Rock climbing is spread out in the Anti-Atlas mountains and it’s best to have a vehicle to get to your pursuits. The rock is a granite quartzite characterized by large grains and good friction….a lot of slab. The quality of the rock varies though.
To start with, one of the most comprehensive guides to the northern area of Tafraout can be found here: http://www.climb-tafraoute.webs.com/
The day we came in, Toti Vales lead the direction of our ascents. He chose the multi-pitch area of Anirgui, a village high in the mountains, an elevation of about 1500m (close to 5,000 feet….which is probably not too high if you live in the high sierra or the Himalaya even). The rock was not the same grain as the rock further below…it was a choss-fest; blocky with tons of symmetrical breakage for cracks (though insecure and scary for placements). Some areas had no protection for a great length of time. The day we climbed, pretty much all three of us leaders (Toti in one party of three; Roberto and I in our own party) were ascending very run-out pitches.
We did some recon the night before since we arrived around 7pm into Tafraout and the three of us chased daylight to find the base of the climbs. The waning light made it difficult and we headed back unsuccessfully.
Roberto and I homestayed at a friendly local family’s house about 300 meters from the mountain. We prepped our gear the night before and slept in the family’s majlis (salon/living room) comfortably and were ready for climbing the next day. When the whole group convened at the trailhead, Roberto and I began first to look for the base of the climbs. I saw a white topped pillar and a diagonal crack flaring up from it and used that for my landmark and soon found it in the book so we finally had the right direction.
I geared up and took on the first pitch, not having any beta. None of these routes are bolted although they are incredibly easy. There were only two areas; the 3rd pitch (which Roberto led) and the 4rth pitch (which I led) that I would call the crux pitches. The 3rd pitch involved pulling through a roof with an easy 5.7 move. The 4rth pitch I led was steep and run-out; around 5.7. I’m sure I was 30-40 feet over my last piece of gear; the amount of choss was a joke and Toti and his party had stopped motionless to watch me get through this pitch. I felt like they were more fearful for me than I was.
This route was incredibly easy but a good introduction to adventure climbing because we didn’t know what to expect and although we found the base of the climb, I had no idea where the route was going. We just went blindly up.
The descent was easy as well; a good walk-off (couldn’t imagine abseiling anyway! The rope would undoubtedly not come down) with plenty of scree areas to be cautious of. Closer to the village, there are probably countless of “trails” which are part of the gardening areas so anything you take, you probably can’t go wrong…it all goes back to the mosque.
This would not be my choice area of climbing around Tafraout but I am glad I experienced it…if I hadn’t, I would never have found the amazing little village of Anirgui and met the wonderful villagers I had. After the climb, I took off on my own to explore; was invited more deeply into the home, chatted more in broken French, Arabic, English and Spanish combined and took many photos which I was able to print out and give as gifts of appreciation for their time and warm welcome.
Even if you don’t climb, visiting this almond and olive tree-filled hamlet is a must.
It was only supposed to be for one day but I wanted it to last longer. So I did.
I asked my climbing cohorts to drop me where I was when we had all stopped to fuel up before the 9-hour journey to Todra Gorge in the 4WD after climbing in Tafraout. I wanted to stay in Tafraout and explore more. Actually, I wanted to LIVE there.
Three years prior during Ramadan, I had visited while on a work trip to Agadir on the coast. I found a local from Tafraout to drive me to his home and back in a matter of hours – it was a reconn adventure to see the mountains. The Ant-Atlas hamlet had charmed me with it’s lack of tourists, it’s ubiquitous, rich, Earth tons, matching kasbah (castle) homes and of course, amazing mountains. I fell in love. The friendly locals created the warmth in the town, not simply the clear, sunny days.
So here I was at the Afriquia fuel stop wondering what to do next. Ultimately, after a bad one-night stay at the Cafe Tafrout hotel, I walked into the beautiful Argana hotel, run by Mustafa… and he and his staff and friends soon walked into my hearts as brothers. After a few days, I canceled my ticket back to the US because I felt like I had been adopted by a Moroccan family. Soon, I was a resident, not a guest and sharing 3 meals a day with my brothers there (who cook the BEST food in all of Morocco. Cross my heart…).