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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