Chris Bonington – 29 March

It’s the last day of my annual climbing trip to Morocco, climbing with a bunch of good old friends.  It’s all trad climbing on wonderful Quartzite rock in the Anti Atlas, to the south of the High Atlas.  We’ve had a fortnight out here and have climbed a dozen routes with different members of the team but the one below was my final climb of the holiday and the best, both for the quality of the route and the friends I climbed with.

This year I tempted out Odd Elliassen on the left, with whom I climbed Everest in 1985, and Ralph Hoibach who was also a member of the team and summitted a few days later.  This was their first time to the Quartzite.  We climbed one of the earliest routes put up by Joe Brown and Claude Davis straight up the front of the big buttress behind us – 250 metres of beautiful climbing at around VS standard.

Just one of the pitches on steep warm rock.

Odd is one of Norway’s most outstanding mountaineers, adventurers and long distance ski explorers having crossed the Greenland Ice Cap twice, and having made many long Nordic ski tours in the Himalayas and around the world.  He’s wearing the Berghaus wind shirt that I gave him on our expedition to Menlungtse in 1987 – he’s worn it ever since on every ski trip and climb for the last 24 years!!!  He thinks it’s the best wind shirt he has ever had.  I told him we’ve got some that are even better and have promised to send him a new one.

Here’s the team photo in front of the Hotel des Amandiers.  As you can see we are quite a mature lot and some of us have been coming out for twenty years but we are still climbing hard and finding new routes in this wonderful climbing area.  Front row, far right, Ben Wintringham has prepared a superb online guide to the Northern crags of the area, whilst 5th from the left, rear row, Claude Davies wrote the Cicerone Press Guide to Anti Atlas, mainly covering the southern area.  He, with Les Brown on his left and Pete Turnbull, sitting far left were amongst the first, with the legendary Joe Brown to develop the area twenty years ago.

The day we arrived it was raining heavily and the mountains were plastered in snow, more than anyone had ever seen here, but fortunately the weather cleared up for us and we had a perfect fortnight.

I invited two of my ’75 Everest team to join me, Charlie Clarke (left) who has been expedition doctor on many of my expeditions and Mike Rhodes (right) who was the Barclays Bank representative on the expedition – they underwrote the expedition. On retirement Mike moved to France to live on the Eastern end of the Pyrenees and we climb together regularly when I stay with friends on the Northern Costa Brava.  Here, we’ve just finished making a new route on the peak pictured below.

This rocky bluff is to the east of Tafraout, away from the main climbing area.  The route ran near the left hand sky line and gave three enjoyable pitches.  We called it Benghazi and graded it 4b.

One of the joys of climbing in this area is its wildness and the deep cut gorges which at the beginning of the week were graced with tumbling rivers and waterfalls.

My best new route of the week was a high crag above the remote little village of Annergui.  It was straight up the Buttress immediately above Mike Mortimer, giving four excellent pitches.  We called it Cordon Rouge, after a club of adventurers that Leo Houlding and I are members of.

The hardest, led by Mike Mortimer, was around 5b.

At the end of the fortnight the hotel put on a special free feast for us to thank us for our loyalty in coming back regularly over so many years.  The staff have become really good friends.

  • Robin Knox-Johnston

    It looks and sounds fantastic. What a lovely adventure.