Useful things to know about climbing in the Jebel El Kest

I noticed quite a lot of people have been viewing the Morocco video so I thought I would add a bit of useful information.
These are the distilled observations of four climbers who spent an intense two week period of climbing in the Jebel El Kest area. Between us we have climbed all over the world and feel qualified to make a few observations

Car Hire
Just because you are hiring from Avis or Hertz does not mean that normal rules apply.
Check your hire car at the airport.

Check the following: Make sure there is a spare tyre with tread on it. A functional  jack. Check the oil and make sure you have tread on all of your tyres.
We had travelled quite a distance before we realised we had four completely bald tyres and we spent a very nervous two weeks expecting tyres to blow at any moment.

As you get away from the coast many roads do not accommodate the width of two vehicles travelling in opposite directions. DO NOT EXPECT THE OTHER GUY TO PULL OVER!  He or she (it’s more likely to be a he) will have put all of their faith in Allah and ninety percent of the time will just carry straight on regardless of your presence. So pull over early.

Accommodation
If you are staying in the Tafraoute area consider the Kasbah Chez Amaliya.   Although it is slightly more expensive than places in Tafraoute we were visited on several occasions by people who had booked places in town but ended up coming here to eat and use the pool which is kept spotlessly clean.

If you are the sort of person who cannot go for a week without alcohol don’t worry they serve it here. Chilled and by the pool.
If you are staying for an extended period try to negotiate a discount. We got a fifteen percent discount because we stayed two weeks.
The owner Lisbeth Van Worden is Dutch and she speaks very good English.

If you are climbing exclusively on the North side of the Jebel El Kest you may want to consider the Kasbah Tizourgane. We did not stay there so cannot comment but it gets good reviews elsewhere and it is only fifteen minutes from the a number of multi pitch routes. Many with three stars?

 

Where to eat.

If you want to live a long time do not eat anything cooked on the street. Visit a meat stall on market day and you will understand why.
We tried five different places and the two better ones were the Chez Amalyia, you do not have to be a guest. And the Restaurant La Kasbah.
The food was nothing to write home about but it didn’t kill us, unlike the German climber who spent several days in bed after eating something from a street vendors stall.

When to go
We went in Late September and the climbs on the Southern side of the Jebel El Kest were very warm and sunny. Climbing in the shade was OK but still warm.
The larger routes on the Northern side of the Jebel El Kest were surprisingly cold ( you are quite high up ) Take some warm gear even at this time of the year.Friends tell us that the best time to go is in the winter months when the southern side is pleasantly warm and the north can range from warm to freezing.

FLIES
Can’t speak for what it’s like at other times of the year but if you like small flies in your food, beer, mouth ears and just about anywhere you can think of this is the place for you. And that includes on the routes as well.

Apparently if you go in the winter months the flies are not a problem, whoopee!

The Climbing
In a nutshell, underwhelming and certainly not how it is billed in the guidebooks. There is far better quality Trad climbing elsewhere in the world. I wonder if Morocco appears attractive because it is relatively cheap? And just because Joe Brown and Chris Bonnington visited,  well so what?  for all I know they may like deep fried Mars Bars as well.

Grades: A jumble of soft touches and sandbags at all grades.

Rock: A jumble of quality at all grades. Plenty of dangerously loose crap.

Protection: We actually found the protection adequate although we didn’t climb anything harder than E3
Bear in mind we were on a mission to climb nothing but the recommended best routes.

Carpets:
Don’t believe what’s written in the guidebooks about the carpets It’s all bullshit. They are made in a factory in the High Atlas area of Morocco. If you like them and want one that’s fine, in fact, I would go so far as to say you are morally obliged to buy something but do not pay the full price, start low and try to negotiate to about half of what is asked for.
If you really believe they are made by poor women slaving away in a darkened room and selling one or two in a lifetime to support their family you really should not be climbing.

 

We did meet a few Morocco Zealots who didn’t seem to be able to see beyond the flies and loose rock and sprinkled their conversation liberally with the use of the word adventure, which could open up a whole topic of conversation but I am not going there. The only way you are going to find out is go and see.
As for me my next trip will be to Kalymnos, what a softy!

 

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