Morocco was a great trip. I loved the country and I loved the climbing.
Alex (Honnold) and myself left Bristol in the rain, flew to Marrakesh, stayed there a night then took the train North to the valley of Akchour. We were originally going to go straight to Taghia and stay there, but we heard rumours of multipitch tufas near the med and thought we should check it out.
The valley of Akchour is beautiful, much greener than the rest of Morocco. The climbing is pretty cool, but has very ‘fresh’/'new’ feeling, in other words it can be loose, chossy and crozzly. But given a few more years of traffic it could be a really cool place. We stayed at a little climber’s café come guest house called Café Rueda, where you can find topos and information about the climbing. We did two longer routes and finished some open projects at a little sport crag.
Of the longer routes, Timbuktoo 7c+/8a was the most interesting. It starts with big dripping tufa climbing and goes into cleaner less steep rock higher up. We also simul climbed Africa a 7a+. Even though it was dubbed the classic of the crag, we thought it was pretty average. What was most interesting was trying to climb with a lot of rope drag, which for some reason – I’m notoriously bad at and do my best to avoid, but since Alex is all about going fast and light and efficient, refusing to simul climbing anything below 7a+ was ‘out of the question’. Over the time we were in Morocco I think I improved a little at leading with rope drag and managing the rope whilst seconding, but I still have an aversion to it. Despite disliking rope drag, I must admit that its a nice feeling to have done 3 or 4 pitches without stopping.
It was nice to travel in a non-western country, and it’s something I haven’t done in a while. My memories of doing this have always been that although its interesting to travel in different places, sometimes it feels as though the people are only interested in you for your money. I loved traveling in India and found the people friendly, but I also felt as though they were trying to rip me off, or perhaps pick something out of my pocket. After leaving Marrakesh, I didn’t really have this feeling of unease in Morocco. We left our rooms unlocked the whole time and never once worried about our things getting stolen.
We hitched to the little sport crag and much to our surprise, were picked up as soon as we put our thumbs out. One time a local family picked us up in their small truck and I sat with bare arms, next to an old Muslim lady with full head scarf. But instead of treating me with disdain, she started pointing at my arms and laughing so hard I thought she was going to wet herself. Anyway, I thought it was pretty cool that she found the idea of me going to hell when I die that funny.
Although we enjoyed climbing in Akchour, thoughts of Taghia pulled us away. We were lucky to meet a nice French girl, Lisse who had driven her van from France, and was driving south to Taghia. Not only were we getting a ride straight to our next destination, but being in her van meant we got to sample more of the country on the way down.