“Land of the cold sun”: two athletes forge mountaineering routes in Morocco


“The course was physically demanding and technical, with some weak ice lines. The holds and small edges helped me climb through some of the tricky moves and sequences.

When you think of Morocco, you probably don’t think of ice climbing or mountaineering. You probably imagine dry deserts, tajines, bazaars full of spices and clothes, hookah lounges and teahouses.

But in fact, Morocco has mountains worthy of mountaineering. There is also snow and ice. And if the Moroccan mountaineering community there is small (almost non-existent), there are some, like Rab the athlete Faiçal Bourkiba, who is leading the charge.

Bourkiba had long dreamed of climbing the face of Tazarhart, a mountain he can see from his home. But he was also unsure of his ability to reach the summit safely. The creation of new roads in Morocco is extremely dangerous due to the lack of rescue services.

So he teamed up with another Rab athlete with a lifetime of mountaineering experience, Jeff Mercier.

He agreed to visit Bourkiba in Morocco, show him the ropes (literally), and shoot a short film about the mountaineering experience in Morocco.

“I live in Morocco, well known for its blue skies, sunshine, hiking and warm climbing holidays. Alpine winter and ice are almost unexplored,” Bourkiba said in the film.

“There are no rescue services and only a small climbing community. If anything happens to you, you will stay in the mountains. This adds an extra layer of risk that makes the development of new routes even more dangerous. Yet, despite the risks, I couldn’t forget the face. That’s when Jeff made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Duration: 15 minutes

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Will Brendza
By Will Brendza

Will Brendza is a writer, journalist, and professional misfit based in Boulder, Colorado. Will grew up on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, reenacting episodes of “Survivorman” and studying books like “Hatchet,” “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” and “Into the Wild.” He has written on topics ranging from cannabis to local news, the environment and, of course, outdoor gear and adventure. If he’s not telling stories on his computer, you’ll probably find Will skiing or mountain biking (depending on the season) or drinking beer at a secluded craft brewery.

Topics: Ice, Mountaineering, Climbing, Winter

Key words: Mountaineering, rock climbing