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This guidebook describes 50 walks, climbs and scrambles in the Moroccan High Atlas. The routes were written with winter conditions in mind and are suitable for experienced winter mountaineers and walkers. The routes cover 30 peaks and are all above 3000m with the highest being Jbel Toubkal at 4167m.
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The High Atlas mountains of Morocco have mountaineering potential galore. With 7 major summits over 4000m, and myriad other remote and little-climbed summits, the region offers countless challenges for experienced winter climbers and scramblers looking for adventure.
This guidebook contains full route descriptions for 50 walks, climbs and scrambles on 30 peaks right across the range from Taroudant in the south-west to Midelt in the north-east, all easily accessible from Marrakech airport. Each route is graded by remoteness, navigational difficulty and commitment.
The mountains of the High Atlas seldom drop below 3000m so naturally all the summits and routes are over 3000m, so some mild affects of altitude, such as shortness of breath, may initially be felt, particularly on the 4000m summits. This may affect initial performance, but most people should get used to the altitude in a few days. There are at least seven mountains that reach over 4000m; the highest of these is Jbel Toubkal at 4167m.
While the vast majority of routes in the guidebook can be undertaken in the late spring and autumn, the emphasis is on winter ascents (from early November to mid-April). All the routes in this guidebook assume a certain amount of winter mountain experience on your part, the majority of the routes were written with winter conditions in mind.
This guidebook divides the range into three regions, using two road passes as boundaries, and the routes are described under the following regional sections.
• west of Tizi n-Test (routes from Taroudant)
• between Tizi n-Test and Tizi n-Tichka (routes from Imlil and Oukaimeden)
• east of Tizi n-Tichka (routes from Ait Bougammez, Zawat Ahansal and Midelt)
We are always grateful to readers for information about any discrepancies between a guidebook and the facts on the ground. If you would like to send some information to us then please use our Feedback form. They will be published here following review by the author(s).
Local customs and etiquette
Plants and flowers
When to go
Visas and permits
Planning and maps
Getting to Morocco
Getting around Morocco
Mules and porters
What to take
Health and safety
Communication and navigation aids
Respecting the environment
Using this guide
1 Jbel Tingerwet south-west ridge
2 Jbel Tingerwet west-north-west ridge
3 Jbel Awlim south-west ridge
4 Jbel Awlim south ridge
5 Imaradene from the east
6 Imaradene from the south and west
7 Awlim north-east ridge
8 Awrir n-Said west ridge
9 Toubkal refuges via Tizi Aguelzim
10 Toubkal refuges via Tizi n-Tadat
11 Toubkal refuges via Clochetons breche
12 Toubkal refuges via Tizi Melloul and Tizi Afella
13 Tazaghart via Tizi Melloul
14 Tazaghart Diagonal Couloir
15 Tazaghart Descent Couloir
16 Biguinoussene from Tizi n-Tadat
17 Biguinoussene south ridge
18 Afella via Tizi Melloul
19 Afella via Aougdal Bou Tiouna
20 Akioud north-north-west ridge
21 Ras and Timesguida n-Ouanoukrim east ridge from Tizi n-Ouagane
22 Ras and Timesguida n-Ouanoukrim north-east couloir
23 Ras and Timesguida n-Ouanoukrim north-west ridge
24 Jbel Toubkal south cwm south col
25 Jbel Toubkal north cwm north col
26 Jbel Toubkal north-east ridge
27 Jbel Toubkal south-west (Ouanoums) ridge
28 Jbel Toubkal south-east ridge
29 Toubkal West north-east ridge
30 Imouzzer north cwm north col south-west ridge
31 Angour north side ledge
32 Angour west ridge
33 Anrhemer west ridge
34 Bou Iguenouane via Amazzer Meqqoren
35 Bou Iguenouane ridge traverse (north to west-south-west)
36 Tizi Likemt to Tizi n-Tagharat traverse
37 Tarkeddit refuge from Agouti
38 Tarkeddit refuge from Sebt Ayt Bou Wlli
39 Tarkeddit refuge from Tondout
40 Ighil Mgoun and Mgoun West from Tarkeddit refuge
41 Ighil Mgoun and Mgoun West north-east ridge (traverse)
42 Oumassin and Aslad from Tarkeddit refuge
43 Aklim from Tarkeddit refuge or Tatrarat
44 Tarkeddit ridge – east to west traverse
45 Ouaougoulzat west summit
47 Azurki north-east to south-west ridge traverse
48 Azurki north face couloirs
49 Jbel Maasker via Inifif
50 Jbel Ayyachi, Sayd ou Addi and Ichichi n-Boukhlib via the Cirque de Jaffar
APPENDIX A Further reading
APPENDIX B Useful words and phrases
APPENDIX C Route summary table
APPENDIX D Refuge summary table
First climbed in 1927 by the French geologist Louis Neltner, and subject to a couple of other French and Polish expeditions in the late 1920s, the potential for new routes on Jbel Awlim has been largely unknown or ignored, save for a few enthusiasts.
Most easily accessed from the south and south-west, it is really the north and east approaches that give the most mountaineering potential. The south-west ridge is taken as a direct continuation from Jbel Tinergwet, whereas the south ridge, while still approached from Taroudant, is gained from another valley system to the east of Tamarowt.
In addition, a complete traverse of the peak can be made either by descending the north-east ridge and continuing on to do the ‘Ridge of a Hundred Peaks’ (see ‘Additional routes’) or, best, by ascending from the north-east and continuing south-west to Tinergwet, from where either of Routes 1 and 2, described above, can be taken. This approach gives the mountaineer many more potential route lines of ascent and is one of the ‘Additional routes’ for this area.
Note that there are no easy escape routes off this peak except via the approach from Tizi n-Tajelt.
Start Tinergwet (3551m)
From the summit of Tinergwet, descend initially to the S for 50m to gain the rocky ridge leading NE. Initial loose blocks give way to firmer rock scrambling before gaining the broad saddle of Tizi n-Tajelt (3231m). From here the summit of Awlim is evident, although the route possibly less so. At the start of the rise to the summit, trend left (N) and then go direct up 100m of grade 2 scrambling, which exits you onto a narrow sloping ramp to the N summit. The slightly higher S summit is a short scramble away. The views dropping off to the E are awesome, and those back to Tinergwet are particularly fine.
Access From Taroudant, head N past the Sunday souk grounds on your left and the college to your right and pass through the village of Tamaloukt, keeping straight at this point. Immediately the road begins to rise with a series of bends until it eventually reaches a plateau. Continue past a number of small villages, including Souk Sebt Tafrouten and Tanefacht, and after another 15mins arrive at Sunday Souk el Had, Imoulas (1100m, 1hr 15mins).
Accommodation Some small auberges and unofficial houses provide basic accommodation.
Local transport Minibuses and grand taxis depart a number of times daily from the NE gate of Taroudant, Bab el Khemis. At the time of writing the cost is 50dh per person, plus a small charge for baggage in a minibus. Journey time is around 1hr 30mins. In addition on souk day (Sunday), camionette transport leaves from the car park on the S side of Place Assarag, Taroudant.
Map 1:50,000 series, Souq Sebt-Talmakant, Feuille NH-29-XVI-3c
Equipment Camping/bivvying for at least 2 nights on the mountain, possibly up to 3 depending on route chosen. Rope and some long slings. In winter, harness, krabs, 2 axes and crampons.
Time 3–4 days depending on descent route
The south ridge is rarely attempted, and proclaiming your intentions in Imoulas will likely result in you being persuaded that the route is impossible! It is a committing route both in terms of height gain and technical difficulties, which gets harder the higher you go. Unless you are prepared to travel very fast and light and are able to manage a height gain of around 2400m in a day, it is more humane to stage the trip over two days and more, depending on what descent route you opt to take.
If you have travelled to Imoulas by public transport and arrive there mid-afternoon, it will be too late to head straight off. However, if you have your own transport and/or have been able to arrive before midday, then it is possible to start the route immediately and have the time to choose a bivvy site while there is still light.
Setting out from Imoulas, take a mule trail NW initially, following the Asif (= river) Awlim before taking higher ground to the W and eventually dropping back down to river and the village of Tammast (2hrs 30mins).
From Tammast leave the river and head NE up a steepening track in a seasonal stream bed before levelling off somewhat to 1983m (1hr).
Veering NW to just beyond 2311m and then NNE, the profile of the S ridge will begin to take shape, with steepening ground to your left (W) and complicated ravine systems feeding the Asif Ait Wedjas to your right (E).
Bivvy sites become less welcoming from about 3000m, so aim to overnight around Pt 2743m. Depending on the season you may find a water source close by (6hrs from Imoulas).
From Pt 2743m the S ridge rises in rocky steps direct to the summit of Awlim. In winter, the ridge is stunningly Alpine. There are no viable escape routes from here to the summit, and the ability to retreat back along one’s steps must be continually assessed, in case there comes a point when that is required. The ridge line should be maintained, as little is gained by dropping off to one side or the other. Grade 2 scrambling out of winter and Alpine PD+ in winter will bring you 150m below the S summit in under 2hrs from point 2743m.
At this point, the ground steepens considerably. Traversing left for 30m, pitch the final (snow) gully to the S summit (Scottish 3–4). As an alternative route for snow-free ascents, a faint line traverses through broken rock pinnacles to below the extreme NE end of the Tizi n-Tajelt. Rock enthusiasts will doubtless pick out new lines on the SE arete.
All these routes demand an ability to cope with sustained exposure while climbing this last 150m. Summit views, especially in winter, are unbeatable (3hrs–3hrs 30mins from Pt 2743m).
Descend by reversing Route 3, above.