalem and Cairo, which received its first in over 100 years, the High Atlas has had short shrift of the winter conditions.

A colleague was out this last week in the Toubkal area of the High Atlas, and winter conditions continue to be poor. Nevertheless, there is still plenty to be had, especially if you have a trad rack with you: WSW Ridge of Toubkal or Tafraout.

Snow levels are low, so gullies and ridges are probably the better options at the moment. Some icefalls are in, but most nowhere near as fat as normal. There are also névé snow fields on the tops, so crampons and ice axe are be advisable.

Again, there is talk of snow on Monday, but remains to be seen whether it will arrive!

http://www.the-mountain-people.com/blog/high-atlas-conditions-update-14-december-2013/
Post edited at 14:54
Si Cox - on 16 Dec 2013
In reply to Si Cox:

Good news - snow down to 2,600m last night. About time!
connor on 16 Dec 2013
In reply to Si Cox:

Fingers crossed for some more!!!! I was part of the bmc expedition this year, there are four of us going out again this January with our eye on some harder lines
Si Cox - on 17 Dec 2013
In reply to connor:

Sounds good - which area do you think you'll head into, and have you got your eye on anything?

There's always a first repeat of Andy Stoke's Rees' Fountain Gully on Afella.

Twid Turner would be a good person to talk to, if you are looking at harder icefalls. He's been up the last three years or so, ticking off all the cascades around the Toubkal refuges.
Si Cox - on 17 Dec 2013
In reply to connor:

Just to add too that the guys in the office said that there was further snow last night too, so things are looking up again.

Should hopefully feed the icefalls and fill in the big gullies some more.
connor on 17 Dec 2013
In reply to Si Cox:

More leaning towards the big faces but fg has yet to see a free assent so it is on the cards!!! There is some cool looking stuff in the lepny valley that is a bit more remote too. Cheers for the update mate they are making me get very excited, we found last year to be slightly dry.

Connor
Si Cox - on 02 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

Not much to report over Christmas and New Year, in case anyone was wondering.

Unfortunately, the latest news is that apart from a bit of a dusting, warmer temperatures have stripped snow cover back a good deal.

Conditions are still thin, both ice and snow, despite things looking up briefly before Christmas.
connor on 08 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

Any more news?

Si Cox - on 09 Jan 2014
In reply to connor:

Yes, I was just thinking about an update when I saw your reply.

The latest from the guys on the ground is that because of a lack of new snow, the snowpack has just been gradually receding since before Christmas.

Here's a general shot of the area from Asni: https://twitter.com/toubkalwinter/status/421319594066735105/photo/1

However, the good news is that 6 inches of snow is forecast for tomorrow (10 January). I will report back if and when it arrives.

Hope the prep and training is going well for your expedition (f you're still intent on heading out!)
connor on 09 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

flights are booked, and all the kit is packed!!! plenty of alternatives we think, alpine style rock ... rock boots with big socks !
THE.WALRUS - on 09 Jan 2014
In reply to connor:

Actually, it's been snowing all day..things might be on the up..
connor on 09 Jan 2014
In reply to THE.WALRUS:

The BEST NEWS EVER !!!
Si Cox - on 10 Jan 2014
In reply to connor:

Currently raining in Imlil, as we speak, so most likely snowing on Toubkal.

My colleague is out on a trip from Saturday to Tuesday, so hopefully should hear something more concrete mid- next week.

When's your flight? If you've got any particular objectives in mind, I could put in a word for you and see whether we can get a peek at them.
connor on 13 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

the A team fly out on Wednesday and the b team come out on the Saturday.

how is fountain gully looking? dont want twid stealing all our firsts !!!
Si Cox - on 14 Jan 2014
In reply to connor:

Not had chance to update the blog, so will e-mail you. It's good news too!
Si Cox - on 14 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

Latest update for Toubkal area is that winter has finally arrived.

Over the last four days a group found there were upto 3 foot drifts and on average one to two feet of new snow. There is a big dump forecast for Friday to Saturday.

Winter has begun at long last!

Here's a photo on the way up Toubkal:

https://twitter.com/toubkalwinter/status/423219481905614849/photo/1

Si Cox - on 15 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

Just to add to the brief update last night, there is now a pretty good snow pack of up to three feet in places, so this should pave the way for some good névé and feed the icefalls.

On the topic of icefalls, most of the cascades have benefited from the new snow, which will fatten them nicely. However, the prominent falls on the right as you approach Tizi n-Ouagane (i.e., continuing up the valley above the refuges) are not in condition.

The cascades above Sidi Chamharouch are settling in nicely now, and well accessible from Imlil if you're pressed for time.

http://www.the-mountain-people.com/blog/high-atlas-conditions-update-15-january-2014/
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Si Cox - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

Fresh snow down to Imlil this weekend, and a fair bit by the looks of it.

Bit of a change to the usual Toubkal and icefall images!

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.715518525148896.1073741831.364252906942128&type=1&...
Sam-westcott - on 18 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

Quite a lot of new snow down to Imlil - https://www.facebook.com/expedadventure?ref=tn_tnmn
Si Cox - on 24 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

Snow conditions remain good after a decent dump last weekend. Hope to have more on underfoot conditions soon.

Here is the latest shot of the Toubkal area, which is a massive improvement from New Year: http://the-mountain-people.com/site/uploads/IMG_5181.jpg

Further East, can't comment on Mgoun, but would presume it's had snow too given its elevation. Will ask the office if any locals know
Si Cox - on 25 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

Just had an update from the guys out in Imlil. Before all else, I have to say that I have not seen crags rimed up like they are, so I take back previous comments elsewhere about lack of (Scottish) mixed climbing potential!

http://the-mountain-people.com/site/uploads/IMG_5210.jpg

Anyway, things continue to look good, in fact, very promising. There has been further snowfall in the last few days and some freeze thaw cycles could bring in excellent walking and climbing conditions.

The icefalls above Sidi Chamharouch, which are a bit of a benchmark for ice conditions, are looking nice and fat, although can get banked out with too much snow. All the same, a good area to dust the cobwebs off or get a taster of bigger things.

On that note, the snow level is at about the level of Sidi Chamharouch (the shrine on the trail up to the Toubkal refuges), so that would make it 2,350m or so. Looking good for the next while of the season.

Despite the good outlook, it's worth bearing in mind that conditions are still settling dow after several dumps of snow, so take the necessary avalanche precautions. As was pointed out in a recent thread, mountain rescue in Morocco does not exist in the same way as in the UK, so there are no big yellow taxis to pluck you out of a tight spot...

http://www.the-mountain-people.com/blog/high-atlas-conditions-update-23-january-2014/
Lukeva - on 25 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

Si

Hi we have been looking for an alternative to Scotland, if the gales persist... Ecrins or Cogne not looking good so we thought Morocco for rock. But now.... Maybe the Hight Atlas for winter stuff. The only trouble is we know very little about the area and would be going next weekend. Sorry for the ignorance but how is access, are there decent guide books, maps
, huts, weather forecasts etc etc? We are keen for Alpine style climbing, ice... Whatever really!? Just some basic info to help us do our own research if this is our destination would be really appreciated. Is a week long enough, seems to be?

The place looks fantastic, thanks for any info.

Luke
Si Cox - on 25 Jan 2014
In reply to Lukeva:

Hi Luke,

Plenty of info I can give you, so I am just going to throw out a few of what I consider to be the most helpful bits. Will try to ping you an e-mail, if I get time to help fill in the gaps. This should get you going.

Guidebooks:

Mountaineering in the Moroccan High Atlas, Des Clark: http://www2.cicerone.co.uk/product/detail.cfm/book/611/title/mountaineering-in-the-moroccan-high-atl...
Toubkal, Guía de ascensiones y escaladas, David Taura (Spanish): http://www.libreriadesnivel.com/libros/toubkal/9788498291414/

Maps:

1:50,000 Toubkal area: http://travel.stanfords.co.uk/maps/Orientazion

Huts:

Toubkal Les Mouflons refuge (private): http://www.refugedutoubkal.com/en/
CAF Toubkal Refuge [couldn't find website]

Weather forecasts:

mountain-forecast.com: http://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Toubkal/forecasts/4167

General psyche (Andy Stokes-Rees climbing videos):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHUMhNGH0bM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNm_SsM-ZNE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFq4kBcQfTs

UKC articles:

http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=1620
http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=193

Lukeva - on 25 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

Thanks so much, really helpful! Will be in contact

Luke
Lukeva - on 26 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:



> The icefalls above Sidi Chamharouch, which are a bit of a benchmark for ice conditions, are looking nice and fat, although can get banked out with too much snow. All the same, a good area to dust the cobwebs off or get a taster of bigger things.

Are these icefalls in the Cicerone guide book?

Thanks

Luke
Lukeva - on 26 Jan 2014
In reply to Lukeva:

Forget the previous question I've just watched the vids. I'm booking flights!
Si Cox - on 26 Jan 2014
In reply to Lukeva:

The Cicerone guidebook doesn't cover icefalls, but you can find a smattering of others in the Spanish Desnivel one.

Also, the icefalls above the shrine are undocumented currently, but certainly climbed, and seem to go at around grade III.

Mike 'Twid' Turner has climbed most of the cascades in that valley, so he's worth giving a shout for info.
Lukeva - on 27 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

Thanks, I thought that may be the case. We have booked our flights now might just get the Cicerone, Clark guide. I'm sure we can get a lot of info from other hut users. There appears to be a lot of ice in general when conditions are good!
Lukeva - on 28 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

Any updates on conditions? See snow forecast today and strong winds tomorrow. We will be there next Tues. for a week.
Si Cox - on 28 Jan 2014
In reply to Lukeva:

My colleague is out on Toubkal until tomorrow, so will let you know when he gets back.
Si Cox - on 30 Jan 2014
In reply to Lukeva:

Latest news in on conditions is that there has been further snowfall - upto 1.5 feet. Snow levels are now much better, and with freeze-thaw later in the season, will hopefully produce good neve.

Good news to hear that Connor, who posted on this thread above, has made the first ascent of a new mixed route, going at VII,7 (TBC). Great to hear a UK team opening up a crag.

Hope to hear more news on that soon.

Chockstone Gully on Afella (the obvious icefall above the refuges) is in condition too. No updates of the falls further up the valley to Tizi n'Ouagane this time.

http://www.the-mountain-people.com/blog/high-atlas-winter-conditions-update-30-january-2014/

Lukeva - on 31 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

Brilliant thanks, I have been reading the Cicerone guide, lots of multi day routes by the look of it. And ice in condition by the sound of it, although we may have to hunt that out. Will certainly look at the mixed crag too.

Very excited now!
Lukeva - on 31 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

I have emailed Connor and The Mountain People re the new mixed crag, would love to have a look at the new line/potential!
connor on 31 Jan 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

just in Marakesh at the moment having just left imlil this morning. There is a scary amount of snow at the moment!!! Bring skiis and avalanche gear!

The Line went at around VI 7 with A1 or ed1 with A1 if that's how you read?
and around 450m long.
we called the route flemmys route, it is on the buttress to the left of "fox on the spit" area.

I will post photos and topos when I get back to the UK.

Ps bring wine lots of wading
Si Cox - on 31 Jan 2014
In reply to connor:

Good effort, Connor!

Luke, things are looking promising for you - look forward to hearing how it goes.
Lukeva - on 31 Jan 2014
In reply to connor:

Nice one!

Let's hope it consolidates before we arrive, not taking ski's! Although, it looks cold on the forecast so not sure if there is much chance of that, unless it's actually warmer.

How were the ice falls looking? Great will look forward to the posts.
connor on 02 Feb 2014
In reply to Lukeva:

ice falls were looking OK... not the fattest i have seen, and may be well buried by now. the ones in "fox on a spit" are prone to HUGE avalanches so take care.

chockstone gave two nice pitches but when we left the slopes both above and below looked scary !!!
Si Cox - on 06 Feb 2014
In reply to connor:

Connor, do you still write a blog - be interested to read a trip report, if you did any write up.

Waiting to hear back on latest conditions tomorrow, so more news to follow.

There was snow lying at the level of Aremd (the village above Imlil, ~2,000m) on 2 February. Recent freeze thaw conditions will hopefully do their magic and get more névé and ice going.

http://the-mountain-people.com/site/uploads/IMG_5347.jpg
Si Cox - on 07 Feb 2014
In reply to Si Cox:

A little bit more ice climbing news in: some nice link-ups of the short ice pitches in the North-East cwm of Afekhoi (icefalls above Sidi Chamhaourch).

Turns out there is a nice Grade V pitch on the upper tier, which a group from UKC, it seems, tackled. The freeze thaw conditions at lower altitudes seem to have done their job.

http://the-mountain-people.com/site/uploads/IMG_5406.jpg

Higher up the valley there are reports in that Curtain Call M7, VII, to the left of the very obvious Chockstone Gully on Afella needs fattening up to come into good condition. The Gully route itself though is 'in', so get on it!

Otherwise, snow conditions at altitude have not really consolidated because of the very cold, dry weather, but this is pretty typical, and it needs more time to settle down.

Overall, pretty good after a dire start to the season!

http://www.the-mountain-people.com/blog/high-atlas-winter-conditions-update-7-february-2014/
Lukeva - on 12 Feb 2014
In reply to Si Cox:
Yep can't really add too much to your comments or to James blog.

Curtain Call was a little cruddy and the curtain was not there, powder bashing approach although, we have left steps now. CG is in great condition.

After the grade V ice (there are 2 pitches of grade V ice, LHS & RHS)- we continued up to bivvy on Afekhoi with the intension of following the NE ridge to Toubkal. However, snow was so deep, sugary and unconsolidated(approx. 800m ascent from the top of the ice falls to our bivvy on the ridge) we were exhausted and descended after a brief traverse below the ridge. A failure for sure but a great experience, 30 hours on the hill and not a soul in sight. The guide book description is quite basic for a big gnarly ridge! Or maybe we were just too tired and weak.

Very adventurous feeling stuff from start to finish.
Post edited at 13:07
Si Cox - on 16 Feb 2014
In reply to Lukeva:

Luke, great to hear a bit more about your adventure on Afekhoi. The big High Atlas ridges have a knack of catching people out, so you're not alone. They are high, long and easily underestimated, but great to hear you enjoyed the experience!

The latest news is that there has been a bit of a turn-around since last week. Freeze-thaw has stripped back a fair bit of snow, but also bonded a lot of the powder that was slowing everyone down. Good to have some iron névé at last.

The harder ice and mixed routes on Afella, such as Fountain Gully VII,7 are taking a while to come into proper nick, but are on their way. The other established icefalls, such as Chockstone Gully and lower falls on Afekhoi are all there for the taking.

Anyway, bit of a surprise to have some rather Scottish clag show up, but there is plenty to get on with at the moment.

http://www.the-mountain-people.com/blog/toubkal-winter-conditions-16/

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