The nextday, after loading luggage and material onto our off road vehicles, we beganour journey to Zaouia Ahansal (there are about a dozen different ways to spellthis – it is pronounced zaa-we-ah), the last village with road access. Thistransfer took about 6 hours, the first two on paved roads and the rest on dirtroads, mainly through desert.
In ZaouiaAhansal some men with mules were waiting for us and these were indispensable fortransporting the heavy load of ropes,bolts, climbing gear, food and clothing we needed. After many hours in the jeepwe were all looking forward to being able to walk around a bit and stretch ourlegs and we moved briskly toward Taghia whose spartan shelter we were to stayin for a dozen days.
The ZouîatAhansal valley is the entranceway to the Taghia circus where the small village ofthe same name with its 400 inhabitants, located at 1900 meters above sea leveland accessible only on foot, is to be found. Thanks to an intelligent networkof irrigation canals, the valley’s spectacular and abundant water sources offerrelative prosperity to the village’s residents.
The villageis surrounded by amazing rock faces and located in the heart of one of the mostisolated regions of the Atlas mountains, the great limestone plateau of Azilalwhich is crossed by three major canyons: n'Tazart Akka, Akka and n'Taghia Akkan'Tafrawt with some peaks over 3000 metres in altitude. The canyons are just ashort stroll from the village with walls varying in height from 300 to 900meters.
The firstroutes in the area were opened in 1975 by a group of French climbers includingBernard Domenech (currently one of the top experts on Africa mountaineering)and Erik Dechamp.
In the 80s and 90s the area was mainly popular with Spaniards who opened up anumber of big walls and stayed on them as long as a week at a time.
Someexcellent routes were then opened by another group of French climbers led byRemi Thivel and Christian Ravier. These climbs are difficult and have very fewbolts, all of which are on walls between 400 and 600 metres in height.
The firstmodern routes were opened by Spaniard Toni Arbones and, in May 2003, by thetrio Michel Piola, Benoit Robert and Arnaud Petit. The latter have left Taghia sometrue climbing gems including some beautiful climbs. I like to remember"Les rivieres pourpres" - 600 m - max 7b +.
In recentyears many modern, fully equipped routes have been opened. The rock is afantastic, highly abrasive limestone which can consume even the toughestcalluses in a few days.
Despite this Taghia is unknown to almost all European mountaineers.
There is agreat guidebook to Taghia’s climbs: "Taghia Montagnes Berbères" byChristian Ravier (mail: cravier [at] club-internet.fr).
In the Tawjdathut (Gïte) there is also a big book containing handwritten sketches and reportsof the most recent routes.
As theterritory is very vast offering a host of possibilities to those who want toopen new routes, we devoted our first few days to looking for a mountain totrace our new route on.
Obviously there is no lack of rock in the area, but aesthetics, the timerequired to approach the wall and the beauty of the line of the ascent play animportant role in a successful enterprise too.
After searchingthe area carefully, we opted for the south face of Mount Oujdad which can bereached in less than two hours from the village.
At this pointit was necessary to find a base to set up camp in because walking to the rockface from the village every day would have been a great waste of time and energy.
After some research we found a cave that was well suited to our purpose. It wasa short distance from the start of the route and a stream provided us with thenecessary water.
Thefollowing days were dedicated to our new route.
The main architects of theclimb were Massimo Da Pozzo, Luigi Majoni, Federico Michielli and BrunoSartorelli but obviously all the others ‘Squirrels’ contributed to the successof the enterprise as well.
Saïd Messaoudi – Rifugio Gïte Tawjdat
Youssef – Hmad Rezki
“La Maison de Taghia”
00212 (0)23459608 / Fax:00212 (0)459608
00212 (0)23459393 / 00212 (0)78538882
Both Gitesoffer meals. It is recommended that you sterilise all water before drinking –even 'drinking' water - as severe stomach upsets have been commonly reported byvisiting climbers. We used a substantial amount of ciprofloxacin to keep ourhealth problems at bay – it may be worthwhile stocking up on this or otherantibiotics.