The Jebel El Kest group is a fascinating and wild climbing area with a complex orography, which is divided into two main areas, the Jebel el Kest North Side, which is located to the North of the Jebel El Kest, the main summit, and the Jebel el Kest South Side to the South. The Afantinzar Valley, a beautiful high valley SW to the village of Idaougnidif at the Northern end of the massif, is one of the best known climbing sector. The climbing area begins at Ighir, a small village located on the Afantinzar road just beyond the important signposted junction with the major road to Agouenz and extends from Ighir to the Afantinzar high col. Here the road starts to drop down into the Tagzene climbing area. This latter is not an extensive climbing area, however it counts some very worthwhile cliffs, amongst which the Babouche Buttress, a friendly accessible and sunny crag situated just to the West of the Afantinzar high col. The buttress is imposing and about 200 meters high.
Several international flights run to Marrakech and Agadir. The best choice is hire a car (in the Airports there are many Car Hire Agencies).
- From Marrakech the road to Tafraoute involves a trip of 400 Kms and takes nowadays about 5 hours via the new Motor-way connecting Marrakech to Agadir, then following a busy road via Inezgane (near Agadir), Biougra and Ait Baha; alternatively you can follow the road via Asni, through the High Atlas range, a trip along a narrow mountain road inside a charming and scenic landscape, and Taroudant (it takes at least 7-8 hours).
- From Agadir the travel is shorter (you can drive to Tafraoute in 2 hours on a 170 kms good road), but the flights’choice is more restricted.
Road access to the Babouche Buttress
From the village of Ida Ougnidif on the North side of the Jebel el Kest massif take the road rising with several bends to enter the Afantinzar Valley. At the junction in the village of Ighir take the main left concrete road road leading to the Ksar Rock. Continue driving on this road reaching the Afantinzar high col, from which the road drops down onto another valley.
Babouche Buttress – Crazy Mushrooms Ridge (British scale)
Summit altitude: m 1500
Difficulty: HVS, 5b (British alphanumerical scale)
Equipment: none, the conformation of quartzite allows conveniently to put down protections along the pitches and on the stops
Route length: 190 m
First ascent: Alberto Rampini and Silvia Mazzani 2011, October 25th
Starting point: Afantinzar road after Afantinzar High col
A superb route on perfect rock, not to be missed! Solitary situation, but quick approach and descent.
Walking approach - After the high col along the Afantinzar road the road continues westwards dropping down into another valley. Find a pull-out at a bend along the road just below the pass. The approach is quite obvious; from the parking follow the steep slopes descending towards the buttress. 0,15 minutes.
Route report L1 - Climb a little slab leading towards right on the ridge and follow it to a good terrace with a big block. Belay on a hole. 4a, 30 mt. L2 - Straightly up climb the magnificent orange and overhanging edge, continuous but with good holds. Hanging belay on a very good pinnacle. 5b, 25 mt. L3 - Climb a thin groove on the right of the edge, then return left and climb a fine orange wall leading to a good stance. Belay on a hole. 4c, 25 mt. L4 - Up along the magnificent ridge to the summit of the pillar. Belay on the top. 4a, 32 mt. L5 - Descend 3 mt. to the saddle between the pillar and the main wall, then climb straightly the intimidating yellow wall in the middle, heading to a characteristic winding crack. Climb it, then another cracks’ system on the left and finally rise along an extraordinary carved ridge with big rocky mushrooms, reaching a large terrace. 4b, 40 mt. L6 - A short wall on the left leads to an easy ridge. Follow it. 4a, then easier ground, 47 mt. Scramble up easily to the double summit.
Descent - an easy walk in the East direction leads to the road near the Afantinzar Col (15 minutes)
Double ropes, a complete set of friends and nuts, quickdraws and slings, helmet and usual belay devices
- Cousin Mark E1, 5c 150 m
- Spring Offensive VS, 4c 140 m
- Business Time VD 130 m
Climbing doesn’t suffer official and established restrictions, but however climbers are urged to respect the ethics of the pioneers, in order to preserve in the area the original adventurous trad climbing. In all the quartzite routes to date, no bolts and a few pitons have been fixed or used. In fact, the quarzite provides ideal cracks to place friends and nuts.
The landscape is marked by the shape of the Argan trees, producing plenty of berries, which precious oil finds a large use in cooking and beauty culture, and by the palms in the oasis. We can find some other spiky vegetation as cactus, prickly pears and the beautiful but unpleasant Euphorbia everywhere along the approach tracks and on many climbing routes.
The Euphorbia is growing mainly on the slopes and on the steep walls facing South and it must be avoided because of its irritant white milk. The area counts many species of mammals, like gazelles, antelopes, wild boars , the native grey squirrels named "sib-sib", and many kind of birds. Various kind of poisonous snakes and scorpions have been reported, but it’s rare to meet them during late fall and winter months.
The best seasons to climb are Fall and Spring, till April, when the weather is mainly fine and the temperature is pleasant. Late in the spring and in summer the temperature rises up dramaticaly, and climbing is virtually impossibile. Winter (December to February) is traditionally the wet season and rain, cold and even snow, on the highest peaks, sometimes may be a problem. Nevertheless, you can find often pleasant temperature also in winter during the day, though the evening and the night can be quite chilly.
Grades are expressed in the alpha-numerical British Scale, as usual in the the Jebel El Kest region. See below a helpful conversion diagram:
North-Side – A nice place to stay is the charming and traditional The Kasbah Tizourgane, nearby Ida Ougnidif
South-Side – Different kinds of accomodation in Tafraout. An excellent choice is Hotel Les Amandiers on a hill dominating the town. Other options in Tafraoute: Argana Guesthouse www.argana-tafraout.com, Hotel Salama, Auberge Les Amis and Hotel Tete du Lion
In Tafraoute there is also an equipped campsite
Jebel El Kest North Side guidebooks
"Tafraout - Rock Climbing in Morocco's Anti-Atlas" Vol II - The North Side of Jebel El Kest and Jebel Taskra by Steve Broadbent, Oxford Alpine Club 2013
“Morocco Rock – Jebel el Kest & Taskra North, 1000 Rock Climbs in the Anti-Atlas” by Emma Alsford and Paul Donnithorne, Crack Addicts 2012
“Moroccan Anti-Atlas North” by Steve Broadbent – Oxford Alpine Club 2010