Chilling out in the sun after a few pitch up some rock near the refuge! 22-12-16

Latest Toubkal Winter Conditions Report

Right before the Christmas break I was out with Patrick for five days of winter mountaineering and climbing. The conditions looked set to be pretty good since there had been some stable weather for a few weeks and the snowpack looked consolidated – but the weekend before the trip started some serious snow came in… 30cm plus! We managed to get some winter climbing in around the hut, but as the week progressed we found more and more weaknesses in the snowpack along with a couple of days of warm weather.  Patrick, on his last day, made quick work of Toubkal up the South Col route… well done!



Snowpack and Snow Cover

There is great snow cover in the High Atlas Mountains. There were lots of signs of slab avalanches on N to NE slopes. We saw crowns around the Akioud and Afella area. On more northerly slopes in shallow pack we found cup and faceted crystals around 30cm deep due to the cold conditions.


Akioud and a crown on the right where a slab released sometime over the weekend (20-12-16)


Another crown on a more easterly slope on Afella (20-12-16)


There were a few days of warming on Wednesday and Thursday, but the colder conditions seem to be persisting, so the snowpack will take longer to consolidate. Do take care on more northerly (NE, N and NW) aspect slopes as they will have remained cold and therefore dry snow metamorphism will need plenty of time to firm up and recreate a stable snowpack. The big gully lines up to the Tadat and Clocheton cols looked pretty loaded. There are serious weak layers in the snowpack, so make sure to be diligent by checking the snowpack, following the weather and avoiding loaded slopes!


Clocheton gully loaded (23-12-16)

Tizi Ouagane looking heavy laden! (22-12-16)


Start of the South Col route up Toubkal (22-12-16)

Climbing Conditions  

We couldn’t get to Chockstone Gully as we found the top section of the approach slope too dodgy to climb, but when conditions get better the lower section of the route is in condition. Routes on Afella, Ras and Toubkal West all need more time as they are heavy laden after the recent snow and need time to firm up on the snow sections. The ice all looked to be in condition… just needs more time and for the rest of the routes to firm up. The Afekhoi cascades look good, but do take care on the approach slopes!


Toubkal West / Tete Ouanoums (22-12-16)


Afella with ice looking good but more time needed for the gully snow to firm up (20-12-16)


Refuge Access

Porters are essential for getting supplies and extra gear up to the refuge as the track has snow on it. Mules can get as far as Sidi Cham (2,350m), but not all the way to the refuge. Do make sure to pay your porters and muleteers properly and keep to 80kg for a mule load and 20 to 25kgs for a porter!


Winter Conditions Summary

The snowpack has some serious weak layers within the first 30cm and even down to a metre in deeper sections. Do take care and avoid more northerly aspect slopes (E, NE, N, NW) and continue to monitor the weather. It looks like colder conditions are set for this week which will mean snowpack instabilities will remain. The winter climbing is looking like it will become very good when more favorable weather conditions help firm up snow slopes and gully lines, and the ice sections on Toubkal West, Afella and Ras all are coming into condition, but more time is needed for the whole routes to come into condition.


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!


James, Full-time guide/instructor for TMP

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.


Patrick getting his swing dialled 🙂


Categories: Blog, Climbing Information, Conditions, High Atlas, Ice Climbing, James, Morocco, Mountain Information, Mountaineering, Winter
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