Category Archives: Mountaineering

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.

 

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Hand full of graupel! 14-3-14

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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.

 

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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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Toubkal Winter Conditions #17

Here is a quick Toubkal Winter Conditions update:

I was out instructing on an introduction to rock climbing course at Oukaimeden for Climb Morocco on Saturday and took some photos of the High Atlas for those of you wanting an idea of the current snow cover. Photos were taken at 2,600m.

 

Summary of current winter conditions

The snowline and cover has been retreating over the last couple of weeks and the remaining snow pack has become very firm. I will be heading out into the mountains later this week and will give a full Toubkal Winter Conditions update at the weekend! Hopefully the weather forecast calling for snow will follow through!

 

Toubkal, other 4,000m peaks and the Tazaghart Plateau

Toubkal, other 4,000m peaks and the Tazaghart Plateau

 

Oukiameden (Ski Resort for the Marrakech region)

Oukaimeden  2,600m (Ski Resort for the Marrakech region)

 

From www.mountain-forecast.com

From www.mountain-forecast.com

 

Categories: Blog, Conditions, High Atlas, Ice Climbing, James, Morocco, Mountaineering, Winter
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Scotland Winter Trip Day 5 & Wrap-up

rachel and sam on stob ban

Rachel and Sam enjoying the North Ridge of Stob Bàn

 

Our annual Scotland Winter Community Event is now over for 2014, but we had a satisfying day out on the west coast in the Mamores. This was the fifth and last day of the trip, the aims of which have been to build relationships and have adventurous experiences, and we feel we have certainly met those objectives.

 

As the week progressed, and tiredness set in, we wanted a shorter day with some variety away from the Northern Corries. We felt that the North Ridge of Stob Bàn would fit the bill and offset the longer drive with a shorter day. This was the plan, at least, but the weather forecast did not live up to expectations and an accident on the A86 meant that it was the longest day of the week!

 

We steadily ascended the North Ridge, which was deeply covered in unconsolidated snow, although our progress was good. The difficulties increased towards the top of the ridge, at which point there were some mild expletives from one of the group – apparently Nick had not quite been transparent in his description of the day, which had swayed the particular member for one last blast! Nevertheless, the group enjoyed the exposure, which was short-lived.

 

Overall, it has been an excellent week. All have enjoyed the comforts and surroundings of a lovely, modern Scottish lodge, which have facilitated a great atmosphere. There have been many opportunities to catch up with old friends and get to know new acquaintances. And, of course, the hills have never disappointed, although the forecast has kept us on our toes and emphasised the need to be flexible.

 

We have pencilled in next year’s dates for Sunday 15 to Saturday 21 February, so if you have enjoyed reading about our exploits and the photos, do get in touch to be part of the community.

 

enjoying-the-views-on-stob-ban

Enjoying the views on Stob Bàn

 

at-the-end-of-the-difficulties-on-stob-ban

Marc, Sam and Rachel enjoying the scrambling on Stob Bàn

 

approaching-the-difficulties-on-stob-ban

James keeps a beady eye on the group

 

the-team-at-our-lodge

The team in our lovely lodge for the week

Categories: Blog, Community, Mountaineering, Scotland, Simon, Winter
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