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‘Land of the Cold Sun’: Two Athletes Forge Mountaineering Routes in Morocco

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‘The route was physically demanding and technical, with some weak ice lines. The holds and small edges helped me to climb through some of the difficult moves and sequences.’

When you think of Morocco, you probably don’t think of ice climbing or mountaineering. You probably imagine dry deserts, tagine, bazaars full of spices and clothing, hookah lounges, and tea houses.

But in fact, Morocco does have mountaineering-worthy mountains. It also gets snow and ice. And while the Morocco mountaineering community there is small (almost nonexistent), there are some, like Rab athlete Faiçal Bourkiba, who are leading the charge.

Bourkiba had long dreamed of climbing the face of Tazarhart, a mountain he can see from his own home. But he was also uncertain of his abilities to safely get to the top. Creating new routes in Morocco is extra dangerous because of the lack of rescue services.

So he teamed up with another Rab athlete with a life’s worth of mountaineering experience, Jeff Mercier.

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

“I live in Morocco, well known for its blue skies, sun, trekking, and warm rock climbing holidays. Winter alpine and ice is almost unexplored,” Bourkiba said in the film.

“There are no rescue services and only a small climbing community. If something happens to you, you will remain in the mountains. This adds an extra layer of risk that makes developing new routes even more dangerous. Yet, despite the risks, I couldn’t forget about the face. That was when Jeff made me an offer I couldn’t turn down.”

Runtime: 15 minutes

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