Easter on Jebel Ayachi   35169
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1 Irhil-M-Goun massif, 4068
2 3686
3 Jebel Issoual, 2922
4 Jebel Mesker, 3257
5 Tassemit, 2200
6 Cirque de Jaffar?
7 Cirque de Jaffar?
8 NW Counterfort
9 (Hidden Cirque)
10 Pass 2200
11 (Cirque de Jaffar?)
12 Access gorge
13 Jebel Bou Naceur, 3340
14 Valley to Tattiouine
15 High cirque
16 NE Dome, 3668
17 Jebel Ayachi, 3727


Location: False summit (3727 m)      by: Pedrotti Alberto
Area: Morocco      Date: 31-03-2013
Jebel Ayachi is the most outstanding massif of the Moroccan High Atlas north of the Mgoun massif. Going further north one finds only another isolated big mountain, Jebel Bou Naceur, 3340 m in the Middle Atlas. To pass the 3000m threshold again one has then to go past Gibraltar, to the Sierra Nevada.
I was on the way from the desert to Fès, when a nasty wind began to blow wildly on the vast and unprotected high plateaux of the Atlas. When in my favour, it could push me over easy ascents without pedalling, but when against me it could prevent me from going beyond a 8 kmh speed on the descents. Worst of all, when it come from the side, I could barely keep my trajectory, which became tricky when I was overtaken by trucks passing by at foolish speed.
In view of such conditions, I decided to head to the mountains, leaving the remaining kms to bus transportation. From Midelt I followed the 30 or so km piste to the Cirque de Jaffar, which then leads in 120 further kms to Imilchil, the half-legendary Berber village of the bride moussem and of the lakes.
Darkness fell right when I was reaching a 2200 m pass where I slept in my tent. After that point, the piste plunged to 2000 in a small circus where one could guess some shepherd huts, equipped with dogs vaguely barking in the dark. I do not know whether Cirque de Jaffar is the name for this small space or for one of the two wide plateaux marked in the image. Neither do I know if the piste followed by me is the easiest to Jaffar - I received contradicting information under this respect. My Ayachi visit has raised more questions than it has answered.
The next day - Easter Sunday - in order to locate the summit on the 35 km long ridge (!!) I had at my disposal the 1:1.000.000 Michelin map, plus hints from the territory... In face of me stood out a snowy ridge which plunged down to the Jaffar region. The piste was regularly interrupted by the stony beds of flooded rivers, until one riverbed come, which was wider than the others. It seemed to come from a deeply carved gorge, and this led me to the correct intuition: the snowy ridge in evidence was only a NW counterfort, the true Ayachi ridge was to be found on the other side of whichever was beyond the gorge. I parked the bicycle on the riverbed, I walked into the gorge and I emerged in what I called the "Hidden Cirque". Here I was alone with an empty shepherd hut (azib) and with four donkeys left to themselves. To test the animal/human presence in the gorge, I left close to the bicycle some bread and some money - and I was going to find bicycle, food and money untouched.
The "Hidden Cirque", 2200 m, was closed on the SE side by a mighty snowy mountain with had the only defect to look out 3400, not 3700. I could not point towards it on the treacherous snow that at times let me sink up to above my waist. There was an unique snow-free ridge, which I called "Lomo Pedregoso", but when I first discovered it I was already engaged in a detour that brought me high on the flank of the NW counterfort. This was a luck, since that viewpoint revealed to me that the mighty snowy mountain was only a prominence of the ridge leading to the standpoint of the present view. Few moments later they would become the "False Ayachi" and the "False False Ayachi". Moreover, I discovered that the ridge continuing the "Lomo" and joining "False False" to "False" ended up with a severe escarpment almost certainly requiring snow gear. At the same time, an alternative ridge on the far side appeared, whose mixed terrain seemed no joke but also no impassable barrier. Actually, at 14.30 I found myself on top of the snowy dome taking the present photos, controlled from east by a curiously snow-free scree dome, which I was to climb next, and which seemed to be somewhat higher. Actually, my GPS rated it 3770, in place of the 3730 of the snow dome.
From this "True Ayachi" I had to guess a reasonable descent route. From a further "NE Dome" rated 3690 I safely descended to a snowy "High Cirque", from which a winding valley lead down to the "Hidden Cirque", reaching it quietly, without any treacherous snow or scree slope. Incredibly, I had guessed the best descent, which would also be a superb ski-touring path, strikingly similar to the descent from the Palon de la Mare to the Rifugio Branca in the Cevedale group, and with even more grandeur in its 3700 to 2000 m span. There is nothing comparable in the popular Toubkal group; let us hope that no adventure-touring agency ever discovers this place, otherwise the peace of the "Hidden Cirque" would be severely threatened!
The Lonely Planet guide dedicates few lines to the Jebel Ayachi. For the ascent, the advice is to start from the Berber village of Tattiouine, hiring mules and trying to bivouac as high as possible in a valley secretly communicating with the "Hidden Cirque". But with a rough Google Earth simulation I have checked that the Tattiouine way to the summit is more than 22 km long, while my "Palon" way is no more than 10 from the Jaffar piste!
The next day, Eastern Monday, on the way back to Midelt, I managed to include a detour to Tattiouine, where I met a pedestrian who after some communication in French an English turned out to be Italian... he works for charity in Armenia, and here he was going to the village to eat the Easter lamb. Namely, in Midelt there is the Christian monastery of Nôtre Dame de l'Atlas where the nuns run a school of embroidery for local Berber girls. They also run little schools in the nearby villages such as Tattiouine.
In the image I have marked Jebel Issoual, behind which are hidden the two lakes of Imilchil, formed according to the tradition by the tears of two young Berber people who have not been allowed by their families to marry.
Left of the main ridge one guesses an indefinite bunch of snow-covered mountains: this is the 180 km far Irhil-M-Goun, much more vague in the reality than in the Udeuschle rendering. Right of it, one sees the outstanding Jebel Mesker and the far Tassemit, towering over Beni-Mellal. Here the present 360° panorama ideally meets the old n. 9534, "From Tassemit to Toubkal". Putting together these two panoramas one has a thorough overview of the whole 3000-4000 m section of the Atlas.

GPS track: www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=13762784
Larger: goo.gl/lGHWdq


As I was part of the popular demand for the display of this view (see discussion of pano #12556), I think it is in order to use the opportunity to give the first comment. Apologies to everybody whose panos I still have a backlog on - I assume my personal bias is explained by some of my Moroccan material and not least the story told on pano #12605, although I'm currently far from following your steps to these highly attractive summits.

I am glad we intervened at your recent judgement on the Ayachi material now shown here - may I cite (#12556)? "The photos are not interesting enough to be published here: I would be ejected from the community if I did!". If we had a top list not for stars, but for understatement, this would be the winner. The magnificence of the area, together with the feeling of solitude supported by your story comes across extremely well - technically the work is flawless anyway.

As you have already asked - in his Cicerone book, Hamish Brown (no idea why there are so many correlations of Scottish and Moroccan mountains...) describes an equally adventurous ascent starting from Tattiouine in May 1992, hindered by heavy rain and the refusal of the locals to provide the usual trekking support with mules. The map in the book clearly supports your statement that this is not the shortest approach from the Cirque du Jaffar piste. There is a picture in the book that shows exactly the same view as the section of this pano between 55 and 105 degrees with the caption "Looking east along the north slopes of Said ou Ali". Said ou Ali (3727m) being considered as "finest summit" of the massif. The highest point, Ichichi n'Bouklib, is quoted at 3747m in the book, mapped a bit further to the east, and rated as "nothing but a shale tip".

Let me conclude by supporting your demand for better maps of Morocco...best resource for online viewing known to me currently are the Soviet military maps available at www.topomapper.com, giving me an incentive to learn the Cyrillic alphabet.

Cheers, Martin
2013/04/11 20:46 , Martin Kraus
Beautiful picture. To read and comprehend the story I need a bit more time ...
2013/04/12 09:27 , Christoph Seger
Thank you Martin for the remarkable amount of information provided.
The Russian map site reference is invaluable for me. Moreover, now I understand whence came the only map of the Tavan Bogd that I was able to find online.
The only problem is that I risk a language short-circuit now... I am currently studying Spanish, and in Morocco I was panicking between Spanish and French. I do not know French at all, but when in the Maghreb I have to simulate a certain degree of knowledge just to survive. Incidentally, let me also note that 90% of the tourists that I met were Spanish, and that very often now in Morocco the foreigner is approached in Spanish more than in French.
Add to this that two zealous women running a cafè close to Tizi-n-Talghaumt (the pass of the camel, the female camel for precision) began to teach me the numbers in Arabic, and that now it appears that I have to improve my poor Cyrillic reading...
The Cicerone guide is already on order in my Amazon shopping cart, together with a Spanish dictionary. But now I experience an internal fight... Shall I update the description with the correct names, or leave those set by me, pretending to be an explorer?? You know, this is one of the key features of modern times: every one who keeps in his hand a camera claims to be a "photographer", and every one who goes 10 or more kms far from house claims to be an "explorer"!!
Let me reply with two titles, both by Trailblazer Publications:
- Alan Palmer, Moroccan Atlas: the trekking guide. Focused on Toubkal, M-Goun, Siroua and Sarhro: very detailed there, complete darkness elsewhere.
- Chris Scott, Morocco Overland. An excellent survey on the various pistes of the desert and of the Atlas. Although I have the strange personal habit of opening the guides only to check what I have already seen on the place, I remember that this was an exception. From the book I drew some idea for the visit of that unique web of valleys and gorges which originate from the Tafraoute plateau. Smouguene (PPH 7323) and Tizerkine (www.panoramio.com/photo/72928759) are only two of many representatives, and this book is very generous here.
Moreover, if you are a fan of how Scottish guys perform around the world, do not miss the pleasure to put on your bookshelf
- John Biggar, The Andes: a guide for climbers. From the Sierra de Santa Marta in Colombia to the Sarmiento in Tierra del Fuego in 300 pages, you can figure out the degree of detail, but a very informative overview however. The author presents himself at page 28 with a picture of him carrying the skis over a maybe 100 litres backpack. The accompanying caption reads: "Pictured right leaving the Hielo Patagònico Norte after an attempt of San Valentín failed due to about 500mm of rain in 48 hours".

Christoph: es ist keineswegs wichtig, die Beschreibung zu verstehen: sie hat wirklich wenig mit dem Bild zu tun! Die Wahl des Standortes auf der Schneekuppe scheint wirklich alles, was die Aufstiegsroute betrifft, verstecken zu wollen... Als Erklärung zur Beschreibung gelten ein wenig nur die Einzelbilder und die GPS-Track auf dem Picasa Album: es ist genug "ChebbiAyachi" zu googeln (oder googlen??)
2013/04/12 16:39 , Pedrotti Alberto

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Pedrotti Alberto

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