New Rock, New Treasure

Back in October, Jeremy and I, and another good friend, James, hopped in a rental and headed to Ain Belmusk, a local crag near Marrakech, in order to get a good pump and enjoy a birthday climbing trip together.  Our plan was to camp out and get a couple of days of climbing in.  First things first, we popped into a grocery store to stock up on tagine (local Moroccan dish) essentials and some junk food and as we walked out into the parking lot, we could see the storm clouds coming!  Long story short, the nasty, rainy weather would eventually cause us to leave Ain Belmusk and head far South in search of dry rock in the sun. But before we bailed, we decided to look into a new climbing area we had heard about on the outskirts of a village about 20 minutes from Ain Belmusk.  Some good friends had just discovered this new area and told us not to waste our time and head straight there.  Our plan was to check this venue out on Day 2 but the weather helped redirect our climbing trip.  So knowing we were headed south, we made a slow and cautious drive to the village of Zuhelika in order to see what all the hype was about.  After leaving our car in a muddy road for fear of never getting out, we hiked the final 10 minutes through the village and into a hidden river valley…WOW!

Main Rock Wall as you approach Zuhelika

What we saw was pretty breath taking.  All the time, we hear of new potential climbing areas in Morocco.  They are everywhere.  But this place is special.  We knew that we would need to make a trip back to Zuhelika as soon as we had the chance.  And that is just what we did last Friday! Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, the rock wall of Zuhelika rises high from a small and quiet river.  From what we have gathered, a group from the Club Alpin Francais in Casablanca has been making their way to Zuhelika recently on the weekends in order to develop new routes.  With great anchor set ups and generously spaced bolts, there are some great options for beginners and experienced climbers alike.  There are even some multi-pitch climbs bolted too!  And the potential for more development is amazing.

A few of our favorite routes

  Jeremy and I hit the rock during the late morning with the plan to climb as many routes as possible in order to find out what Zuhelika has to offer.  Similar to Ain Belmusk, many of the climbs are named and given a grade at the bottom of the route in white paint.  Some climbs featured obvious routes full of bolts with no name and no grade painted.  Either way, we climbed a bunch and had a blast.  Many of the climbs were easily pushing 30+ meters (bring your 70m rope!) We climbed easy 4′s (French grade) up to the low 6′s (French grade).  There were ledgy climbs, gym like climbs, crack climbs, small chimneys, slopey slabs, you name it.  There were even boulders begging to be projected.  Right now, there are almost 20 routes put up with so much potential for more.  And common to most climbing spots in Morocco, we were climbing next to a calm river, surrounded by palm trees, greeted by goats and donkeys, and welcomed by friendly villagers.  The weather for climbing is perfect in February; cool, blue skies.  Needless to say, we can’t wait to get back to enjoy yet another new and developing climbing treasure in Morocco.

From the top of climb, ECI

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