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Africa, Morocco, Taghia, Tabouimmt N'Tsouiannt, Fantasia

Hidden deep in the mountains, 85km from the nearest city, Taghia has recently become a climbing Mecca for Europeans. However, this region has been quietly explored since the 1970s, mainly by Spanish. Massive limestone walls and deep canyons form a fabulous labyrinth of crags. These attract like a magnet, drawing pioneers intent on climbing the great walls.

After climbing on Oujdad, where in 2004 our Polish team of Kubarska, Szybinski, and I opened Barracuda (590m, 7c+, 7a obl), we dreamed about coming back to one of the most spectacular projects in Taghia. The established routes on Tagouimmt N’Tsouiannt are mainly aid climbs, and the bravest lines had been left untouched. Our project was to climb the smoothest part of the wall, which resembled the Verdon Gorge in France.

On April 21 Eliza and I started work on the new route. Halfway through the trip we were joined by Przemek Klimek, who helped to open the upper part of the route. We climbed the line from the ground up, using a combination of free and aid, always assuming that we Taghia, Tagouimmt N’Tsouiannt, Fantasia. On entering the Taghia Valley you are immediately captivated by two walls. The first is the tooth of Oujdad, 700m high; the second is 800m Tagouimmt N’Tsouiannt, one of the largest walls of the Atlas. In May, Eliza Kubarska and I opened the 700m Fantasia on Tagouimmt N’Tsouiannt. Maximum difficulties were 7b+/7c, with many pitches of 7a or more, making it one of the longest free climbs in the High Atlas. would eventually free climb it. Protection, typical for Taghia, requires drilling while hanging on sky hooks.

Most of the wall is compact, without possibility of protection other than bolts. We didn’t use a portaledge, only ca. 400m of fixed rope. At the end of each day we rappelled and spent the night in the village, living for a month in a friendly gite owned by Said Mesaouidi.

Eliza and I made the red-point on May 23 and 24, with a bivouac on the face. A few days before, I had been sick. My inner ear was inflamed, and I had trouble walking and keeping my balance. However, on the fourth day of sickness I felt well enough to try the ascent. Not long into the climb, though, I realized I was still having trouble with my balance. On the first few pitches I was fighting to overcome the feeling of dizziness and was still uncertain if I would be able to lead the more difficult rope-lengths. However, after a couple of hours the malady passed, and the 6th pitch, the first difficult one, went smoothly.

Although we had a comfortable bivouac on a 120cm-wide ledge, we began to get dehydrated and were out of water by the following morning. A dry wind and the effort we put into the climb tired us completely. By evening we were seriously exhausted, tasting thick saliva, and seeing black spots before our eyes.

Fantasia is one of the most diverse routes in Taghia, with chimneys and dihedrals mixed with slabs. The backdrop of magnificent canyons just made things sweeter.

But climbing is changing in Taghia. In 2004 we met only 15 climbers during our month in the area; in 2005 there were around 60. More and more people are coming, not only to create new routes but also to repeat existing lines. While there is an increasing number of both sport and trad routes, the scope is still vast, and many sizeable walls remain more or less untouched. The impressive Bou Iourlanene has only one route, which is 25 years old. See more photos on www.StudioWspin.com.pl.

David Kaszlikowski, Poland