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Morocco – Lions head

Yesterday we had a rest day after driving to crags and walking in Mungo was feeling rough (something hadn’t agreed with him) and we were both aching /dehydrated from four consecutive days climbing in the heat. We decided to call it a rest day, head back to Tafraoute and relax so that we’d be ready for doing a big route today. This was something new for me cause before this the places I have visited were never this hot that they left me dehydrated. I remember before the last trip when I was at home going through the inflatable sup reviews to enjoy the cool water and now I’m at a point where all I need is rest for a few hours before going on any other trek or trip. The trip isn’t bad per se, but it wasn’t what we or “I” had come prepared for.

Looking at the guide we decided the Great Ridge on the Lions Head look like the one to go for. 800 meters of climbing to the top of one of the most impressive peaks in the area. To make matters more complex the guide alluded to having to abseil from a massive pinnacle. And the ridge looked to be quite scrambly in places.

The abseil convinced us that two ropes was a good idea. I carried one flaked in the bag ready for the abseil, the other was shortened with a few coils for us to move together on.

Up at 5:00 we scoffed some bananas and a yoghurt before jumping in the car and setting off. It was still dark outside and the driving directions were a not vague so we did a little faffing finding the correct parking location. (My description would be, “turn left at the main turning after leaving Tafraoute then take the first right to Assgour. Follow the main road up into the village passing the parking for crag h, at the western end of the village. Here then road traverse east until it reaches a dead end. Park at this dead end.”).

We then set off on the track heading east but soon left this to cut up behind the ‘small’ crags above Assgour. By this point it was 6:00 and the sun was casing enough light we didn’t need head torches anymore.

The ridge itself was easy to find and has an obvious chimney between a free standing pinnacle at its end and the main ridge. Traversing through this lead us to some slabs to start the ridge proper. The bottom section continuously varies between slabs and the main arête with only a few harder moves until we reached a short abseil. This was doable using a single rope and also looked down climb-able from below. More scrambling and a short down climb later you reach the foot of the pinnacle.

This is accessed via an exposed chock stone. The climbing on the pinnacle itself is hard then anything we’d encountered to this point. With some loose rock about we follow the buttress to the left of an obvious vegetated gully. This gave way to a groove you can bridge up then more scrambling across and around to the right of the main ridge and a very loose chossy but steep set of grooves. These finally less you to cleaner rock and some wonderful climbing up the arête. Once on top of the pinnacle there’s a long section of spires to be tackled, including a bridge over a very exposed gap. The spires finish and a short down climb on the last spire leads to a fixed abseil point off the pinnacle.

Lions Head
Lions Head – image from Summit Post

We then chose to climb the main central buttress / arête on the top section of the route. First we gained this with a down scramble from our abseil base, then headed up a weakness with easy scrambling to gain an exposed stance on the ridge proper. Here I swapped into rock shoes (I had been climbing in decent approach shoes until this point), dropped the coils and enjoy two fine 50+ meter pitches in an outstanding position before the angle eased back and a gentile scramble lead to the top. Its a fantastic climb and well worth doing if you’re in the area.

The decent was fairly straight forward, walking north for a bit before dropping down to a stream bed to the east and heading back south along it for a a few hundred meters. We then headed off east as it begins to steepen just after a large snake infested pool and a break in the skyline invites you to traverse. This then becomes a track which leads you along an exposed catwalk before easing again to become a ride down a scree filled gully. Once this bottoms out a path leads you back around to the car. On this path we met a very friendly shepherd who was intrigued by our climbing kit still swinging from our harnesses.

Back in Tafroute, there was a classic car rally in town with everyone out to see it, the place was buzzing. Our hotel had messed up the booking so we had to swap into two small single rooms but these looked plenty comfortable enough and were offered to us for free because of the mistake (I’m sure partly our fault for being gone from the room before the sun was even up!). There was also some local singing in the Resturant by what we assume to be local women (heads covered with a giant silk sheet). A fitting end to the day.

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