Greek Buttress (Crag NC)
Greek Buttress is a stunning dome belonging to Jebel El Kest Group, a moroccan mountain range full of charm and not much explored until a few years ago, now in full development, lying in the Eastern end of the wide and semi-desert region of Anti-Atlas. The range began to be explored in the mid-nineties and still has more than 1000 trad climbing routes on the wonderful quartzite that characterizes the massif. Greek Buttress, which is a major climbing objective and one of the most iconic crag in the massif, belongs to Sidi M'Zal group, a relatively small area on the North-Eastern side of Jebel El Kest, overlooking the main road connecting Agadir to Tafraout through the Tizi Tarakatine pass.
Sidi M'Zal first pioneering started in late 1990s at the hands of the early British explorers; they named many of the peaks they discovered - previously unknown - with letters of the alphabet, preceded in the case of the crags located on the Northern side of Jebel El Kest by the letter N (North abbreviation). The original name of this dome was Crag NC, fairly recently it has been introduced the current name. On the stunning Eastern wall of Greek Buttress are located several beautiful and challenging climbing routes. Can't be missed!
Getting to the Jebel El Kest area
The region can be suitably approached from Marrakech or Agadir. Several international flights run to both the airports of Marrakech and Agadir. The best choice is hire a car (in the Airports there are many Car Hire Agencies).
- From Marrakech the road to Tafraout, the main town in the region, involves a trip of 400 Kms and takes nowadays about 5 hours via the new Motor-way connecting Marrakech to Agadir, then by means of 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 Tafraout in 2 hours on a 170 kms good road), but the flights’choice is more restricted.
Getting to Sidi M'Zal group
It can be reached from Tafraout, a town located on the Southern side of Jebel El Kest, the only developed center in the area, across the Tizi'n Tarakatine pass or more briefly from the Kasbah Tizourgane, located on the contrary on the Northern slope of Jebel along the main road connecting Agadir to Tafraout a few kilometers from Sidi M'zal climbing area.
Greek Buttress East Wall – La Linea d'Ombra report (British scale)
Summit altitude: m 1300 Difficulty: E1, 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: 230 m Exposure: East First ascent: Alberto Rampini and Silvia Mazzani 2011, november 1th Starting point: Sidi M'Zal
A big challenging line on the impressive East face; the route runs along an obvious line of corners between Alpha and Gamma routes. Excellent rock.
Road approach from Sidi M'Zal village - From the main road in the village of Sidi M'Zal reach the highest point of the road. Here it starts (on the right, if coming from the Kasbah Tizourgane) a dirt track crossing the rocky hillside through houses and leading briefly to a small settlement amongst prickly pears. Parking lot.
Walking approach - There are different possible approaches. The best one is walking up to the old settlement surrounded by prickly pears, cross the ridgeline to the North above the settlement, descend on the opposite side skirting Twin Crags, then walk up the slope above a deserted village, keeping right of a ridge, in the direction of the obvious wall. 45 minutes. the col above the semi-deserted village on the right hand side of the parking. Starting point between Alpha and Gamma routes, on the left of an Argan tree situated below a long slanting right and wide-angled corner, black in its upper part.
L1 - Climb a slab leading inside the corner, then enter the corner itself and belay inside it on an uncomfortable optional stance. 5a, 30 mt. L2 – Climb the corner again, exit a wide ledge and move to left on the ledge to reach a belay below an orange and black groove. 5a, 25 mt. L3 – Climb the long groove and belay below an orange roof. 4c, 35 mt.
L4 – Climb the first few meters of the corner above the stance, then go slants to left reaching a terrace. Traverse 5 mt. left along the ledge (cat’s moove) and belay on the ledge. 4b, 22 mt. L5 – Climb the beautiful orange wall above the ledge to gain an orange chimney slanting left (crux). An easier groove leads inside a saddle to a belay on incredible big pinnacle visible from the low. 5b, 35 mt. L6 – Climb on easier ground on the right leads to a short chimney and then to a corner exiting to a comfortable stance on a block. 4b, 40 mt. L7 –Traverse 3 mt towards left, cross an edge, then climb an easier ridge to the summit.
Descent: along the normal route, a nice trip! From the summit scramble down on an open slope towards South (towards the left side of the crag, facing in), reaching a wide saddle on the left (cairn). From here carry on towards left getting a water course, leading to a narrow ramp which skirts the walls, rises briefly to a saddle below the wall and comes back to the base of the routes (about 1 hour from the summit to the start of the climb).
- Alpha HVS, 5a - 200 m First ascent: D. Walker, L. Brown 19-3-2000 - Beta HVS, 5a - 200 m First ascent: L. Brown, D. Walker, C. Bonington 19-03-2002 - Sailing the Aegean E3, 5c - 180 m First ascent: P. Donnithorne, D. Donovan 23-4-2012 - Aphrodite E2, 5b - 205 m First ascent: - Eros E2, 5b - 220 m - Gamma HVS, 5a - 200 m First ascent: D. Walker, C. Bonington 23-3-2003 - Chukka HVS, 4c - 190 m First ascent: P. Donnithorne, D. Donovan 24-4-2012 - Zorba VS, 4c - 180 m First ascent: E. Alsford, D. Sargeant 25-4-2012
Double ropes, a complete set of friends and nuts, quickdraws and slings, helmet and usual belay devices are all you need to climb.
The best seasons to climb are Fall (from the end of october) 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 whole Jebel El Kest region. See below a helpful conversion diagram:
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 most common rock is a pre-Cambrian quartzite, which quality is often perfect; its plenty of cracks allows a pleasant and sure climbing, with many opportunities of good natural protections.
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.
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 Tafraoute. 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