A 2019 update to our previous article by Keoma Jacobs on Oukaimeden, published in 2017.
Oukaimeden is a small village in the High Atlas Mountains (2700m) of Morocco and only 90 minutes drive from Marrakech. It's a growing bouldering destination with thousands of untouched sandstone boulders and approximately 800 registered first ascents.
The Bakery (144 problems). Situated at walking distance just outside the village, making it perfect for an afternoon boulder session. This is the area where we have opened the most boulders so far. This area is slightly up the hill and gives great views over the village and the lake. There are a few piles of bigger boulders for High-Ball-lovers. It surprises me that so many new lines are still to be found in this sector.
My favourite problem(s): Cave is where the heart is (6A) FA by Leander Rutten & Tarte Tartain (6B) FA by Irene Pieper
Babylon*(87). Situated at the east side of the lake with some boulders just at the shore of the lake but with most of the boulders and potential at the other side of the ridge. Be extra careful with this area because there are a lot of shepherds' houses and structures. Respect this. It's their living area. There is huge potential to discover if you follow the river bed.
My favourite problem(s): Sinkcrimper (video) (7B) FA by Michael Timmermans & YOLO (6B+) FA by Wouter Willebrands
*previously this area was called 'Rivers of Babylon'. When we established the first problems in this area we didn't realise there were so many morerocks on the other side of the ridge, in the actual river bed. That's why we decided to rename this area 'Babylon', keeping the original story in the name, remembering the 1970's rastafari's of The Melodians. The area on the other side of the ridge is called 'Rivers'.
The colony (56). This area is the furthest away from the village, still only seven kilometers away. Just between a sharp curve in the road there is a flat area with very interesting boulders and nice problems. A good mix of hard overhanging 'cave' boulders, balancey plates, scary (not for the High Ball lovers) High Balls, and technical ridges. A complete and compact area. Since this area is a little lower than the village it's a little warmer up here, but during the day the clouds will mostly cover the mountains and bring this area into the shade - and much later, the upper areas like the Bakery and Babylon. During the latest imik'simik trip 17 new lines were established.
My favourite problem(s): Wimp or Crimp (5+) FA by Jay Parks and its full star variation; Look At The Wave (6B) FA by Luiz Mariscal & Roof of the Nutellautas (6C) FA by Luiz Mariscal
Shepherds (55). This area is home to some big boulders not far from the road (just before the Bakery on the right as you approach Oukaimeden). It gets the name from the numerous stone homes built in and around the boulders by village shepherds. There is a lot of new route potential in this area. It features many boulders with crimp rails and small pockets...and some high boulders too. Part of this potential was unlocked spring 2017 during the imik'simik trip.
Friends (90). An area with very high potential for hard stuff with scenic views and great solid blocks in nice open fields. Here, Louis Parkinson made the First Ascent of As you wish (7C). I can say that Hidden Gem is becoming a classic Ouka problem that has seen quite a few repeats by now. After a good amount of repeats of Hidden Gem I dare to confirm the grade at 7A. All the other grades we gave during the trip are to be found in the Oukaimeden Rakkup guidebook and must be seen more as a first indication than a confirmed grade.
My favourite problem(s): Hidden Gem (7A) FA by Bastiaan Terhorst, Mantle compination (7A) FA by Corey Messer & Twinkle Toes (6B) FA by Jimmy van Rijn
Plato (76). Plato is the only area so far in Oukaimeden which is located at the North West side of the mountain ridge. It is a very compact area with one of the highest concentrations of blocs per m2. Plato is different to other areas because it is totally flat, which means no arduous approaches to your favourite problems. The views are splendid and with the sunset this area is perfect for an evening session.
My favourite problem(s): Walou (7A) FA Bastiaan Terhorst (video) & Aristegui Talonarragoita (7B) FA by Luiz Mariscal & The Last Unicorn (7B) FA by Leon Scholl
Back yard (108). Small but nice area. Located just above the 'centre ville' of the village and next to Mostapha's Chalet, this recently discovered area is perfect for a late evening session with nice views over the village and valley. Although it is a small area we surprisingly opened many new problems with the international group of climbers that joined the imik'simik trip in spring 2017. Back yard is, Thanks to Leon Scholl, also home to Morocco's first 8A problem called 'All Allone', which during the latest imiksimik trip in 2018 saw its first repeat by Paul Craven.
My favourite problem(s): All Alone (8A) FA by Leon Scholl (video), Captain Cutloose (7B) FA by Louis Parkinson & Dutch Work Orange (6B) FA by Merlijn van Eijk
Centre Ville (Unknown). Directly west from the shops you find several boulders that are part of the old Club Alpine Français (CAF) de Casablanca-circuit, mainly children and/or beginner level. I was not yet able to get the original topo of this circuit. It is high in my priority list to re-publish these original circuits (there are circuits in Shepherds as well) that were put up in Oukaimeden decades ago. Recently some new lines were opened on a prime bloc with great features.
My favourite problem(s): Coupe Franche (8A+) FA by Nico Pelorson (video).
Dar (36). Just behind the chalet you find the sector called Dar, which means house in the local Berber language, so named since it is so close to the imiksimik-chalet that become home for some many climbers during all the trips here.
My favourite problem(s): Billy Dropknee (6B) FA by Billy Lawrence & Amin's Deep Touch of Art (6B) FA by Keoma Jacobs-Moed
Neverland (45). Located in between the Backyard and Plato rises a steep hilltop, which we called Neverland, after one of its first established problems Neverland by Greg Chapman.
My favourite problem(s): Neverland (7B) FA by Greg Chapman, Better Than Life (7C) FA by Greg Chapman, Northern Teardrop (5+) FA by Johan Rodenhuis & Krummekaker (6B) FA by Keoma Jacobs-Moed
The Forest (11). It was always on the list to explore this obvious forest area. Some problems were opened but never on a bigger scale. Two imiksimik-trips ago (2017) we did some FAs and enjoyed the special character of the area with lots of shade from the pine trees overlooking splendid valleys and peaks rising almost 4000m into the sky. Definitely an area with more, but not crazy, potential and perfect for the warmer days.
My favourite problem(s): one of the few run/jump starts in Ouk; Big leap of faith (6C+) FA by Mattijs van der Knaap (video).
Undefined sector(s) There is much more than these listed areas but you have to start somewhere. I started at the beginning and without your help it's never going to be finished. Some boulders are opened in undefined sectors and therefore are not yet listed here. When more FAs are done in these undefined sectors they will be added to the list. Join and become part of this great project. Help us develop the topo or join one of our imiksimik-trips.
My favourite problem(s): Papa was a Rolling Stone (6A) FA by Keoma Jacobs-Moed (video).
River (40) & Beach (15). A long stretch alongside the river scattered with boulders. This part of Oukaimeden has a special vibe with the sound and a view of the river flowing through splendid green grasses. High above the river bed, what is presumably Morocco's hardest problem (8B) was opened by Nico Pelorson called 'Epic porc épique' (video).
When do I go?
Depending on your intentions you can boulder all year round in Oukaimeden. I would say the best time to visit Oukaimeden is between March and May and again between September and November. It is very much possible to boulder between December and February but there is a bigger chance of snow. In the summer months, June to August, you have to plan your boulder sessions more around mornings and evenings. Important to mention is that Oukaimeden is maybe the highest boulder area in the world and this affects the weather to a high level. One day in April you can be hiding in jackets and the next day you have to be seriously careful to not get sunburnt when you boulder without a shirt or only in your sports bra. That's the High Atlas mountains!
Who flies where?
You fly to Marrakech. The tourist hot spot of Marrakech and better known as the city of 1001 nights. Many low-cost airlines fly to Marrakech. From there it's only 90 minutes' drive to the contrasting calmness of Oukaimeden. Use a car rental company, or I can also arrange a transfer to Oukaimeden. You can also travel with public transport from Marrakech to Oukaimeden but is a bit more time consuming (but an experience too).
Where do I stay?
I always stay in Chalet Mostapaha, the highest chalet in North Africa. This is a great alpine-like chalet with great details, impressive mountain views, a kitchen and fireplace. Costs start at around €25,- per night per person (including breakfast and wood for fire). Booking via email@example.com You can also choose the Club Alpine Français (CAF) hut lower in the village. A very neat and organised place with dorms only. You pay €20,- per night per person (without breakfast). In the summer months - July to September - costs are €12,- per night per person. Book here: rachidchalouka @ gmail.com.
What's the scoff like?
Tajine, lots of tajine and eggs. It's a small village and choices are not endless like in Marrakech. Tajine is traditionally cooked by nomads using portable ovens (made of pottery) over charcoal braziers and is a type of stew, usually containing meat. Besides that they are famous for making huge pans of Moroccan-style scrambled eggs. Everything you eat is accompanied with bread.
Where can I buy gear and food?
You can't buy any gear in Morocco. I have Mad Rock crash pads stocked in Oukaimeden that you can rent (link). I also have some chalk and chalk bags for sale in the chalet and gave some to the sellers in the village, however, that's all very limited. If you need chalk or a chalk bag you can ask the guys from 'Café restaurant imik'simik' since I gave them some to sell/rent. There are some little shops in the village where you can buy most basic products like bread, water, canned fish (mackerel, sardines & tuna), sodas, yoghurts, dates and many more necessities like toothpaste, batteries, lip balm and sweets. You can't buy alcohol in these shops. As long as it is a small amount you can buy some beers at CAF (€2,50 for 33cl). You can also drink beers at the chic hotel Chez JuJu (€4 per beer).
What else is there apart from the climbing?
A friend of mine, Jeremy Jones from Climb Morocco (link), takes people on rock climbing adventures to various locations in the Atlas Mountains outside of Marrakech. Climb Morocco has also developed roped climbing areas in Ourika and Oukaimeden. If you go crazy about ancient rock paintings, butterflies, or astronomy then Oukaimeden would seem to be an appropriate place. It's an amazing area for hiking and high-level mountain biking. But don't expect much entertainment in the village.
What is the Imik'simik trip?
Sometime during April & May imik'simik rents the whole chalet and welcomes everyone to join the group for as long as they like. You can join for days, weeks or the whole period. That's up to you. Just send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can reserve your place at the chalet and the car and make sure you can use a crash pad. During the trip you can do what you want; no program, just bouldering.
imik'simik offers you a digital topo and the possibility to do first ascents which will be published in the next Oukaimeden topo. Not only can you have the entire guide with you on your device complete with offline topos and photos which are filterable and searchable, but the Rakkup climbing guides come with offline turn by turn directions using GPS to get you to the climbing area and help you find the right boulders without the usual navigation issues. The Rakkup guidebook for Oukaimeden can be purchased in-app from the free Rakkup app from the iTunes App Store for iOS or the Google Play store for Android. At the moment there are almost 700 problems in the topo. Together with all the new first ascents earlier this year during the imik'simik trip, the next update (planned for Dec. 2018) will contain around 800 problems. Everyone who bought the guidebook already can update the Oukaimeden guidebook including all new lines free of charge.
The Oukaimeden Boulderfest will be held 3-5th May 2019.