Atlas Mountains, Taghia, Oujdad peak (2,695 m), Barracuda. In the remote High Atlas Mountains, the Polish team of Eliza Kubarska, Borek Szybinski, and me free climbed a new multipitch route Barracuda (600m, 7c+max, 7a+ oblig). The climb runs through vertical and slightly overhanging slabs all protected with bolts (some runouts occur). Almost half of the route is harder than French 7.
Barracuda was opened using ground-up style where combined free and aid climbing tactics helped during bolt installations. Sky hooks and Aliens were the only useful aid stuff during this ascent. We started this climb as a sky hook novices and at the top of the mountain we were joking that we should start a Sky Hook Dance Academy business.
After over two weeks of bolting efforts interrupted by snowfall, rain, and diseases caused by dirty water (despite using pills and water filters), we hung one portaledge and a small hammock 200 m above Taghia canyon to stop the daily exhausting run from the village of Taghia (1.5 hours of airy approach on moving “sheep bridges” with potential 200m fall to the canyon).
Then we free climbed entire route. Today Barracuda is one of the hardest routes in Taghia Cirque. It goes through beautiful airy slabs of Oujdad Peak (2,695 m) rising directly above Taghia village. Even though 7c+ grade isn’t “hard” anymore for today experts, different kinds of problems will appear. The rock in Taghia is sharp and skin-destroying. To free climb the whole big wall in one push could be painful (a barracuda is a “sharp and hard” fish, after all).
To climb Barracuda you need double 50m ropes, 15 quickdraws, 2 medium cams (only for the topmassif, but not necessary). If you want to rappel along the route, be careful because some belays are almost 50m from one another.
This part of Atlas reminds one more of the Alps than other desert African ranges (like the Todra Gorge); the peaks around are often 3,000m high. The second highest peak of the Atlas, Jebel M’Goun, is very close. Some of the walls are 800m high. The best seasons for climbing here are May-June and September-October. Some people come here to climb north faces and canyons even in summer.
Taghia is a beautiful, remote village high (1,900m) in the mountains, 90 km from the closest town, Azilal. To get there you need to travel using a Land Rover (to Zaouia Ahansal village), and then a two-hour walk with your stuff on the back of a mule. The Taghia area is home to the Berber people, who are very polite and hospitable. There are two shelters (gite d’étape) in the
village. The deep canyons and red limestone walls create breathtaking scenery.
This place has lots of unclimbed walls. After two days of trekking our team found at least five major projects for 600m-long free routes. But we haven’t seen even half of the Taghia walls. There seems to be the beginning of a climbing boom for Taghia. After of years of silence, strong teams of explorers have begun to come here.
David Kaszlikowski, Poland