Traverse of the East Ridge of Jebel Mgoun (July 2-6, 2010)

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The Mgoun massif is a 30+km-long elongated mountain range in the Central Atlas. Most of its long ridge lies above 3000m and culminates at 4068m (Oumsoud) near its western end. Oumsoud is often climbed by trekkers from either the South or the North side of the mountain. In 2008, Oumar Oulaїdi, a mountain guide from Tabant in the Ait Bouguemez valley, suggested to me that we should try to reach the summit from the East by following the long ridge that spans most of the massif (see map below). We decided to do this traverse in early July 2010. Unfortunately, Oumar was slightly injured in a car accident a few days before the trip. Instead, I went with one of his friends, Chimmi, from the village of Rbat, also located in the Ait Bouguemez valley. The following map shows our itinerary:

 

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The trip starts and ends in Tabant. The numbered red dots indicate our successive camps.

 

This traverse is technically easy, although the ridge is occasionally narrow and steep on both sides. Nevertheless, it raises a few challenges. There is no water between camps 2 and 4 (except for a couple of snow patches in early summer). We used a mule to carry water up to camp 3 and then we did the rather long traverse from camp 3 and to camp 4 in a single day (6h to reach Oumsoud, plus 2h to reach the start of the Assif Oulilimt valley where water is available again). During that traverse, we experienced very strong lateral wind that was often destabilizing and required moving with caution. Due to the proximity of the Sahara desert, I suspect that such high wind is the norm (at least during the summer), rather than the exception. Finally, there is no easy escape from the ridge. The southern slope seems slightly less steep and less broken than the northern one, but it may still contain rock bands not visible from the ridge.

 

The trip started from the Oulaїdi′s guesthouse in Tabant, through the small village of Ait Imi, toward the Tizi Ait Imi (pass) at almost 3000m.

 

The Oulaїdi family at their guesthouse

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The village of Ait Imi and Tizzi Ait Imi (center top)

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The Mgoun range seen from Tizi Ait Imi. We followed the ridge from the left (East) to right (West). Oumsoud is marked with the red arrow.

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The valley of Assif Amougr Saln below Tizi Ait Imi

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The kasbah of Tighremt-n-Ait Ahmad at the junction where Assif Amougr Saln and Assif Oulilimt merge to form Assif Mgoun

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The valley of Assif Oulilimt slightly above the kasbah of Tighremt-n-Ait Ahmad. The canyon in the middle of the picture will be shown from the top ridge in other pictures below.

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A group of camels brought by nomads to drink from Assif Oulilimt. Even camels sometimes need to drink.

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Narrows in Assif Oulilimt

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Life is tough

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Ain (source) Aflafal near our 1st camp, flowing from the bottom of the Mgoun massif

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A glimpse at the Assif Mgoun valley

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Sheep drinking from the source where we set our 2nd camp, below Tizzi Ait Ahmed. This was the last place where we could get water before the Mgoun ridge.

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Juniper growing on rock in Talat n-lydane. Notice its long root to the ground below.

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Rock formation in Talat n-lydane

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A cave with a window in Talat n-lydane

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Our 3rd camp, a small shepherd stone house

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A beautiful sun rise on July 5th, when Chimmi and I started our trek to Oumsoud

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View of Jbel Waougoulzat from the Mgoun ridge, with the Assif Mgoun valley at the bottom

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The canyon falling down into Assif Oulilimt valley from the Mgoun ridge. The arrow in the second picture indicates the location of the kasbah of Tighremt-n-Ait Ahmad.

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Snow patch on the Mgoun ridge

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A ″soccer″ field on top of the Mgoun massif

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Views of the Mgoun ridge

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Views from the Mgoun ridge:

- Toward South: the mountain range in the background is Jbel Sahro

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- Toward South-West

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- Toward North-West:

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- Toward North: the summit on the left is Ighil-n-Igoudamene.

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- Toward the North-East: the long mountain range is Jbel Waougoulzat and the big dark mountain in the background is Jbel Azourki.

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More views of the Mgoun ridge

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Looking at the Mgoun ridge toward the East from the Mgoun summit (Oumsoud)

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Spanish trekkers at Oumsoud

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The steep descent from Oumsoud toward Assif Oulilimt

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Reaching Assif Oulimlimt

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Assif Oulilimt

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Our 4th camp near Assif Oulilimt

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View of Oumsoud (peak on the left above the snow patches). The descent path from Oumsoud lies in the hidden canyon in the middle of the picture.

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Nomad camp below Ighil-n-Igoudamene

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View of the Assif Arous valley and Tizi Asdremt-n-Ait Bou Oulli

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Thistles

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View of the Ait Bouguemez valley from the ridge of Ighil-n-Igoudamene

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