Multi-pitch sport climbing in Morocco

29 November, 2012
Fat Guides Topo

Mike 'Twid' Turner together with Dave Gladwin and Matt Dickinson have added an eight pitch 300 metre sport route, Fat Guides (7b+), to the big limestone walls of Taghia, in Morocco. Twid said: " We spent a week putting up the route and it's a great line on a stunning wall. Every pitch was really good climbing. For a repeat you'll only need to take 15 quickdraws."

Here's Twid's account of Fat Guides with some background info to Taghia:

Taghia is a hidden jewel in the heart of the Atlas Mountains. Over the last 40 years this Shangri-La location has become one of the premier climbing destinations for multi-pitch sports routes. A few climbers visited the area in the 1960s/70s, but it's only with the recent rapid development of the canyon walls by some of the world’s top climbers, that the cliffs have begun to attract a great deal of attention. The excellent recent guidebook by Christian Ravier has added to its popularity but thankfully without affecting the charm of this beautiful area.

The remote village of Taghia lies buried in the Berber lands east of Marrakesh. It is accessed via a long 4×4 journey and then a two-and-a-half hour walk with mules. There is no power or mobile signal, no cars and pretty much no easy routes. But there is endless good quality limestone, miles of walls 400 - 900 metres high, charming Berber Gites to stay in, exciting ancient paths and some of the best multi-pitch sports routes in the world.

I was originally told about the place by Michel Gallegos, the Spanish big wall climber famed for starting Boreal. The hand drawn map on the back of a cigarette packet sat on my mantlepiece for many years. It wasn’t until I saw an inspiring article by Michel Piola that my interest was rekindled. I quickly organised a crew of British climbers to visit the area for a quick hit prior to my daughter’s birth - so no pressure there! Myself and Steve Mayers made the first British ascent of the 16 pitch Les Rivieres Pourpres (7b+), Canyon Apache (6c+) and the incredible Axe de Mal (7c). All three were possibly the best sports climbs we had ever done and I don’t say this lightly.

The spark was fired to return and make a first ascent of my own. 
On my most recent and fourth trip to Taghia I was accompanied by two good friends, Dave Gladwin and Matt Dickinson. Loaded down by extra ropes, a cordless drill, three heavy batteries and 120 bolts, 120 Mars bars, 12 dried sausages and lots of enthusiasm, our chosen mission was to put up a new route on one of the walls of Taghia. It was a bit late in the year but the heavy snow didn’t dampen our spirits.

Fat Guides Taghia

At times it felt like climbing in an Alaskan storm and perhaps we were not quite as well equipped as we should have been. But it’s hard to predict what the weather can be like - the temperature can vary from baking heat to freezing cold with strong winds. The best times to visit are late April - May and Sept - early Nov.

After a couple of days of rigging and checking out various potential new lines (endless), we decided on a popular area (La Source) relatively close to the village. The line chosen was up the clean steep wall left of the Taghia classic, Zebda (7b+), going directly to the top of the wall with the difficulties easing after 250 metres. It took a few days of cleaning and equipping the route before we had all our bolts in place. This was, as in character with the area, a fully equipped sports route. A rack of 15 quick draws is all you'll need to repeat Fat Guides.

All the pitches (7b+, 6c+, 6c, 7a+, 7b, 6c, 7b, 5+) were freed in freezing temperatures with little feeling in our fingers and toes - perfect training for the UK summer! Each pitch was of the highest quality and the rock was immaculate. Certainly one of the finest sports routes any of us had climbed. Its close proximity to the village will certainly make it a popular climb.
 What strikes you about Taghia is the raw beauty of the valley, the friendliness and openness of the locals. Life is very basic and it's a hard living in the High Atlas. The Taghia people welcome everyone with open arms and everybody leaves with fond memories and new friends. On our final evening we were invited to attend a traditional wedding. The party engulfed all the village folk and the atmosphere was incredible. We will return again inshallah.