Last month, Arc’athletes Ines Papert and Patrik Aufdenblatten, and Lisi Steurer made the first ascent of Azazar (400m, 8a), a route named after the beautiful plant that grows in the Central Atlas Mountains. Inspired by spectacular photos of Toni Arbones and the late Kurt Albert on their 2007 route Antro.po.cene, the team travelled to Morocco's Taghia valley. Their sights were set on a striking line up the southwest face of Tadrarate, which lies about two hours from the village of Taghia, towards the end of the famous gorge.
Much to their surprise, the three made a chance encounter on the first day with the man who had inspired this expedition – Toni Arbones himself! Aufdenblatten, Papert, and Steurer set to work immediately, and climbing ground-up over a ten-day period, they established a new route up the sheer face, about a hundred meters to the right of Antro.po.cene. They used a cave at the foot of the mountain as a temporary home, and climbed capsule-style on the upper section of the wall to breach difficulties up to 8a.
All the hard pitches were forged by Aufdenblatten, and although protected by bolts, the route is certainly no straightforward sport climb. In fact, Papert described the nine pitch line as “a somewhat alpine outing because of the long runouts on all pitches”, adding “the climbing is very varied and steep overhangs are quickly followed by extremely rough slabs”.
Although all individual pitches were climbed free, unfortunately the team ran out of time for a single-push redpoint attempt. Papert commented, "We encountered whiteout conditions early on which cost us time and I can imagine returning to Taghia in the near future to attempt to redpoint the route in a day. But our route is certainly no walkover: the difficulties never diminish and the climbing is demanding, both physically and psychologically, throughout. Topping out in brilliant sunshine with Lisi was a really special moment and the entire area is a true paradise for climbers and trekkers, the gorge is quite simply … breathtaking”.
(Photography by Franz Walter)