with Peter Croft
Yosemite-sized walls made out of clean and featured limestone. If that is not enough said, put that into a beautiful canyon oasis in the remote and rugged Atlas Mountains. That is Taghia Gorge. The exotic climbing destination that has only just started to be discovered by modern climbers. Experience this rock climbing paradise amidst the indigenous people of a truly special place on Earth.
all photos on this page: Kris Erickson
This trip features Peter Croft, tours of Marrakech and Moroccan villages, Jeep and mule support, ginormous limestone walls, and a 1:1 guiding ratio. We have space for up to 4 climbers with guides and this trip needs a minimum of 2 to run.
2015 Dates: October 1-12
Your spirit of adventure and endurance will be tested on an epic journey into the heart of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, a forbidding land of inspiration, exoticism and majestic summits. For centuries, the mystique of the Atlas Mountains has lured the likes of adventurer Ibn Battuta, the famed explorer Wilfred Thesiger, brutal warlords such as Madini and T’hami Glaoui, Saharan nomads, and followers of Berber saints and their remote brotherhoods.
The adventure starts and ends in the historic city of Marrakesh where you will stay in a traditional riad, courtyard house in the ancient city. A licensed Moroccan city guide will guide you on a tour of the medina and suq, historic city and market, and palaces of Marrakesh’s past ruling Islamic dynasties. From Marrakesh you will be transported over the High Atlas Mountains via private 4×4 to the remote region of Zawiya Ahansal. In Zawiya Ahansal you will experience the pure Berber culture and hospitality; tour centuries’ old historic architecture and visit the community development work of the Atlas Cultural Foundation.
The pinnacle of the trip is seven days of climbing on the expansive and challenging limestone walls in the village of Taghia. Taghia provides an extensive selection of multi-pitch sport and traditional routes with a base camp in the traditional Berber village. There you will climb on a 1:1 private basis with SMG Guides Peter Croft, Howie Schwartz, and possibly Kris Erickson a TNF Athlete and AMGA Certified Rock Guide who lives and works part of the year with his family in Zawiya Ahansal.
Zawiya Ahansal is a remote and mountainous region located between 5,000 and 12,000 feet in Morocco’s Central High Atlas Mountains. It is a high desert region with temperature extremes in June and July ranging between 32 and 100 F. Regional equivalents are the City of Rocks in Idaho and southern Utah. You should be prepared and comfortable with working in all weather, including rain, wind, and heat and should be physically fit and able to hike in mountainous terrain. You will be living with local families in registered guesthouses and should therefore be comfortable with and respectful of Muslim culture. Meals are prepared by your host family and are traditional Berber Moroccan cuisine. Sleeping rooms will be shared and are gender separated.
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. Historically they spoke various Berber languages, which together form a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Today Arabic is spoken almost universally by Berbers, along with Darija, as well as French (in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria) and some Spanish (in Western Sahara and parts of Morocco), due to European colonization of the Maghreb. Today most Berber-speaking people live in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Mali and Niger. Many Berbers call themselves some variant of the word Imazighen (singular: Amazigh), possibly meaning “free people” or “free and noble men.” Ibn Battuta is one of the best-known historical Berbers, a medieval explorer who traveled the longest known distances in pre-modern times. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berber_people.
- 12-Day Itinerary
TRIP ITINERARY: Morocco! Rock Climbing Day 0 Travel to Marrakech Day 1 Arrive in Marrakech
Historically a caravanserai, trading center for desert caravans, and previous capital of the Almoravid, Saadian, Merenid, and Alawite dynasties, the city of Marrakech has been a must-see for travelers to North Africa for centuries. Marrakesh is Morocco’s most famous city and a sensuous melting pot of Berber, Arab and international culture. More an experience than a place, no description does it justice and truly must be absorbed in the flesh. A popular Moroccan proverb is perhaps the best description available. Ma doumta fil magrib fa la tastagrib. “When in Morocco, don’t be surprised by anything, everything is possible.” Private airport transfer.
Day 2 Historic Tour of Marrakech
Your licensed Marrakech city guide will lead you on a morning tour of the imperial city’s most lavish dynastic architecture. Discover the intricate Merenid Dynasty’s craftsmanship of the 14th century Ali ben Youssef Medersa, the Bahia Palace’s embellished courtyards and haram of vizier Abu ‘bou’ Ahmed, and the Saadian Dynasty’s tombs lavishly decorated with Italian Carrara marble and muqarnas, stalactite plasterwork. You will discover the suq, covered markets, and the infamous Djemma el Fna square where storytellers, acrobats, snake charmers, open-air food stalls and travelers have converged every night for hundreds of years.
Day 3 Travel to Zawiya Ahansal
Catch a glimpse of the high peaks of the Atlas Mountains as you travel overland through olive groves and the plains of Marrakech into the foothills of the Central High Atlas Mountains and eventually, Zawiya Ahansal. You will arrive in Zawiya Ahansal in time for a traditional dinner. Founded in the 13th century by a traveling saint, Zawiya Ahansal is one of the oldest zawiyat (holy centers) in Morocco. Here participants will discover the purest example of the Imazighen (local word for Berber that means the ‘free people’) culture.Founded in the 13th century by a traveling saint, Zawiya Ahansal is one of the oldest and most famous Zawiya, Islamic schools, in Morocco. The followers of its brotherhood reach throughout Morocco and Algeria. Pilgrims travel to the distant valley annually to pay homage to the region’s living and deceased saints. Kris Erickson and his wife Cloe, who live in the region, and the sheikh, living saint and tribal leader, of the region, will give you an intimate tour of the region’s sacred architecture and community development work of the Atlas Cultural Foundation.
- - Meet 4x4 in Marrakech and travel overland to Zawiya Ahansal (5 to 7 hours)
- - Lunch at Ouzoud Waterfalls
- - Dinner and stay at guesthouse in Zawiya Ahansal, village of Amezray. www.darahansal.net
Day 4 Hike to Taghia
Follow the Ahansal River upstream to the village of Taghia. Taghia is the home to Morocco’s best multi-pitch limestone climbing. Blessed by an abundant source of water flowing out of limestone cliffs in the village of Taghia, the region of Zawiya Ahansal and its four main villages are able to eke out a meager living from the surrounding rugged landscape. Terraced fields yield small crops of winter wheat and corn, and small orchards produce figs, apples, almonds, walnuts and peaches. Zawiya Ahansal is considered the second poorest region in Morocco, a statistic that is apparent in the extremely high illiteracy rates, lack of healthcare, and continued subsistence living.
- - Hike to Taghia (2 to 3 hours)
- - Afternoon climbing
Days 5-10 Climbing in Taghia
Test your endurance, and your fingertips, on the steep and sharp faces surrounding Taghia. Hundreds of challenging multi-pitch routes await the skilled climber. Your base camp is Said’s guesthouse in the village where you will be served traditional breakfast and dinner. Rest day activities include numerous day hikes, photographing in the village, relaxing on the shores of the Ahansal River.
- - Climb in Taghia. Breakfast and dinner provided. Lunch available upon request, an extra $5 per day per person.
- - Afternoon of Day 10, hike out to village of village of Amezray
- - Tea at the sheikh’s house
- - Overnight and farewell dinner at Dar Ahansal.
Day 11 Travel to Marrakech
- - Travel overland by 4x4 to Marrakech (5 to 7 hours).
- - Night out in Marrakech.
Day 12 Transfer to Airport. Fly home.
- - 1:1 guiding ratio with Howie Schwartz, Peter Croft, and Kris Erickson (if 3 guests)
- - All group climbing equipment
- - Private transfers to and from airport
- - 3 or 4 star traditional lodging in Marrakech. Single occupancy with private bath
- - Support staff upon arrival at airport and on hand in Marrakech for money exchange, supplemental food shopping, etc.
- - Full day guided tour of historic markets of Marrakech. Museum Fees included.
- - Private 4x4 transport to and from the mountains, with a/c
- - Maison d'Hôtes in village of Amezray, including breakfast, lunch, dinner. www.darhansal.net
- - Mules and packers to carry gear in and out of Taghia
- - Guesthouse in village of Taghia
- - Historical and architectural tour of the villages of Zawiya Ahansal and the community development work of the Atlas Cultural Foundation
- - $200 donation to the Atlas Cultural Foundation to support their charitable cause
- - Organization of all logistics
- - Tips for all Moroccans
- - Medical, travel, rescue insurances. All are recommended. Proof of adequate medical insurance required.
- - Drinks, bottled or treated drinking water, alcohol, laundry, telephone, internet, and items of a personal nature
- - Personal snacks
- - Meals in Marrakech other than breakfast which is included in the hotel
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