Latest Toubkal Winter Conditions Report

 

I headed up yesterday to the refuge after waiting for the turbulent weather of the weekend to subside – high winds and snow higher up and rain/flooding in Imlil. About three quarters of the way to the refuge around the 2,800m I ran across small sections of loose snow avalanche debris. And on my return journey from the refuge at the end of the day I saw further avalanche evidence – wet snow this time due to the warmer temperatures around the 2,500m mark.

 

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Loose snow avalanches 24-11-14

 

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Wet snow avalanche 24-11-14

 

Winter Conditions Summary

There is good snow cover on Toubkal and in the High Atlas after the big deposits of snow over the weekend especially on NW slope aspects. There are small graupel layers in the snowpack overlaid with decamping or rounded layers which has led to weaknesses in the snowpack and fairly easy shearing after doing multiple hand shear tests. With the warming today the freezing level is predicted to rise to around 3,700m. The graupel layer could become lubricated and producing a even weaker bond between layers.

 

As the week progresses with the arrival of colder temperatures, the snowpack should become better bonded, but with the heavy fall of snow predicted with NW winds for Thursday through to till Friday morning there will be a higher level of avalanche risk especially on slopes on of SE aspect.

 

Please note that avalanche risk rises with bigger deposits of snow especially in the first 24 to 48 hours of the snowfall.

 

Weather Forecast Nov 25th

More snow on its way! Forecast taken from: http://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Toubkal/forecasts/4167

 

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Start of the North Col route up Toubkal 24-11-14

 

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The traverse into south cwm on the South Col route up Toubkal 24-11-14

 

I will post another Toubkal Winter Condition Report next week.

 

Refuge Access

Access to the refuge is fine but mules will only get you to about 150m above Sidi Chamharouch and from there you will need porters to pack in equipment and supplies.

 

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Peaks: Ras, Akioud, and Afella covered in snow from the weekend:-) 24-11-14

 

If you are looking for a guiding/instruction or logistics for Toubkal and the High Atlas the see our website for our trips and packages or contact us directly at morocco@the-mountain-people.com.

 

For more in depth on the recent weather, snowpack, and climbing conditions see below:

 

Recent Weather

There were some SE strong winds reaching gale force on Friday and Saturday with things calming down by Sunday. Huge amounts of rain (lower levels) and snow also fell (down to 2,350m mark). Yesterday there was patchy rain and snow.

 

Snow Cover & Snowpack

The snow cover is great in the High Atlas with the big deposits over the weekend. You can see from the photos below how much snow is about with many of the buttress plastered with rime and snow. You can also see this mini cornice that formed near the refuge with the strong the SE winds were over the weekend (see photo).

 

 

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Mini cornice near Toubkal refuges 24-11-14

 

I dug a number of snow pits around the refuge (approx. 3,300m on a NE aspect slope, 30 degree slope) and consistently found weak graupel layers buried in the snowpack with either decomposing or rounded grains overlaying the graupel layers. The snowpack is starting to bond (via sintering) but I found that on doing multiple hand shear test that layers resting on top of graupel sheared pretty easy. Please note that there are considerable weaknesses in the current snowpack and upon warming (happening today, Tuesday, and early tomorrow) the graupel layers could become ball bearings for the above layers to run on, which can lead to avalanche. Please be on the lookout over the next couple of days as it is warmer for sunwheels and the snow pack becoming heavier.

 

Other findings from snowpack test for the pit at 3,300m NE aspect, 30 degree slope:

  • Wetness test: Very dry snow either unable to make a snow ball or just made one (1 and 2 on the scale out of 5).
  • Hardness test: bigger deposits of one finger penetration (3 on scale) and smaller layers of pencil (4 on scale).

 

For further explanation on these tests check out: http://culter.colorado.edu/~kittel/WEcol_Handouts/SnowPit_Protocol.pdf

 

 

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Snowpit – top 50cm sheared pretty easy because of the small graupel layer 24-11-14

 

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Some of the graupel layer where the shear occured 24-11-14

 

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Hasty pit (on the same slope) where the top 30cm sheared easily due to again graupel layer 24-11-14

 

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Graupel from shear at the hasty pit 24-11-14

 

With the freezing level dropping on Wednesday onwards the snowpack should firm up and become moderately to well-bonded, but with more significant snow predicted later in the week there is bound to be a higher avalanche risk with the bigger deposits.

 

Climbing Conditions

The upcoming freeze/thaw conditions today should help to bring more of the ice into condition. The Curtain Call and Chokestone Gully above the refuge have grown a bit more and there is now a good amount of snow to feed the routes. With the lower cascades there is a good freeze/thaw predicted over Thursday and Friday at around their height, which should help it come into condition in the next week. Here is a photo of them being plastered from the weekend.

 

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South West Ridge of Toubkal West looking very wintery! 24-11-14

 

So to summarise the climbing conditions: With the warmer freeze/thaw conditions around the 3,700m mark ice routes should start to fatten. The lower cascades should come into good condition with the freeze/thaw at their level over Thursday and Friday.

 

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Curtain Call (left) Chokestone Gully (right) coming into condition! 24-11-14

 

For a Logistics Only Package please get in touch with us! Let us sort all the non-climbing and mountaineering aspects to your trip, so that you can focus on enjoying the culture and peaks and routes of the High Atlas.

 

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Afekhoi (NW Cwm) icefalls en route to the Toubkal refuge 24-11-14

 

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

2 Responses to Toubkal Winter Conditions #3 – Nov 2014

  1. Lee says:
    25 November 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Hi, great article. Would like a bit of advice if possible…

    I am looking at going for a week in mid-December. How much would temps generally change/drop between now and then? I climb in Scarpa Manta Pro’s in Scotland and wonder if these would be warm enough for this? Also how big of a down jacket would I need for evenings, what do you generally use?

    Thanks,
    Lee

    • james says:
      25 November 2014 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      Hi Lee thanks for your questions! Temps will be pretty similar to what they are now, maybe a bit colder. Boots: it really depends on if you are out and there is significant windchill then you might find your feet getting cold. If in doubt go for a warmer boot. I imagine that you would be fine as you been out in winter in Scotland in your boots. Down Jacket: again if there is a good windchill then you will want a parka style down jacket. A nice thing is that for the evenings both of the refuges have good warm common rooms which are heated with their wood burning stoves!

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