I reach up and my fingers feel around for the next hold. There it is, a small but super sharp edge. Foot up, rock over, stand up. I look down to see the rope stretching lazily down to my last piece of gear, several feet away. Confident in the positive holds I don’t even think of falling. I look around and spy a crack, fumble in a cam, and clip the rope in. All around it is silent, save for my own breathing. I’m lost in the moment, focussed on the rock, totally immersed in the climbing.
It is just after Easter, and Pippa and I are in the Anti-Atlas mountains in Morocco, rock climbing. We came out before in Dec 2014, see my previous blog post. The start of that trip coincided with some of the worst rain they’d had for several years. Bridges and roads were washed out, and when it stopped raining it was cold enough to be seeking out all the south-facing crags. Still it was a fantastic experience, and now we are back in April, it is warmer, and north-facing crags and sun-baked dirt roads have opened up many more possibilities.
Today we’ve gone for one such opportunity. 20 minutes driving up hairpins on “good” roads (albeit where sections were washed out a year ago), then one hour driving down the Samazar Valley on a rocky track, mostly in first gear, trying not to scratch the sides of the rental car on bushes, or the underside on rocks (I failed a bit on both, but we get away without losing any deposit…). We are on a route called “Firesword” (what a name!). Most likely we are the only climbers in the whole valley, which contains acres of rock, 100s of recorded routes, and 1000s more awaiting a first ascent. This is not Stanage on a Saturday morning. This is adventure trad climbing at its best.
I get to the belay, a roomy ledge, secure myself, call down to Pippa, and soon she has climbed up to join me. Then she is off to experience the pitch above, whilst I sit back on the ledge, paying out the rope as the sun creeps round the side of the mountain with a pleasant warmth. The only sounds are a donkey braying on the terraces below, a truck struggling along the dirt track in the distance, and the occasional grunt from Pippa as she wrestles with an off-width crack above.
Some time later we are at the top, agreeing how excellent the climbing was, as we drink in the panorama of the valley, and point at neighbouring crags we might climb on one day. Is there time for another route today? Yes if we are quick, so we make the easy descent off the back of the crag, and race up the four pitches of neighbouring “Sisters of Mercy”, an ominous sounding name, but entirely pleasant climbing on immaculate rock.
Later in the evening we are back at the excellent Tizourgane Kasbah where we are staying. Superbly located in a restored 13thcentury fort. We find the other groups that are also climbing in the area, to swap our stories from the day over dinner (usually a vast tagine of food), and plan new adventures for the next day. Then repeat the experience every day for a week, tucked away from the distractions of modern life, just enjoying the climbing.