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Toubkal Winter Conditions #21

Latest Toubkal Winter Conditions Report

Spring has arrived with the apple and cherry blossoms coming out in the Toubkal Massif and Mgoun areas! I was out guiding a father and son team on Mgoun last week and we had a successful summit day – well done guys! The weather was fantastic with warm temperatures, sunshine and low winds but we still needed our crampons and ice axes for the 4km ridge line to the summit of Mgoun (4068m). This 4000m peak is the most remote and committing in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco.

 

Iain and Garvie at the start of the traverse under Mgoun West to gain the ridge to Mgoun

Iain and Garvie at the start of the traverse under Mgoun West to gain the ridge to Mgoun, 10-4-14

 

Ridge to the summit of Mgoun 4,068m 10-4-14

Ridge to the summit of Mgoun (4,068m), 10-4-14

Do get in touch with us at morocco@the-mountain-people.com if you are interested in climbing Mgoun!

 

Recent Weather

Warmer temperatures, with the freezing level around 4,000m, have caused a huge amount of the snow to melt. You will still find snow at the higher altitudes especially on northerly aspects, but the snow cover will continue to decrease with the freezing level going above the summit of Toubkal this week.

 

Walk into the Tarkeddit Refuge

Walk into the Tarkeddit Refuge, 8-4-14

 

Tarkeddit plateau

Tarkeddit plateau, 9-4-14

Snowpack

There are currently freeze-thaw cycles going on at the 4,000m mark which will continue to create a hard, well-consolidated snowpack. You will most likely require crampons/ice axes for the early morning ascents of the higher peaks.

 

Climbing Conditions (Alpine Grades)

There is still a small amount of ice at the higher altitudes but don’t count on winter climbing conditions with the current thaw!

 

Toubkal (if you look closely you can see how thin the ice is at the Afekhoi Cwm  Cascades) today 15-4-14

Toubkal (if you look closely you can see how thin the ice is at the Afekhoi Cwm Cascades) today 15-4-14

There are some great alpine ridges and this would be a great time to get on them. To name a few: SW Ridge of Toubkal West (PD+), SE of Toubkal (D-), West Ridge of Toubkal (D).

 

If the bigger ridge routes of the High Atlas are of interest check out our Alpine Ridges Trip http://www.the-mountain-people.com/alpine-ridges/.

 

Refuge Access

There is good access to the Toubkal refuges with the path being clear of snow and mules being able to pack in equipment and supplies all the way to the refuges! From now through till the autumn expect low-level trekking to be clear of snow i.e. mule support will be ideal for longer treks.

 

Ridge and the summit of Mgoun, 8-4-14

Ridge and the summit of Mgoun, 8-4-14

 

Winter Conditions Summary

To sum up: spring has arrived and a big thaw is on! Snow at the higher altitudes will remain for a while yet especially on the north facing areas. Crampons and ice axes may still be needed for early morning starts, but with the current thaw this may not last into May.

 

For weather forecasts see:

 

 

 

Categories: Blog, Conditions, High Atlas, Ice Climbing, James, Morocco, Mountaineering, Winter
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Toubkal Winter Conditions #20

Latest Toubkal Winter Conditions Report

I headed up on Sunday afternoon to the refuge with a group of 10 from the UK who had booked us for a 10-day logistics package. My main objective was to help settle them for their expedition into the Toubkal region of the High Atlas but I took the opportunity to have a look at the snowpack and what the current winter climbing condition are like.

 

Looking up at the Clocheton Breche, 31-3-14

Looking up at the Clocheton Breche, 31-3-14

 

Do get in touch with us at morocco@the-mountain-people.com if you are interested in our logistics packages for the Toubkal Massif area of the High Atlas!

 

Recent Weather

There was a big fall of snow starting on Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon, which came down as far as Imlil (1,800m) covering the place with about four inches of snow. That snow has now gone with very little evidence of it left in Imlil and altitudes lower than 2,400m. This is due to the warmer weather we had on Sunday and Monday.

 

The weather is predicted to stay colder (freezing level at 2,500m) till Thursday and then things will warm up with the freezing level predicted to hover around the 4,000m mark.

 

Groups heading into the South Cwm of Toubkal, 31-3-14

Groups heading into the south cwm of Toubkal, 31-3-14

 

Snowpack

There is a concrete layer of hard snow that is easily identifiable as it has brown dust mixed into it.  This hard layer has, at higher altitudes, a layer of soft snow on top of it (one finger penetration on the hardness test), which I found to be 10 to 30cm in places around the Toubkal refuge.

 

I also found a one-inch sun crust in places. The softer layer showed poor to moderate bonding to the hard base. There is 17cm or so more snow predicted for Wednesday and then things are warming up after that, so be aware of heavy saturated snowpack sitting on top of a very hard névé base!

 

Another thing I found was patches of wind slab around the refuge which probably formed overnight. With the strong winds predicted, be aware of wind slab build up on NE aspects on Wednesday/Thursday and the build up on SW aspects late Thursday to early Friday.

 

Climbing Conditions (Scottish Grades)

The climbing conditions are pretty good at the moment. The Chockstone route IV on Afella looked good and Curtain Call VII,7 is looking doable. Also, one of the mixed routes on Toubkal West looks like it would go with a bit more ice build up it.

 

Chock Stone IV route on Afella, 30-3-14

Chockstone IV route on Afella, 30-3-14

 

Steep Ice around the Refuge! 30-3-14

Steep ice around the Refuge! 30-3-14

 

The Afekhoi cwm cascades looked again in good condition, as well as the small ice pitches around the Toubkal refuge.

 

Afekhoi cwm cascades, 31-3-14

Afekhoi cwm cascades, 31-3-14

 

With the freezing level predicted to head up to the 4,000m mark, the ice will start to go unless colder temperatures appear!

 

Refuge Access

There is good access to the Toubkal refuges with the path being clear of snow up to about a km short of the refuge. This means that mules are a good option for getting your kit and supplies up. With the snow predicted to fall down to about 2,500m tomorrow, porters may be need for but post Thursday mules again will suffice.

 

Looking back at Ras and Akioud both of which are 4,000m peaks, 31-3-14

Looking back at Ras and Akioud both of which are 4,000m peaks in the area, 31-3-14

Winter Conditions Summary

There is at present good snow cover in the High Atlas but with the warmer conditions predicted we will see a thinning of winter routes and the overall snow cover. The old névé layer of snow will start to soften and thin but will stick around for a while yet especially at the higher altitudes. Again, be aware of poor bonding of wind slab deposits and heavy saturated snow on top of a hard snowpack.

 

I will be out in the Eastern High Atlas guiding in the Mgoun area next week and will give a Toubkal Winter Conditions update when I return that will include conditions out east!

 

Again, keep an eye on the weather with these two websites:

 

Toubkal 31-3-14

Toubkal 31-3-14

Categories: Blog, Conditions, High Atlas, Ice Climbing, James, Morocco, Mountaineering, Winter
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Toubkal Winter Conditions #19

Latest Toubkal  Winter Conditions Report

 

I was out instructing on an intro to rock climbing course yesterday at Oukaimeden for Climb Morocco (for rock climbing trips in the Todra gorge and in the Marrakech region click here) and took a few photos to give an update on the current snow cover on Toubkal and the High Atlas!

 

What perfect weather we had yesterday: clear skies, crisp air, and cool temperatures… which is typical for the High Atlas in the spring!

 

Toubkal (left) and the other 4,000m peaks 21-3-14

Toubkal (left) and the other 4,000m peaks in the Toubkal Massif 21-3-14

Angour (3,616m) this peak offers some great mountaineering on the North Face!

Angour (3,616m) this peak offers some great mountaineering on its north face! The striking point is from the Oukaimeden (2,600m) ski resort area. 21-3-14

 

As mentioned in my previous Toubkal Winter Conditions update I will give a full report at the end of March or beginning of April, as I will be heading up to the Toukbal refuge for a couple of days. See that post for an overall picture of the current winter conditions in the High Atlas here!

Categories: Blog, Conditions, High Atlas, Ice Climbing, James, Morocco, Mountaineering, Winter
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Toubkal Winter Conditions #18

Latest Toubkal  Winter Conditions Report

 

Mohammed on grade IV/V Upper Tier of the Afekhoi Cwm Cascades

Mohammed on grade IV/V pitch – Upper Tier of the Afekhoi Cwm Cascades 14-3-14

 

Toubkal winter conditions have been a bit of a mixed bag this last week with storms, low visibility, sunny spells and snowfall.

 

With a free day yesterday it was a great to get out and have a look at the snowpack and also give my faithful cook Mohammed a bit of a intro to ice climbing. We had a brilliant time working our way up the tiers of short ice pitches in the Afekhoi cwm. Well done Mohammed you are turning into quite the winter climber!

 

 

Photo taken today! 15-3-14

Toubkal – Photo taken today! 15-3-14

Recent weather 

The predicted snow I mentioned in my last update materialised, culminating in a beautiful thunderstorm on Wednesday night. In total there was about 30cm of new snow at the higher elevations and snow fell as low as 2,400m. There is a bit more snow predicted early next week (4 to 6 inches).

 

Snowpack

There is a good amount of new snow above 2,800m. There were some pretty turbulent winds in the middle of the week, which made the new snow fall as graupel. I found deposits of up to 20cm of graupel yesterday in the north-west facing cwm of Afekhoi sitting on top of the old, well consolidated snow (see photo below). Please take care if you come across this graupel deep in the snowpack as it can create very weak bonding between layers and a high avalanche risk.

 

IMG_5750

Hand full of graupel! 14-3-14

IMG_5751

Graupel 14-3-14

 

Also, I found the snowpack pretty saturated where we were climbing yesterday at about 2,900m due to warmer temperatures.  The weather forecast predicts for this next week the freezing level to fluctuate between 2900m to 3350m. So this should aid the overall snowpack in consolidating.

 

Climbing conditions

The Afekhoi cwm cascades have thinned quite a bit with the two week warmer spell at the end of February, but there is still a good amount of climbing available on them. Some people heading down from the Toubkal refuge told me yesterday that there is still ice around the refuge which would indicate that the Chockstone route on Afella and other more northerly facing gullies will be in condition. Of course the new snow will help the overall climbing conditions but I will heading to the refuge at the end of the month with a group and will give a more detailed post on the winter climbing conditions.

 

IMG_5720

Current condition of the upper tier of the Afekhoi cwm 14-3-14

Current condition of the upper tier of the Afekhoi cwm 14-3-14

Current condition of the upper tier of the Afekhoi cwm 14-3-14

 

Refuge Access

At the moment the path from Imlil to the Toubkal refuges is pretty clear of snow. This means mules can carry loads almost to the refuges and approach shoes will do the job.

 

Winter Conditions Summary

The winter conditions for Toubkal and the High Atlas are still good with the overall decent snow cover due to the latest top up at the higher altitudes. There is more snow (4 to 6 inches) predicted Monday and Tuesday and some more in the long-term forecast for Sunday 23 March.  The old snow has provided a good base above 2,800m with a fresh 30cm or so of graupel and powder. The snowpack will consolidate with the more stable weather predicted for the next week, but be aware of weakness and poor bonding between layers especially with the graupel layer.  There are drifts in places up to thigh-level on more northerly aspects. Be aware of the snowpack becoming heavy and saturated below the freezing level and on sun exposed slopes. Again, this with the graupel leads to instabilities and increases the avalanche risk.

 

I will post another full update at the end of March/early April with more on the climbing conditions!

 

Keep an eye on the weather with these two websites:

 

For a good introduction and sound principles for safe travel in winter see this download at the SAIS website!

 

Categories: Blog, Conditions, High Atlas, Ice Climbing, James, Morocco, Mountaineering, Winter
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Bouldering Wall Part 3 – Basics of building your own wall

So in previous blog posts on the office bouldering wall I talked about some of the company values we at The Mountain People hold dear (see Bouldering Wall Part 1 & Bouldering Wall Part 2). I now want to give you some pointers for building your own home training wall.

 

Most of the practical things like design, construction etc. are very well covered in the free Metolius download available here! Using the pdf as your main guide, I want to add a few things for building an adjustable wall like the one we have in the office. There are some very obvious advantages to an adjustable wall, for example, being able to increase and decrease the angle of the wall to accommodate the full spectrum of angles/styles of climbing from overhanging roofs to slab.

 

Below are photos of the needed elements for making a fully adjustable climbing wall that are not covered in the pdf:

 

Element #1 Solid Anchor: You need a solid anchor high up near the ceiling that a rope can slide over with ease. This anchor needs to be bombproof… we used a wooden beam, cut two big holes in the wall, slotted the beam in the holes and filled in around the beam with concrete and filler (rocks). This works well when you have cinder block walls, as we do here in Morocco.  It is advisable to consult a builder to get the anchor in place and get advice on building regulations. Remember the anchor needs to be able to hold both the wall and a climber!

 

Bouldering wall anchor beam

 

 

Element #2 Strong Base: You need a strong base to hold the wall in place. As you can see in the photo below the wall is sitting on a big square beam with two raised ends to hold it in place.

 

Bouldering wall base

 

 

Element #3 Rope Attachment Points to Wall: You will need to attach a rope on both sides near the top corners. We did this by drilling a hole in each top corner of the bouldering wall and inserting the rope through the hole and round the outside frame of the wall using a re-threaded figure of 8. The rope used was a retired 10.5mm dynamic rope.

 

Bouldering wall attachment of rope

 

 

Element # 4 Attachment Points to keep the wall in place: These points are essential for keeping the bottom of the wall down and on the ground. As you can see from the photo the points are about 1/3 of the height of the wall off the ground. If you don’t put these in place the wall can lift off the ground when a climber is on it.

 

Bouldering wall attachment points

 

 

Element #5 Tie-off Points for the Wall: Another thing to figure out is some sort of tie-off point for the end of the rope. We used similar bolts to the above “attachment points” and fixed them into the walls as shown below. These should be a little way back from the bottom of the wall so that, when using the wall with a steep angle, tie-off points are still easily accessible and haven’t disappeared behind the wall due to it coming forward.

 

Bouldering wall tie off points

 

 

Element #6 Safety Line: This is a rope that is tied off with slack so that you can still lower the wall to the angles you want. If the two side ropes that are tied off fail, the wall will not fall beyond the slack in the safety line. It is placed in the middle of the wall drilled around the center stud on the frame of the wall.

 

Bouldering wall safety line

 

Bouldering wall safety line

 

I hope the above is helpful for those wanting a fully adjustable training wall. If you are coming through Imlil for an adventure in the Toubkal region of the High Atlas and want to come by for a bouldering session drop us an email at: morocco@the-mountain-people.com!

 

Peace

Categories: Blog, Bouldering, James, Morocco, Training
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