I don't know how Emma Alsford and Paul Donnithorne ever get time to climb. Fresh from delivering Pembroke volume 5 (much like Star Wars, the series starts with episode 3), we now have their latest bumper book of fun – Morocco Rock. This was the definitive guide to Jebel el Kest and Taskra North the day it was published but the scope for new routing is so great and the pace of development so fast that it is sure to be out of date already. It's nice to see that my copy is a first edition which means not only that it will be very valuable once I grab their signatures, but also offers promise of more to come.
The guide is dedicated to Ben Wintringham, one of the dedicated band of old timers who first opened up the whole anti-Atlas area but who sadly died last year. It builds on Ben's detailed preparatory work and follows, but considerably improves on, the helpful Steve Broadbent guide – Moroccan Anti-Atlas North – published in 2010. It fits in the modern DMM type guide book cover (don't mention Rockfax!).
This magnificent area is a new router's paradise and a bastion of proper trad climbing. You won't find any bolts here and the ground up ethic is very strong. No clip sticks, few continental climbers and no endless and tedious cries of "take". The rock is magnificent solid quartzite. It takes good gear and provides endless great lines covering all styles of climbing. This guide captures the essence of the Morocco experience and makes you want to get out there. The photographs are magnificent helped by the almost constant sunshine that Morocco offers. Crag photos are clear, simplifying route identification and they also show which way they face, how long it takes to get there and, importantly, how to get down! The action photos convey a real sense of position and the likely technical challenge. Many photos also give a good idea of where new routes might go!
"...This magnificent area is a new router's paradise and a bastion of proper trad climbing. You won't find any bolts here and the ground up ethic is very strong..."
The compact introductory section covers succinctly all you need to know except that the otherwise magical Kasbah Tizourgane is dry. However, Jamal and Malika are comfortable about you bringing your own alcohol which can be picked up at the supermarket in Agadir. If you do this, please be respectful and don't over indulge. It just wouldn't be right. The history section at the end by Mike Mortimer is a very good read but, although I was out there when it snowed (p350) and there were floods, you won't normally get many days off for arm chair climbing, so read it before you go!
Grading follows the English trad system. With many climbs having had only one ascent, clearly there will be room for debate but, from personal experience, the fact that routes have been put up by people steeped in the British trad ethic seems to have provided consistency from the outset.
Maps and diagrams are clear and reduce the risk of getting lost in the myriad of off road tracks. One particularly helpful feature is showing exactly where to turn off the tarmac with a photo of a hire car and some distinctive buildings. One example is on page 277 for access to the Samazar valley. I like the simplicity of the straightforward route descriptions – no myriad of symbols requiring constant flicking back to a key. In this guide you get exactly what you need without the removal of that sense of adventure that is so much a part of the British climbing culture. There is no graded list – not really possible given that many climbs will not have been repeated, but the familiar 3 star system gives you what you need and, at the level at which I operate, seems consistent.
One suggestion. The guide to the South side by Claude Davies is long out of date. If Emma and Paul have a couple of days to spare, could they knock out something more up to date?
About Malcolm Phelps
Malcolm has been climbing since 1968 and was brought up on the Avon Gorge. High points in cragging were Krapp's Last Tape and the Medlar with Jim Unwin in 1975 but nothing more than E2 since! Favourite UK area is Pembroke. Scariest climb Preposterous Tales.
You can read Third Time Lucky - Cassin Route on the North East face of the Piz Badile by Malcolm Phelps here
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