Couloir ouest de l’Adad, Atlas Mountains, Morocco

posted in: My skiruns | 0

Morocco offers several options for skiing. If you’re looking for couloirs however, there is only one place. Refuge Tazaghart is surrounded by many narrow corridors, all pretty easily accessible. Couloir ouest de l’Adad was spotted when climbing couloir Occidental on the opposite side of the valley. It looked simply amazing and had to be skied. February 7, 2014, together with Jurriaan Huisman, I decided to give it a go.

In order to ski couloir ouest de l’Adad, one has to go to refuge Tazaghart first. From Marrakech you take the one hour journey to Imlil, the gateway to the Atlas mountains. When you’re fit and carry all your stuff, you can make it in one day to refuge Tazaghart. In case you have porters who carry some of your stuff, you most likely have to make a stop at Azib Tamsoult because it will take too much time, at least for the porters, to reach Tazaghart in one day. From Azib Tamsoult it’s another 2,5 to 3 hours.

Once you have arrived at refuge Tazaghart you see a big plateau in front of you, the Tazaghart plateau. From this plateau a number of couloirs will lead you back to the hut. The first obvious one, not a narrow couloir, is couloir Tsoukine. The next one to the left is couloir Occidental and one more over you’ll find couloir Median. However, there is a real beauty of a couloir located on the opposite side of the valley, not clearly seen from the hut. This couloir, couloir ouest de l’Adad, drops down from the col which leads towards Toubkal on the other side. I guess the couloir is about 40 degrees and pretty straight, making it a very beautiful line. Unfortunately I don’t have any official stats about this couloir.

It only gets sun from 1.30 pm, so there is no need to hurry for this one…

climbing couloir ouest de l'Adad was great fun! (photo credits: Jurriaan Huisman)
climbing couloir ouest de l’Adad was great fun! (photo credits: Jurriaan Huisman)

There was no rush and our planned start of 10 am was delayed a bit. Normally you would start as soon as possible but being on the top at noon didn’t make sense at all since the snow had to warm up first to get in good shape. We enjoyed an easy breakfast and prepared our equipment before we skinned to the entrance. From all the couloirs surrounding the Tazaghart hut, this one looked by far the most intimidating. It looked very narrow and steep and went straight to the summit. At around 1/3 of the way up there was a huge rock we had to go around, both up and down of course. Would there be enough space for our skis? After 30 minutes we reached the big rock where an ice-axe might have been handy according to two other skiers back in the hut. Since the wind hadn’t ruined the already established bootpack of the previous day, we could make it without the axes. Another advantage of this couloir is its location. Being Southwest facing means it gets a decent amount of sun. Usually one prefers North facing descents because of soft powder snow. However, we are in Morocco here and skiing powder is not very common so corn is a great second prize, especially in the beginning of February!

time for a little break! (photo credits: Jurriaan Huisman)
time for a little break! (photo credits: Jurriaan Huisman)

The couloir turned out to be not as steep as it initially looked. Soon we were convinced to reach the summit. Most of the climb we could use the established bootpack and therefore we were making progress quickly. After about an hour of climbing Jurriaan thought we were getting really close to the summit. I though there still was a bit to go but Jurriaan turned out to be correct. Shortly after, we were standing on a little plateau on the top with a beautiful view. It wasn’t even 1 pm so we had time to take a break and let the snow warm up in the meantime. We brought our blood sugar levels back to the usual and imagined possible lines towards the adjacent valley. No wind and a strong African sun meant it was a very comfortable pastime.

Because we still had to leave Tazaghart in the afternoon and ski down to another hut, we decided to start skiing down at 1:30 pm even though the couloir wasn’t entirely in the sun meaning some parts would still be hard. Jurriaan skied the first part nicely in decent snow before I took over in the next section. Soon we arrived at the big rock where we had to navigate carefully. We both survived and skied down taking the lead one by one. At the bottom of the couloir we were treated by some perfect corn snow on a wider pitch. We could make nice GS-turns towards the hut.

Jurriaan skiing the lower section of Couloir ouest de l'Adad
Jurriaan skiing the lower section of Couloir ouest de l’Adad

Back in the hut we had lunch, a lovely salad with some sardines, bread and of course… tea. Once feeding time was over, we had to pack our stuff for the way back. Another great couloir had been added to the list of descents!

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