Just a heads up to anyone climbing in Tafraout we spotted a snake (looked like a Rock Viper) it was on the side of a well trodden path and out of the sun. My partner walked very close to it, luckily it backed up into its hole.
I had assumed snakes were very uncommon and nothing to worry about (not sure why I had this in my head) so remain vigilant if you are climbing in the area.
This was spotted near the base/approach for lots of climbs including Tizgut Crack (E1 5b)
I'd imagine there are tons of snakes all over the area. When I was there I foolishly decided to have a nosey in a small cave on a walk-in. Some movement caught my eye, then I backed out very quickly as an enormous snake slithered towards me. No idea what type but wasn't hanging around to find out!
Also, we were camping at one point. As we were sat around cooking dinner a local stopped by to say beware as he'd seen a snake slither into our tent porch earlier in the day (very good of him to come back and tell us). We gave the tent a good thrashing with sticks before getting in it that night!
Watch out for scorpions too, saw quite a few of them.
Other than that, it's a fantastic place to climb and explore, with amazingly friendly locals.
It's worth bearing in mind when climbing past any holes in the rock - and it doesn't have to be as exotic a location as Morocco, either. A few years back I had a big den adder rush across my shoulders and chest when I surprised it while climbing a route in Bellus, Costa Blanca.
A fair few snakes and scorpions in the area so no surprise, did a short stint of recorded the reptiles and invertebrates in that area as well as around the High Altas in the late 80's.
I survived! My snake story is closer to home...Tremadoc. At the foot of Merlin Direct. My belayer shouted up to me that an adder had just slithered between his legs and into a nearby crack in the rocks. He didn't panic, I did. Fainted briefly (I have quite an intense phobia about snakes). Ended up hanging from gear. Johnny said 'Shall I lower you?'. No chance, matey...I despatched that route in short order & he led the descent (on foot) with me planning for a serpent-free Gogarth the following day.
> This is a good reminder to place good gear even on easy ground. I think I would take a big whip rather than face a snake.
I once found something that I thought was baboon droppings on a ledge on a cliff in Kenya. Definitely wanted some good gear just in case…
Years ago I met a fairly large snake on a belay ledge at one of the crags above Tizourgane. Thankfully he quietly slithered away and left me alone on the tiny ledge!
Had another encounter recently in Kalymnos - picked up my pack after a couple of hours cragging to find a snake underneath. He was less pleased to see me, but luckily quite small, so I managed to avoid getting bitten.
Check out the iNaturalist database for sightings - you'll probably be surprised what critters are around these areas!
> with me planning for a serpent-free Gogarth the following day.
Holyhead mountain strikes me as perfect adder territory. They are certainly around Pant Ifan too, seen then on the big boulders walking in. Wintours Leap, Ben Aan and others have them too.
They are more common than many think, many creep away long before we see them, others sit so still without movement our eyes don't pick them out.
I think snakes are really quite common in the quieter climbing areas and have met several, notably in Spain and once a large Whip snake, in a tree between me and the belay chain at Chauzon in the Ardeche. Didn't Joe Brown famously send captured snakes back down for identification when he found lots of them on Roriama (?) ?
My encounter was finding an angry sounding snake emerge from the crack that I was trying to use as a handhold to clip the very runout second bolt on a route in Burgundy.
Didn't hang around to find out what kind of snake it was.
I was grateful it was a warm up and that I had enough grades in hand to be able reverse the balancey traverse back to the arete, then traverse across to join the next route over. I was facing a certain ground fall for the whole ordeal.
My belayer had no idea what was going on. He'd heard the hissing, but thought it was coming from ground level.
Saw a few shed skins in breaks on that trip. Snakes must be quite common around there.
Well I think I'll just stick to indoor climbing from now on.
We also saw a huge bore on the way back to the hotel last night. It bolted towards us then turned off, safe to say I shit myself!
> ........with me planning for a serpent-free Gogarth the following day.
I think the only time I've seen an adder south of the border was at the gearing up spot for the main cliff. I was trying to get really psyched and it was hard not to see it as a bad omen. We did fail on the route.....
> I once found something that I thought was baboon droppings on a ledge on a cliff in Kenya. Definitely wanted some good gear just in case…
I did a single pitch route in Namibia on which every hold and ledge was covered in baboon poo. I imagine they used the top of the rock as a perch and it just rolled off.
Nah, they only climb at night so we don't see them - and the poo is to mark their ascent so that other baboons know who's done which route - bit like a combo of tick marks & UKC logbook.
> I survived! My snake story is closer to home...Tremadoc. At the foot of Merlin Direct. My belayer shouted up to me that an adder had just slithered between his legs and into a nearby crack in the rocks.
I had an adder slide over my foot while I was belaying at Bosigran and there were often adders sun bathing on top of the gorse at the top of Carn Kenidjack. I once nearly put my hand on an adder (or maybe an asp) soloing the first half of the Fiames Arete in the Dolomites.
On the other hand, I never saw a snake while climbing in Africa (even though cobras and especially puff adders were common in the Cape), California (even at crags known to have resident rattlers) or Australia (where brown snakes are apparently everywhere) - although I did find a redback spider inches from my nose while lying under an overhang sheltering from the rain in the Grampians.
I actively look for snakes, my wife not so much. Guess who always finds them!
I didn't see any snakes in Morocco but that's almost worse than seeing them, I was constantly shitting it that I'd disturb on one walking around in the dark.
In Yosemite we had three interesting snake experiences. A kingsnake crawled into my mate's boot while we were climbing. When we returned to the ledge it slithered off up the crack whence we'd come and with somewhat more style than us too. Nobody nearby knew if it was venomous (they certainly look the part!) so we gave it plenty of room then scarpered in case it changed its mind or fell on us.
Another time the off-width I was suffering in started rattling at me. Not ideal but not much I could do given the lack of gear except hope it was deep in the back and not spoiling for a fight.
Finally, the funny one. Returning from a day of failure on leaning tower I sat down on the haul-bag we'd stashed, open neck under my knees. It immediately erupted in a dreadful thrashing and rattling. I pretty much shit my pants while squashing the bag neck closed, hoping it was tough enough to be bite-proof and screaming for a stick to hold it closed while I got up to run away! We waited a respectful distance back and eventually the culprit emerged, a very angry little squirrel covered in peanut butter and crumbs, its 'rattle' had been the remains of our rations.
> You're in deep shit if one of these bites you. They are present in the climbing areas around the Anti Atlas.
> As are these, though you will probably survive their bite https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerastes_cerastes
Cobras are bad news. None of the vipers are likely to kill you, though the experience may well be horrible.
That said, I think saw-scaled or carpet vipers extend into the southern Morocco. They are tiny but aggressive and will tend to square up to you rather than slink off if they feel threatened. Their venom is not fatal with prompt treatment but you'd be gambling your kidney or liver functions. I photographed some captive ones many years ago, they were fairly tame and not particularly reactivate to humans moving around near them. Unfortunately the flash sent them mental, they all jumped then did the rasping scales thing while two of them advanced towards me. I was yanked away from them and the door shut pronto.
Pretty sure puff adders are present in southern Morocco too. A snake charmer in the Djemma el Fnaa draped a weighty snake round my neck from behind, no big deal as I like snakes. However when I lifted it off it was a huge puff adder. The poor thing had doubtless had its fangs removed, but otherwise it was quite mellow and very tame.
I love seeing snakes, but have seen precious few in the wild. A couple of asps in the Alps and Pyrenees, one adder in Scotland and a Viperine snake in Provence.
Was coming back from seaward end of Bosigran in summer last year and took my kids on a shortcut, that turned out to be boulder hopping over bone dry gorse, and very much a longcut. A real pain but we came across two gorgeous adders.
This year in May there was one poking out of the little cave near the top of the path down on the crag side of the gendarme ridge.
> I actively look for snakes, my wife not so much. Guess who always finds them!
Argh, she has my sympathy. I have a snake phobia and actively avoid the things but have still encountered them several times.
An adder on a hill track when I was a small child out for a walk with parents and grandparents. Not sure where we were but grandparents lived at Tomich so likely around there somewhere. Was picking heather and very nearly picked up an adder by mistake.
Grandad (who had had loads of snake encounters and stories) confirmed what it was.
Two snake encounters on trips to the Pyrenees (small brown snakes, one hissy, one slithering away as quickly as possible)
Another adder rearing up at me on a track in Glen Quoich - thought they were supposed to be shy, and middle child reported a hissing blaeberry bush on Alt Sheil descent from Lochnagar last year.
> Cobras are bad news. None of the vipers are likely to kill you, though the experience may well be horrible.
Yes, if you survive a cobra bite, you'll probably fairly quickly make a complete recovery*. You probably will survive a puff adder bite, but may well have life-changing injuries, maybe even losing a limb, if you don't get expert surgical intervention.
* As long as it isn't a spitting cobra!
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