Today Cathy shares with us her experience and tips for visiting Taghia Gorge, Morocco.
Climbing in the Taghia Gorge, located in the high Atlas mountains of Morocco, is like climbing through a time machine, where the towering limestone walls protect the small village from the conveniences of this modern life. Climbing here began in 1974, with the establishment of the route Shoukran (5.12) by Tony Arbones. Further development, including many highlights from Arnaud Petit, leaves Taghia with 250+ routes, and endless potential for development.
How to get there: Flights are available from many European cities directly to Marrakesch. From there you’ll need to get to Zaouia Ahanesal either by public transit (via the town Azilal) or if you have less time and are willing to pay extra, you can travel directly with a taxi at a cost of ~120 euro/taxi (2014). To get from Zaouia Ahanesal to Taghia is ~2h walking trail. When we arrived, Mohammed (the son of Saïd) met us in Zaouia Ahanesal and walked with us into the gorge. Donkeys can also be rented for 9 euro donkey to help carry gear. Once you’ve reached Taghia climbing is a short walk away.
Where to climb: There are routes of all difficulties, styles, lengths, but the majority of the classic climbs are 5.11-5.13+ and fully bolted. Some routes requiring trad gear can be found, but you can definitely be kept busy without needing to bring gear. However, being able to comfortably climb 5.11+ terrain will definitely make things a lot more fun on these routes. Various topos can be found online and you can find more must-do routes in the guestbook at Saïd’s gite, the areas closest guesthouse.
When to go: Best times are normally fall (Sept/October) or spring (April/May). In September we found it hot climbing in the sun, and comfortable in the shade (Saïd’s gite is at ~ 1900m). There are great routes on all expositions (S/W/N/E) so there are many possibilities depending on the conditions. After heavy rain the water level can rise quickly, so be careful! We also found that while we often saw storm clouds in the distance, they rarely amassed to anything substantial.
Where to sleep: We stayed at Saïd’s gite, a classic guesthouse among climbers. Including breakfast and dinner, we paid ~12 euros/night/person. The gite now has hot water and electricity. And while the gite has just basic accommodations (what else can you expect in a place that you can just access by foot?) it has a unique spirit, full of journals of past climbers who have visited accompanied by hand drawn topos of the routes they’ve discovered. From Saïd’s gite the climbing ranges from as close as 5 minutes to as far as you want to walk! Saïd speaks French, however his son Mohammed speaks some English and Spanish as well.
Where to Eat: In Saïd’s Gite, breakfast and dinner are included – breakfast consisting of bread, jam, and the spreadable cheese ‘La vache qui rit’. Dinner is generally tagine cooked with vegetables grown in the village and –without fail– cumin soup. We recommend bringing food to eat while climbing, something to purify water, toilet paper and basic medicine.
Rest Day Activities: Hiking through the valleys is highly recommended, with impressive views and crossings of the infamous ‘berber bridges’. Apart from this, the list of things ‘to do’ in a valley of maybe 100 people, and no road access, is limited. You will be amazed at the conversations you can have hanging out on Saïd’s stone balcony, lying in the shadows of the limestone giants. 🙂
Extra Tips: Despite purifying our water, 3 of the 6 of us got sick from the food/water, missing out on a few days worth of climbing. We found it helpful to be in a larger group, so that when some of us got sick, the others could still climb.
A trip to Taghia is an experience, coupling dramatic limestone cliffs and a pastoral way of life in a remote village. Your trip in will take you from the chaos of the markets in Marrakesch to the absolute stillness of the Taghia gorge when you arrive!
Photos by Peter Manhartsberger and Florian Rudolf