Hoggar Mountains, general notes and new route activity. Algeria is comprised of two big mountain ranges: the Atlas chain in the north, and the Sahara in the south, including the Hoggar, which has a surface area similar to that of France. Due to the altitude (an average of 2,200m, with Tahat at 2,918m), the temperatures are cool from November until March. Climbers have been coming from Europe to enjoy the winter warmth and the adventurous technical climbing since the 1930s, with ebbs and flows in popularity through the decades. The current trend is to open new routes using bolts, and to mark approaches and descents with cairns. This makes it easier for future climbers to just turn up at the route and start climbing. But it pays little respect to the past, when the routes were climbed using traditional gear, like pitons, friends, and nuts.
One of the benefits of this bolting trend, however, is that the level of climbs available in Algeria is now much wider and is open to a majority of climbers. All the new routes are around the 5.9 level, which suits the majority of climbers. Most of the routes have some bolts, but also require the use of cams and nuts. Unfortunately, some climbers have opened routes very near existing routes. This is not a good trend, as there are plenty of virgin summits available in the Hoggar. I think the future of climbing in the desert is in the Immidir Region and in the Tefedest. In these locations there is high-quality granite and a large choice of routes with a variety of features, from cracks to slabs.
In Algeria, particularly in the Atakor area, there is no danger of terrorism, at least not more than anywhere else. One must be wary of traveling in the deep south (700km south of Tamanrasset). There are gangs of thieves who operate from Mali and Niger that border Algeria. The main climbing areas are to the north of Tamanrasset, so it is quiet and safe. There is an anti-American feeling from the Arabic north in Algeria, but the Touareg people who populate the south of Algeria have no such prejudice. The best way to visit Algeria is to be respectful of the local culture and to be adaptable.
Here are the new routes in Algeria from 2007. In the Atakor Region, an Italian team in conjunction with the local Abalema agency, established various one- to three-pitch bolted routes. The Dutch team of Martin Fickweiler, Gerke Hoekstra, and Ronald Naar climbed in the Immidir Region on the T-in-Taouafa Massif. They established the 275m-vertical route graded 6c (5.11b) described in the following report. In the Tesnou region, a French team with the M’Zab agency climbed Le Cadeau de Neptoune, which was opened in January 2007 by J. Ala, Jean-Francois Gras, and J.F. Lignan. The route is graded 6a+ (5.10b) and is approximately 400m high. In the Tesnouu region, J. Ala, Jean-Francois Gras, and J.F. Lignan opened another 400m route, graded 5.
To see topos and learn more about Hoggar routes visit www.desert-dulac.com, which lists all the new routes. Also see my guidebook, Escalade en Sahara (the Hoggar Massif).
Thomas Dulac, France, Algeria