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Toubkal Winter Conditions #1 – Nov 2015

Latest Toubkal Winter Conditions Report – November 30, 2015

Well winter is finally upon us, but the white stuff seems to be taking its time to arrive for the 2015/2016 winter season! We will now be starting our regular winter conditions updates, so watch this spot for up-to-date winter mountaineering and climbing information for Toubkal and the High Atlas!


Today, I headed up to the Toubkal refuges to have a look around to get a feel for the general winter conditions. A few weeks back we had a good drop of snow which has retreated to around the 3500 to 3700m mark. The snow has been going through freeze/thaw cycles ever since and has consolidated into hard neve! Great for mountaineering although due to the snowline being so high you will have to go through some of the scree slopes to get to it!




Ras, Akoide in great condition! 30-11-15


Snowpack and Snow Cover

Snow cover varies from 3500 to 3700m depending on how exposed it is to the sun! As mentioned the snowpack is well consolidated and great for quick travel with the aid of crampons!




Neve hiding from the sun! 30-11-15


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Taken from on 30-11-12


Climbing Conditions

We need some more snow to top up all the major gully lines! The Afekhoi cascades look to have a few doable pitch but very thin. Chockstone Gully looks like it goes as well as Curtain Call (the ice smear on the left). The other lines on some of the other peaks such as Toubkal West and Afella aren’t in conditions, but the main couloir on Ras looks good as well as some of the other lines on the face! The freezing level is predicted to fluctuate between 3650 to 3900m with a colder day Wednesday (down to 3,330m) which means the lines that are in will stay in. There is a dusting of snow due to come in on Tuesday night which hopefully top things up!




Afekhoi Cascades 30-11-15



Chockstone Gully and Curtain Call 30-11-15



Afella 30-11-15


Refuge Access

Mules are able to get as far as the refuge which means no porters are needed currently! Do make sure that you hire muleteers that don’t overload their mules. You are looking to go no more than 80kg per mule!




Toubkal ridgeline from the south col 30-11-15



Tizi Ouagane 30-11-15


Winter Conditions Summary

The snowpack is good solid neve and well consolidated but the snowline is pretty high at the moment, around the 3500 to 3700m mark. Crampons and ice axe are need for these higher areas on routes. Due to the snow being well consolidated the avalanche risk is low (but continue to monitor the weather forecast as a big dump would changes things!). The mountaineering routes (ridges and major gullies) are in good condition and a few of the ice routes look to be in, but most of the ice and mixed climbing needs a lot more snow to get good!



James: full-time instructor/guide for TMP

For a personalised trekking, guiding or instruction service and/or logistics for Toubkal and the High Atlas, get in touch with us here at The Mountain People!


Disclaimer: as a mountaineering instructor I have had avalanche risk assessment training and have a good level of experience but am by no means a professional avalanche forecaster. These reports aim to give you a general idea of the winter conditions for a few days ahead and the risks involved but please be diligent in checking weather forecasts yourself and monitoring the conditions when you are out in the High Atlas.



Categories: Blog, Climbing Information, Conditions, High Atlas, Ice Climbing, James, Mountain Information, Mountaineering, Winter
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Love a good story – Dirtbag Diaries Podcast

Have you even been drawn in by a good book? You know the feeling… you can’t put it down and before you know it hours have gone by because you have been sucked into some riveting story. What about an heart pumping film… where everything else in life falls away and you seem to be apart of the plot flashing before your eyes. And then have you every been drawn in by a story on the radio or someone in person spinning a great tale around a campfire?


Well, if a good story gets you going then we suggest you check out: The Dirtbag Diaries Podcast in itunes or visit their website The Dirtbag Diaries! The stories are sent in by recreationalist, mountain guides, professional climbers, and of course those living the dirtbag lifestyle (i.e. living in a van down by the river:-).


If you are wondering where to start episode wise, here are a few of our favorites:


Dirt Bag Diaries

This episode is about an avalanche forecaster who finds himself in a serious pickle.  Anyone who works in winter will be able to identify with the story that unfolds!














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In this episode climbing legend and Frank Sander’s shares his journey as a climber, b&b owner and guide of the Devil’s Tower. And Tommy Caldwell reflects on the Dawn Wall, life and the changes that have overwhelmed him since his the project went viral.











Categories: Blog, Community, culture, James, podcast
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Top Guidebooks for Mountaineering, Climbing & Bouldering in Morocco

The Essentials Guidebooks for Morocco!


Good guidebooks are an essential piece of gear for the climber and mountaineer. Ideally, a solid guidebook will have great concise route descriptions, clean photos with routes clearly marked, a bit of beta on protection, and the necessary information for approaches and descents. Good information on local accommodation, transport, supplies etc. are some of the other elements that make up a good guidebook.


Below are guidebooks we recommend for your mountaineering, climbing and bouldering adventures in Morocco.


Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 12.35.58 PMFor a comprehensive mountaineering guidebook for the High Atlas Mountains we suggest getting Des Clark’s Mountaineering in the Moroccan High Atlas – Walks, Climbs and Scrambles over 3,000m. Des, our senior guide, has lived in Morocco and guided all over the High Atlas Mountains. In this guidebook he brings together his local knowledge and his many years of experience as a guide to give you a great resource for your adventures in the High Atlas.









Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.50.27 AMFor a guide to more technical rock and ice routes in the Toubkal Massif we recommend Toubkal Guia de Ascensiones y Escaladas by David Taura Riera. While not everyone will be able to understand the text in Spanish, the book is worth it just for the topos of the routes. It does also give you good beta on the technical equipment you will need for your chosen route. Be sure to google translate the equipment list to ensure you have the right kit for your trip.








Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.47.33 AMMoving on to pure rock climbing guides, we would recommend the two volume set for the Anti-Atlas mountains: Tafraout – Rock Climbing in Morocco’s Anti-Atlas. These two books contain a life time’s worth of trad climbing and give excellent information for your trip logistics. There are now also mini-pocket guides of the best areas, giving you the top starred routes, and they are also conveniently small enough to shove in a jacket pocket.


For more information on the guides and the Anti-Atlas check out




Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.44.09 AMNow we come to one of my favourite places in Morocco: the big wall limestone area known as Taghia! This gorge has earned a top spot in the international climbing scene with climbers such as Alex Honnald and Arnaud Petit making repeated trips.


For this area we would recommend getting the guide Taghia Montagnes Berberes by Christian Ravier. This book is written in French but again the topos of the routes make it well worth its price. You can also find hand-drawn topos of other routes not included in this guide in the local gites in Taghia, so be sure to have a good look around. The Taghia area primarily offers sport climbing with many well-equipped routes. However, it is worth bringing a set of micro and standard cams and a set of nuts to pad out protection and belay stances for the less well-equipped routes.


For a great article in English for logistics help check out:



Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.56.44 AMWhat about a bouldering guide for Morocco? 2015 saw the launch of the excellent digital guidebook for low to mid level bouldering for the amazing Oukaimeden area of the High Atlas. This guidebook app is available for both android and iphones. All the routes have a topo, grade and GPS co-ordinates so all you need for locating and selecting your route is your phone! We like this guide for its features such as grade selection: choose a practical grade and the slick filtering system will bring up all routes in the area you are in. The guide is published by Rakkup and put together by Imik’sImik Bouldering and Climb Morocco.







Categories: Alpine Climbing, Anti-Atlas, Blog, Climbing Information, Guidebook(s), High Atlas, James, Morocco, Mountaineering
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The High Atlas – a linguistic guide

Life in Morocco is a linguistic feast.


In our small village in the Imlil valley, we’ll quite often have what we call ‘a four language day’ which, apart from leaving us mentally exhausted, also feels like an event to be savoured and celebrated.


When you pass through Imlil in the High Atlas – on your way to summit Toubkal, or to scale some amazing ice falls, or maybe just to enjoy the deep, calm green of the valley – you’ll more than likely overhear the regional dialect of Berber (Tashelhayt), the Moroccan dialect of Arabic, alongside the widely spoken French. For us on the days mentioned above, the fourth language is, thankfully, one we actually speak well – English.


But have you ever wondered at the meanings of the names of some of those places you pass through? Or of the mountains you’ve come to summit? Or of the villages with their rock-red houses clinging to the steep sides of the valleys?


If so, then here is a brief linguistic guide to the High Atlas just for you:


The name of our cluster of villages, Imlil, comes quite simply from the Tashelhayt verb ‘to be white’.



M’zzik, one of the villages in Imlil


Toubkal itself is an Arabic word and it’s often coupled with Jbel which means ‘mountain’ in the dialectal Arabic here. In Tashelhayt, the name for the whole Toukbal mountain range is Adrar n’Dern – ‘mountain of the mountains’ and also refers to a particular summit.







What about the other 4000m peaks?

Timzguida means ‘mosque’ in Tashelhayt.

Ras is the dialect Arabic word for head.

Akioud seems to have varying meanings – it can simply mean the summit of a mountain or, more interestingly, ‘a tuft of hair left on the back of shaved head’.


Afella – top, rooftop, upstairs, terrace. That’s why you feel like you’re on top of the world when you summit J

Biginoussene, Ouanakrim and Immouzer are still eluding me – feel free to let me know if you’ve discovered their meaning!


Smaller mountains

Aguelzim is a pickaxe – the mountain is a similar shape to the angular tools they use here for breaking up the ground.

Angour is not a word to throw around too much in polite company here – it means ‘buttock’.


Anywhere starting with ‘Tizi’ signifies a col or mountain pass. And a village starting with ‘Ait’ means that that particular tribe or family first settled that place. ‘Ait Bougamez’ for example is where the Bougamez tribe settled and still live. A place name might also start with Imi – meaning ‘mouth’ or ‘doorway’. Imi-n-wassif literally means the mouth of the river. Azrou means ‘rock’.



In the Ait Bougamez area

Tafraout is a pool of water, a mini reservoir, not just an amazing climbing venue – we have one just up the hill from us here. Taghia can mean a ‘slipknot’.


Interested in finding out more? Leave a comment and we’ll do our best to discover the meanings of more place names you might come across on your travels here!


Disclaimer: each region – sometimes each valley or each village – has its own particular set of vocabulary and so you may well hear other meanings to some of the words listed above!

Categories: Blog, culture, High Atlas, lauguage, Morocco


The 4 Rs…

Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle…. The 4 Rs are a great guideline for lowering our impact on the planet and cherishing its limited resources! These verbs are not always the easiest to practise in our personal and corporate lives. We as a global community clearly still have a long way to go.

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One R that is often hard to practise is Repair. So many of the products that are made today are built in such a way to break and fail. The term for this is called “planned obsolescence.” For more information about this, watch this short film by The Story of Stuff! It is a pretty crazy that we have come to the point that most of what we build is meant to fail and break. Surely we should be aiming to build things to last!



Anyway, I want to highlight a company that has been moving in the opposite direction for years: the clothing company Patagonia. These guys make both technical and casual apparel and if you have been on a trip with me you will have noticed that most of my mountain clothing is from Patagonia. After reading their book ‘The Responsible Company’, I was pretty inspired by their ethics and their openness about their journey as a company, seeking to be both environmentally and socially responsible – something that all companies should be aiming for, especially in light of the current climate crisis.


One of the decisions I made after reading the book was to slowly replace kit as it wears out and to replace it, if at all possible, with Patagonia kit, often through sales or by buying second hand gear. Not much of a sacrifice if you are patient, like their colour schemes and designs, not to mention their commitment to build durable, long-lasting kit. Over the last few years they have been publishing the Worn Wear Stories which people have sent in about their gear, their adventures using it, and the repairs made to the gear.


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So here is my first story:



As you know, we do a lot of winter mountaineering trips in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco and being a qualified Mountaineering Instructor, I have also spent loads of time in Scotland in the winter. Since about 2009 I have been using the ultra classic R1 hoodie. I put it on around December time and it stays on until around April depending on the winter season’s length. This hoodie rocks whatever version you have of it.


Of course, due to how much I wear it, the hoodie finally needed some repair: the main zip on the chest pocket started to separate from the rest of the garment and I couldn’t fix it myself. I’m currently visiting family in California so I was able to send the hoodie to Patagonia’s repair centre in Reno (you can also repair kit in Europe). I got it back about a week later as good as new and ready for the upcoming winter season! Once again, I am incredibly impressed with Patagonia and the way in which they make the mountaineering world a little bit more sustainable and ethical.


Let’s hope that more companies look to bring this type of ethic and practice back!





Me happy after getting back my repaired R1 hoodie!


Three practises that you can count on from Patagonia – check out there website!

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Categories: Blog, James, Responsibility
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