Atlas Aftermath

The High Atlas is a relatively unknown and unfrequented area outside of Jebel Toubkal and a few other venues (such as Mgoun). This is remarkable given the depth of mountaineering potential in the region, but inevitable given the lack of reliable mapping, language barrier to English-speakers and fear of terrorism, to name a few.

There are a number of trekking and climbing guidebooks to the area, but we used the most recent, Mountaineering in the Moroccan High Atlas, by Des Clark (available from Cicerone). Although primarily aimed at winter mountaineering, the book was very helpful with orientation and route planning. Ideally, I would like to get hold of the classic guidebook, Le Massif du Toubkal, by Jean Dresch and Jacques de Lépiney, but it is currently out of print.

The most recent guidebook for the High Atlas

Otherwise, there are a small number of sources of information for mountaineering, but it is very much a case of turning up and winging it!

I have included a few more favourite photos from the trip.

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7 Responses to Atlas Aftermath

  1. Alistair says:

    I remember it when the road from Asni to Imlil was a dirt track and you could get a lift in the back of a truck. You could only get by in French or Arabic and our guide in the Marrakesh souks remembered fighting the French. We met a Sufi family in the hut at Imlil who had fled across Iran in a landrover, looking for somewhere to settle down. I hear the Toubhkal hut is no longer the size of the CIC and it prolly costs more than a couple of diram to use the table to cook on and camping is forbidden. The kids prolly don’t ferry you across the river on donkeys for painkillers any more either. And the village in the rocks on the path up to Toubhkal, what a place! Yes, winging it worked for us 20 years ago. Although back then, whenever they heard your accent they would exclaim “ameesh brown”!

    • Simon says:

      Unforgettable memories, eh?!

      The road to Imlil is now tarmaced and taxis make it up, but there are several places where it becomes a piste, as rivers simply wash over the top in spate! It’s not uncommon for Imlil to be cut off in winter.

      There are now two Toubkal Refuges, the original Neltner Club Alpin Français Casablanca and the new Mouflons refuge. We found this area of the trip to be contentious. Although the Mouflons hut is far superior in size, amenities and comfort to the Neltner, it is run as a private business, and more like a hotel than a mountaineers hut. You are obliged to use the huts’cooks and the price is above market rate, even for the UK: 300MAD per night, double in winter. Camping is available, but you’ll want good stakes and a thick sleeping mat!

      For me, the Lépiney hut in the next valley to the West provides a much more authentic experience. It is small, but it is everything a mountaineers’hut should be: warm, snug, inspiring location, reasonable, amenable staff.

      Sidi Chamharouch (the village in the rocks’) is an amazing place as you say, apparently a Muslim pilgrimage site for fertility. That was the point for me when the scenery changed and I felt that we were getting into the proper mountaineering territory. We stopped for a Coke, which was extremely welcome, although after five days of illness I was slightly wary of contamination from their refrigeration process: bottles in buckets cooled with water pipped straight from mountain streams!

      No mention of ‘Ameesh Brown’, but I’d like to get hold of his book – quite a journey…

  2. Alistair says:

    They still sell coke at Sidi Chamharouch? As if some bloke popping out of a rock in the middle of nowhere wasn’t surprising enough, he asked if we wanted to buy cans of coke! We did get some cold shoulders though as we weren’t using the local guides, replete with their wooden alpenstocks. Never seen so many ladybirds as on the path up to Sidi Chamharouch. I carried 7 litres of bottled water up from Imlil to the Neltner and we camped across the burn. Typical Alpine spot. Dusty, dirty and the crap from the hut shovelled down the slope into the burn. We were the only two bods on Toubhkal the next day. In fact, never saw a single walker in the mountains other than the guides in the hut. Nice way to spend a honeymoon!

    • Simon says:

      Yeah, there’s no avoiding the fact that Morocco is still developing as a country, so there can be problems with guides and sanitation. However, as you have experienced, it can be absolutely deserted, especially anywhere vaguely off the beaten path (pretty much anywhere other than Toubkal!). Definitely the place for a spot of solitude and space to contemplate the consequences of all the loose rock…

  3. Des Clark says:

    Hi Simon, just came across your blog on your trip to Maroc. Glad you found the book useful. As you say the Lepiney 1939 book is out of print – I got my copy 2nd hand using
    Just looked at their site and there is a copy in the USA available to post if you’re interested?

    It is in French but the line drawings of all the routes are incredible and far better than most photos these days!

    Des Clark

  4. Pingback: The High Atlas – a One-Tick Wonder? « When Men and Mountains Meet

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