Rock climbing in Taghia
By Enrico Maioni
Due to my bad English, probaly you'll find some mistakes in my text, I'm sorry for that. Id be grateful if you would correct my errors.
In September 2009, I went to Morocco with my friends of the "Scoiattoli di Cortina" group (the Squirrel Group; the most famous group of climbers of Italy). The purpose of our trip was to open a new route on one of the great walls of that area. The group has arranged the trip to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the "Squirrels Group".
The village and some surrounding mountains
Base to reach our goal is Marrakesh, which is about a 4 hour flight from Italy. The city is located in the center-south of the country, about 150 km from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. We spend here our first afternoon in Africa, visiting the old city, the medina, enclosed within the walls, to the west of which arose the new city. We could not miss a visit to the labyrinthine souk (market) and the famous Djemaa el Fna Square, around which develops the old town and can be seen as the center of life (and absolutely characteristic) of Marrakesh.
On the road from Azilal to Zaouia Ahansal
The next day, after loading luggage and material on the cross-country vehicles, we begin our journey to Zaouia Ahansal (there are about a dozen different ways to spell this - it is pronounced zaa-we-ah), last village accessible by motorized vehicles: the duration of this transfer is about 6 hours, the first two on the paved roads and the rest on dirt road, mainly through the desert.
In Zaouia Ahansal are waiting for us some men with their mules, indispensable to carry the heavy baggage of ropes, bolts, climbing gear, food, clothing.
After many hours in the Jeep we all are looking forward to being able to walk a bit and stretch our legs, and we move briskly toward Taghia, where we will stay in a hut for a dozen days.
The valley of Zouîat Ahansal is the entrance door of the Circus of Taghia, where stands the homonymous small village of 400 inhabitants, located at 1.900 meters above sea level and accessible only on foot.
Thanks to an intelligent network of irrigation canals, the spectacular and abundant water sources offer a relative prosperity to the residents.
There is only this mini-shop in Taghia
The village is surrounded by amazing walls and located in the heart of one of the most isolated regions of the Atlas, the great limestone plateau of Azilal, which is crossed by three major canyons: the n'Tazart Akka, Akka and n'Taghia Akka n'Tafrawt and presents some peaks that reach and exceed 3.000 m altitude. A short stroll from the village there are the canyons, whose walls vary in height from 300 to 900 meters.
ROCK CLIMBING IN TAGHIA
The first routes in the area were opened in 1975 by a group of French including Bernard Domenech (one of the current top experts about Africa mountaineering) and Erik Dechamp.
Federico Michielli on "Barracuda" - (7c+ - 590m) Mt. Oujdad
In the 80s and 90s, the area was frequented mainly by Spaniards, which opened a number of big wall, with stays in the wall even a week.
Good quality routes were then opened by another group of French, led by Remi Thivel and Christian Ravier. These climbs are difficult and protected from few bolts, always on the walls between 400 and 600 m.
I'm climbing up "Les rivières pourpres" - (7c - 500m) Mt. Taoujdad
The first modern routes are by the Spaniard Toni Arbones and, in May 2003, by the trio Michel Piola, Benoit Robert and Arnaud Petit. The latter have left Taghia real jewels for climbing, including some beautiful climbs. I like to remember "Les rivieres pourpres" - 600 m - max 7b +.
In recent years many modern routes have been opened, fully equipped. The rock is a fantastic limestone very abrasive, which in a few days could consume even the toughest calluses.
Enrico climbing on "Zebda" (7b+ - Paroi des Sources)
Despite this Taghia is unknown to almost all European mountaineers.
For the topo of the Taghia's climbs there is a great guidebook: "Taghia Montagnes Berbères" by Christian Ravier (mail: cravier [at] club-internet.fr).
Moreover, in the shelter (Gïte) Tawjdat, a big book contains handwritten sketches and reports of the most recent routes.
Being the territory very vast and giving the walls a lot of possibilities to those who want to open a new route, we dedicated the first days in search of the mountain on which to draw the new route.
Obviously the rock in this area is not lacking, but also the aesthetics, the time required to approach the wall and the beauty of the line of the ascent play an important role in a successful enterprise.
Massimo Da Pozzo opening the new route
After a careful search of the area, the choice fell on the south face of Mount Oujdad, which can be reached in less than two hours from the village.
At this point it was necessary to find a base where setting up the camp, because to reach every day the base of the wall from the village would have resulted in a waste of time and energy. After some research we found a cave that is well suited for the purpose: it is located a short distance from the start of the route and a stream provides us with the necessary water.
Massimo Da Pozzo climbing the new route on Mt. Oujdad
The following days are dedicated to the new route. The main architects of the climb were Massimo Da Pozzo, Luigi Majoni, Federico Michielli and Bruno Sartorelli, but obviously all the others Squirrels have contributed to the success of the enterprise.
The opening of the new route, which was dedicated to the Squirrel Luigi Ghedina "Bibi", took a week, and the result was excellent. The line is spread to the left of the route "Barracuda", with which it joins and has in common the last pitch. The rock is exceptional and the difficulty high. A short section of the 5th pitch was not climb "free", and the difficulty is hypothesized to 8a + / 8b.
P1: 6c 55m
P2: 7A 45m
P3: 7B/7b+ 35m
P4: 7c 25m
P5: 7C+/A1 30m
P6: 6C+ 25M
P7: 6C 40m
P8: 7B 35m
P9: 6B 40m
P10: 6A 40m
P11: 6b 50m (last pitch of "Barracuda")
Download Topo PDF
1 - Rappelling along the route
2 - Along the normal route of Mount Oujdad: to reach the top you have to climb the last four lengths of the route "Baraka" (IV - V + - + 6a - 6b).
The climb is fully equipped with bolts. Trad gear can be helpful if you are going to ride the last part of the route "Baraka".
Marco Alberti - Massimo Da Pozzo - Paolo Da Pozzo - Stefano Dimai - Davide Gaspari -Simone Girardi - Enrico Maioni - Luigi Majoni - Samuele Majoni - Alessandro Menardi - Marcello Menardi Demai - Federico Michielli - Bruno Sartorelli - Monica Zardini - Ruggero Zardini
Saïd Messaoudi Rifugio Gïte Tawjdat
Youssef Hmad Rezki
La Maison de Taghia
00212 (0)23459608 / Fax:00212 (0)459608
In Zaouia Ahanesal:
00212 (0)23459393 / 00212 (0)78538882
Both Gites offer meals. It is recommended that you sterilise all water before drinking even the 'drinkable' water, severe stomach upsets are commonly reported by visiting climbers. We used a substantial amount of ciprofloxacin to keep our health problems at bay it may be worthwhile to stock up on this or other antibiotics.
Photo gallery on my site
More information - www.lanochedelloro.com
More information - www.remi-thivel.com
Zaouia Ahansal: 31.832868, -6.1041283
Mt. Oujdad: 31.781300, -6.086485
MP Taghia Album