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Mountaineering Guide To The Moroccan High Atlas

© Cicerone Press/Des Clark
Two years ago, my partner and I decided we fancied a winter ascent of Toubkal, in the Atlas Mountains. Although an extremely popular peak, we found there was very little reference material available to help plan logistics and routes. We ended up using a combination of printouts from Summitpost for details on routes and refuges (which weren't up to date) and the Lonely Planet guide to Morocco for logistics of flights, accommodation and general travel information. The combination worked, we had a successful trip, and the rather vague pre-trip information gave a sense of adventure that may not have otherwise been experienced on a trip so close to home.

However, our main objective was Toubkal, with other summits should the weather play ball (it didn't). We had very little information about what else was in the area, the map we had wasn't great, and the best source we found was an ancient copy of the Spanish climbing magazine Desnivel lurking in the refuge we stayed in. The new Cicerone guide “Mountaineering in the High Atlas” solves pretty much all of these problems and comes across as a nice combination of travel guide and climbing guidebook. Extensive sections at the front give information on getting there, health risks, weather, customs and traditions, and many other logistical issues. I can't think of anything in popular travel guides such as Lonely Planet and Rough Guide that isn't covered in this book.

Mule hire makes load-carrying easy when there’s no snow  © Cicerone Press/Des Clark
Mule hire makes load-carrying easy when there’s no snow
© Cicerone Press/Des Clark

Mountaineering in the Moroccan High Atlas By Des Clark

Mountaineering in the Moroccan High Atlas "The first English-language guide to winter mountaineering right across the Moroccan High Atlas of North Africa from Taroudant in the south-west to Midelt in the north-east, all accessible from Marrakech. Covers routes on 40 peaks over 3000m, including Jbel Toubkal, Ighil Mgoun, Jbel Tinergwet. For experienced winter walkers and mountaineers."

Activities: Scrambling, climbing, walking.
Seasons: All routes described can be undertaken in the spring and autumn, but most have been described with a winter ascent in mind.
Centres: Taroudant, Marrakech, Imlil, Oukaimeden, Ait Bougammez, Zawat Ahansal, Midelt
Difficulty: Most of the technical climbing grades fall within the Alpine F- to AD range; also included are the author's own grades for remoteness, navigation and commitment.
Must See: All the 4000m peaks in the High Atlas, including Jbel Toubkal in the central region and Ighil Mgoun in the east, and Jbel Tinergwet, Jbel Awlim and the Tichka plateau in the south-west.

Author: Des Clark
Published: 15 Feb 2011
Edition: First
ISBN: 9781852846114
Price: £15

For more information or to purchase this book
visit the Cicerone website.

Deviation from normal south cwm route on Toubkal  © Cicerone Press / Des Clark
Deviation from normal south cwm route on Toubkal
© Cicerone Press / Des Clark
Similarly, in each geographical section there is information about each town or village, including useful tips for climbers on where to purchase food and stove fuel for the onward trip. For major hubs such as Imlil, there are also details of local guides and mountaineering associations.

Fifty routes are described, all over 3000m, and ranging in difficulty from F to D-. This guidebook also gives its own gradings for remoteness, commitment and navigational difficulty. I'm not sure this is entirely necessary, but it may help the less confident in their route choices. All routes are pictured both on small maps showing the approaches from the refuges, and most have detailed full colour photo topos. In some areas with several routes, it can mean flicking back and forwards through the book to find the map and topo that relate to each route, but this is a minor quibble, and is certainly nothing compared to the similar sized Alpine Club guides which have no map and all topos stuck at the back. Some more remote summits in the far north-east have no topo, but if you have enough of an adventuring spirit to be considering climbing there, you're probably going to be content with a sketch map and photo of the mountain.

Half the routes described are in the central part of the Moroccan Atlas, which includes the popular Toubkal, and which is probably the area to which most first-timers will head. The rest of the range is by no means neglected, and mountains with no easy road access and no refuges will surely give a challenge to the most determined visitor.

For me, this guidebook is pretty much everything I'd want. For some reason I don't like the maps though, and I can't put my finger on why. It must be said though that the book favours the low-grade mountaineer like myself. The vast majority of routes are in the F-PD range, with nothing TD-ED and above. If you're looking to experience this mountain range, it's a well laid-out guide with all the information that you need. If you're a higher grade climber wanting to swap the Alps for the Atlas and maintain the level of difficulty, it's probably not what you need.

"...Fifty routes are described, all over 3000m, and ranging in difficulty from F to D-..."

On my trip two years ago, we only had one good weather window and used that to summit Toubkal. We had identified a huge gully on another mountain (now identified with this guide as Route 22 – buy the book to see what it is!) that looked fun, and always thought about returning to have a go at it. Reading the new guidebook I am re-inspired, and can see myself back in the Atlas, with much better preparation than last time, in the not too distant future.

Morocco Overview Map
© Cicerone Press

Caralynh  © Caralynh

About Cara-Lyn Reynolds

"I was mainly into hill and mountain walking / scrambling, but will give anything a go, and as such got lured into climbing Nov 2004. For convenience, I can often be found playing on grit, but long routes in the mountains make me feel alive. Probably since the reason I decided to climb was to get to the top of mountains by interesting routes, avoiding footpaths. Nowadays I enjoy worldwide mountaineering and am a qualified wilderness medic."

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