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 portion of the High 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, had 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 (yellow line):

 

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This 5-day trek started and ended in Tabant. The numbered red dots indicate our successive camps.

 

The traverse of the Mgoun ridge 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′sgite″ (a kind of guesthouse) in Tabant, through the small village of Ait Imi, toward Tizi Ait Imi (pass) at almost 3000m.

 

The Oulaїdi family at their gite.

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The village of Ait Imi below Tizi Ait Imi (center top).

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Photo collage showing the Mgoun range as 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. Note the deep canyon in the middle of the photo. Another picture in this page will show views of this canyon from the Mgoun ridge.

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Camels brought by nomads to drink from Assif Oulilimt. Even camels sometimes need to drink!

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Small narrow canyons in Assif Oulilimt.

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Sometimes life is tough.

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Ain (the Berber term for ″source″) Aflafal near our first 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 second camp, below Tizi Ait Ahmed. This was the last place where we could get water before ascending the Mgoun ridge.

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Juniper growing in a rock crack in Talat n-lydane. Notice its long root to the ground at the base of the rock.

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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 third camp, a small shepherd stone house.

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

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

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The canyon falling down from the Mgoun ridge into the Assif Oulilimt valley.

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Another view of the canyon. Here, the red arrow in the top-right picture indicates the location of the kasbah of Tighremt-n-Ait Ahmad shown in the bottom-right picture.

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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 Jebel Sahro.

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- Toward south-west.

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- Toward north-west.

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- Toward north: the mountain range with a few snow patches on the left of the picture is Ighil-n-Igoudamene. We will cross it on the next day to return to the Ait Bouguemez valley.

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- Toward the north-east: the long mountain range in the middle ground is Jebel Waougoulzat and the large dark mountain in the background is Jebel 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 on the summit.

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The steep descent from Oumsoud toward Assif Oulilimt.

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Approaching Assif Oulimlimt.

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Reaching Assif Oulimlimt.

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Assif Oulilimt.

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Our fourth 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 over the Ait Bouguemez valley from the ridge of Ighil-n-Igoudamene.

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