After a long and fun day of climbing at Ain Belmusk a couple of weeks ago, I decided it was time for one more climb before we jumped back in a borrowed Land Rover Discovery and headed home. Jeremy and I had spent the day sending climbs we had never tried before. Some easy, some challenging. All in all, a great day to be on the rock. The sky was clear and blue and the cool temperature was perfect for a day of climbing in Morocco. We could hear the river, the herded sheep; it was good to be on real rock again.
Most of the climbs at Ain Belmusk are pretty slabby. Small hands, small feet. And most of the routes feature their crux at the top, perhaps one or two bolts from the anchors. I always find it fun to work out a tricky boulder problem about 50 feet in the air. For the most part, each route is well bolted with good anchors at the top. There is no guide book for Ain Belmusk, but no worries, our climbing friends from the past took the liberty of sketching the name and grade for each climb at the bottom. We had a good system going: find the name (and try to translate the French), consider the grade, eye the bolts, shoes, tie in, “on belay?”, and off the ground!
In the early afternoon, right before we devoured our flat bread and cheese for lunch, I climbed La Blette, or the Chard (thanks google translate!). La Blette is a super interesting climb. Rated only a 5+ but I am pretty sure it’s the “plus” that makes it interesting. I used a lot of lay back moves with deep hand holds in a big corner crack. Some fun stemming, a couple of bold pulls and I was at the top shouting down to Jeremy that I had found my favorite climb on the crag. Little did I know, in about an hour, I would discover my “new” favorite.
I have always really admired the autumn, the changing colors of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, breathing in the new and cool air. Living in Morocco, I feel far removed from trees that change with the seasons. But, the climbing landscape that is continually changing and always being developed anew has been quite the trade off. Not to mention, I discovered the climb, Brise D’automne, Autumn Breeze.
The first climb you come to on the approach, Autumn Breeze is rated 6a. To start the climb, you step off the ground under a big roof looming directly overhead. The first few moves are pretty straight forward but could use a strong, winter wind to blow the dust off! I don’t think this climb gets too much attention. Why? Maybe because if you continue down the approach, you will find a bunch of exciting climbs ranging from 4+ to 7. Or it could be that the rock is simply protected by the roof jutting out above. Perhaps it’s because of the run out section I am about to meet after I move up and around the big roof. Either way, I’m chalking up, pulling hard, and working my way up and over the roof. From here, I can see that there is a seriously blank wall sitting on top of the roof and my next clip looks kinda far. Even for my God given “ape-index” reach. At this point I hear Jeremy calmly shout, “uh…be careful here.” Wise words from my experienced belayer. Moving right out over the face, I find a great foot hold for my right foot. I step into it, trusting the marble I am climbing on, stand and clip in. I’m safe. Now the climbing gets tricky, and exposed. I continue to the right and then up an arrete that stands over the roof, air all around and beneath me. This is adventurous and exciting. My hearts beating, I’m stepping up and focused. As I finish out the climb, I find the smile on my face that was there over ten years ago after my first climb. I love climbing. And climbing in Morocco? I am eager to find my “new favorites” in the developing climbing venues all over this rocky country.