Ice Climbing in the Atlas
I have many made a wonderfull trip to the magical area around Toubkal, Morocco’s highest mountain (4000m). During these trips we made ascents of cascades, gullies and summits based from the Toubkal hut at 3000m. Its a perfect winter climbing destination and similar to a super Scotland. The wealth of climbing in this one valley is staggering. Endless cascades fall over steep vocanic rocks everywhere. You turn in every direction and you see gullies leading to summits. Theres a high sense of adventure with all the climbs, many have been climbed in the past but theres still plenty of scope for new routes. Its an ideal place for the budding ice climber who fancies the odd Alpine length climb or for the more experienced climber looking for remoteness and really great new adventure.
Cascade Climbing is very popular here and theres endless spring fed ice climbing routes. Theres always ice from the end of November onwards. Due to the high elevation and cold nights, even if there isnt much snow, theres plenty of ice for a 5 day trip. Cascades are a perfect introduction to the sport and a offer an ideal opportunity to learn the craft and get your first ice climbing lead done. There is an icefall only 100m from the Mouflon hut , where we stay. Icefall lengths vary from 20m to 200m.
The High Atlas gewts plenty of snow in November and by December the gullies are full and firm enough for climbers to make climbs. All the gullies reach up to ridges which then lead to Summits. Its a real Alpine feel. Choosing your gully aspect is important to get the best conditions. Climbing in the sun can be warm but the shade is very cold. You have to find the gullies which get some sun (get melt) at some point but to climb them in the shade. As the Mouflon hut is situated in a big cirque its always easy to pick your aspect. Theres climbing on all slopes. Gullies are 30min to 1 hours walk from the hut and can vary from 300m to 800m long. Very similar to Scotland.
Ridge and Buttress climbing
The buttresses do not tend to build much rime ice so the rock is generally clear of ice. The mixed climbing is more of a nature similar to the Alpine Mountains. The rock is volcanic origin so its generally not ideal for mixed climbing but saying that there are plenty of great mixed gullies and ridge climbs on good solid rock. The South Ridge of Toubkal South is a classic D graded Alpine ridge which offers fantastic exposed ridge climbing. Often requiring a bivi or long day. The area does have a feel of the Cullins in Skye. Theres are plenty of steady ridge climbs and walks for those seeking an experience of such terrain for the first time.
The best of the High Atlas are based in the Cirque around the Mouflon hut. Each, of the many, 4000m peaks have scrambling routes to the summits and also plenty of winter climbs on their flanks. Its possible to climb one or more 4000m each day including the highest Mountain in the Atlas Toubkal. The traverse of Toubkal being an excellent PD scramble.
Conditions are good from early December to late March. Its possible to ski in this area also. Sking to summits and esp the summit of toubkal. Treat the High Atlas as an Alpine area.Temperatures in the sun can be very comfortable but in the shade temperatures fall well below zero. General weather trend is stable high pressure with good weather and the occasional storm passing through quickly. December is a popular time for us to go as the Ice climbing is great and its very quiet. Flights with Easyjet are very cheap also.
Morocco is a very easy place to get to from Europe and the UK. Ryan Air and Easyjet fly direct from many airports esp Gatwick, Manchester, Luton and Standsted. Once you arrive at Marakesh airport and its only a short journey by Taxi 1hr 30min to Imlal. Imlal is the staging village to start your trek into the Toubkal hut. The pleasant walk talks a beautiful valley passing many tea shops on route. The walk is about 5hrs and generally you are on snow for 30 min. I walk in light boots/traineers. Horses can be used to take your kit up to the hut. So taking skis and climbing gear is no problem. Ice Climbing around Toubkal Atlas Morocco. check out this video.