I’ve been visiting the Costa Blanca region of Spain for many years, enjoying the climbing, the people and of course the weather! The easy access to the climbing has enabled me to introduce clients to the area, some returning year after year. It’s my intention to continue to introduce clients to the Costa but it’s in my adventurous nature to find new climbing areas that have yet to fully establish themselves and open up ‘the road less travelled’ to clients.
It’s for this reason I’ve visited the Anti-Atlas Mountains of Morocco. I’ve put together a few words to share my experiences of the area and to give potential clients an idea of what to expect if, like me, they feel the draw to Morocco and the climbing in the Anti Atlas.
The Anti Atlas region of Morocco is less heralded than the High Atlas Mountains to its North, however this has its advantages. Certainly there are fewer visitors to the area and for the time being is less ‘touristy’. The people, mainly Berber, are both friendly and hospitable but being a Muslim country the women remain remote.
Besides the cultural differences the big reason to travel to this area is the climbing. The quality quartzite rock offers an abundance of routes, many at relatively amenable grades. There is also the scope for much new routing but whatever you opt for the one thing you can’t avoid is the adventurous nature of area. For some years Claude Davies’ guide, published by Cicerone, gave just enough information to open the door to the area. What must be made clear is this is not the place for the bolt clipper or the roadside ‘cragger’ and the term ‘guidebook interpretation’ takes on a whole new meaning in Claude’s guide. If you have a reputation for poor route finding you will encounter real problems here. As there is no rescue service in the Anti Atlas you have to be able to take care of yourself. In his guide Claude gives advice to visit crags in teams of four as a minimum in case of problems. Whilst in Tafraoute, on our first visit, we met Ben Wintringham who was in the process of putting together an online guide to the area. We had an opportunity, over a beer, to view it in draft form and it looked great! Tragically Ben was killed in an abseiling accident whilst in the area in October 2011. Paul Donnithorne, a regular member of Ben’s Anti-Atlas group has now published a guide to the area, which is dedicated to Ben. In addition Steve Broadbent has published via The Oxford Alpine Club two, yes TWO volumes (North and South of the Jebel El Kest 2013) for this fast evolving adventure climbing area. More information about Tafraout and the climbing in the Anti-Atlas is available at www.climb-tafraout.com
is THE place to stay on the northern side of the Jebel El Kest range. This historic fortified village has been lovingly renovated and overlooks the surrounding area with mountains all around. The Kasbah, owned and run by Jamal and Malika is a special place and there is always a warm welcome, good authentic Moroccan food and fantastic views in every direction!
Tafraoute is the most convenient base for climbers in the southern area and lies at the heart of the Anti Atlas. From Agadir airport on the coast, Tafraoute is just 150 km drive away, although the drive might be considered by some to be an adventure in itself, passing donkey carts on narrow and sometimes precipitous roads. The town has a bustling feel to it, with a thriving market. The local artisans can be seen at work, carpenters making furniture and metalworkers creating all manner of things in wrought iron on the pavements. Of course, being Morocco, there must be carpets and Maison Touareg
will invite you to take mint tea and tempt you to barter. This can be great fun if you do actually want a carpet!
There are a few hotels to choose from and the warm welcome we received at Hotel Salama
made our stay there very relaxed. The rooms are cool and spacious and the service perfectly paced considering the temperatures. Although we had B&B at the Salama we also ate there on a couple of evenings where the standard of service and food was maintained. Other evenings we strolled around the town and when a restaurant took our fancy, dived right in. The Tagine is what Moroccan food is all about but the contents vary from couscous piled high with vegetables, meatballs to stews and kebabs, all very yummy. I also sampled a variety of the local salads, which were all good. The cost of local produce and meals out were very reasonable, in fact we found the only thing not cheap was the car hire (about a third more than say on the Costa Blanca). As Morocco is a Muslim country Alcohol is off limits to Muslims but if you fancy a cold beer during your stay the Hotel Amandiers, perched above the town, has a bar to quench your thirst. I must admit though I became addicted to the freshly squeezed orange juice, which is plentiful. If wine is your thing and you can’t do without a glass after a day’s climbing then perhaps a quick shop at the duty free at Gatwick might be a good plan.
I’m planning to put a trip together for Autumn 2015, if you have an interest in visiting the Anti Atlas on either a guided or semi-guided basis drop me a mail at TouchtheRock@outlook.com