Ascent of Adrar Bou Nasser on 2011-09-09

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Andrew Tibbetts
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Friday, September 9, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Adrar Bou Nasser
    Elevation:10958 ft / 3339 m

Ascent Trip Report

We climbed this two days after Irhil M'Goun, from the southwest - probably not the most efficient route. It was not on our original itinerary and the best info we could find, on a slow internet connection the night before, consisted of Google Maps terrain and aerial views.

The most efficient route may be from Tirnest (c.1400m on Google Maps), heading roughly N to gain the ridge at the 3164m saddle at N33.54953 W3.92354 (including some SW ridge tops) or ideally at the 3043m saddle at N33.56030 W3.90490 providing access almost directly to the summit. Viewed from above, these routes appear straightforward. To get to Tirnest, from Oulad El Haj centre, drive to the fork at N33.35495 W3.74172 (I think) and keep L, on the dirt road. Forking R here instead, only gets you within about 14 km of the summit, at a quite low elevation.

Alternatively, there is a village just N of the summit and access might be feasible from there.

Ours was a ridge walk on a grand scale: 35 km round trip with no roads or tracks, just a few goat paths.

From the main road near Oulad El Haj, we turned R (NW) at N33.33225 W3.73236, then R at N33.37150 W3.97710, 1426m to the mountain village of Oulad Ali. A good dirt road continues beyond the village, zigzagging uphill then turning N across the W flanks of the mountain. It breaches the 1600m contour at N33.47434 W3.99308 and the slopes are reasonably easy angled above, so we set off from here at 0545, having slept in the car nearby.

We climbed for 500m on reasonable terrain, then crossed a small rocky top to reach a saddle (N33.48308 W3.97740, 2113m). From here there is a choice: straight up the ridge or take the traverse path L. We took the path initially, then climbed from N33.49703 W3.96990 up an awkward steep loose slope to the ridge. At this point, the traverse path was set to cross a valley: it may be that it then climbed up to join the main ridge system further along: we couldn't tell.

Once up on the ridge (now in the hot sun: we had been shaded up to now) we took a contouring line to a circular sheep fold. There was a large flock of sheep and goats, with a barking dog and and a friendly young herdsman who knew little french. From the fold we ascended a steep rubbly ramp to the skyline then contoured generally in the direction of the summit. We reached a point where we could get a forward view of the ridge. The summit was still 10 km away according to the GPS. We skirted L, crossing a cairned top then getting onto the SW ridge proper. It's possible to bypass the next little top on its L, arriving at a nice rocky arete. It would be possible to reach this point from below, e.g. if coming from Tirnest, as mentioned above. From the arete we kept L of the crest (it may be ok scrambling , we didn't investigate) then made a rising traverse on goat paths to the ridge. There are several tops on this section, which can be bypassed or crossed with little effort. The highest is at N33.55231 W3.91790, 3261m, prominence 218m (GPS). Finally there is a cairn with a steep drop to a saddle. This can be scrambled (YDS3, various routes, nice rock). Alternatively from the higher summit keep R and head for a break in the crags at N33.55643 W3.90885, 3122m, which avoids the difficulties.

It would be possible to reach this col from below, e.g. if coming from Tirnest, as mentioned above.

From the col, an ascent on goat tracks leads over or round a couple of summits. Ahead can be seen 4 summits of similar height, plus a distant lower summit maybe 5 km further E. None of these matches the expected GPS coordinates (from an out of date dataset, as it turns out), which indicated a point 2.13 km ENE of the N summit. We visit all four summit contenders. W reads 3335m (cairn, N33.56695 W3.89028), N reads 3341m (bouldery outcrop, traces of concrete, N 33.57061, W 3.88731), E reads 3335m (cairn, N33.56698 W3.88410) and S reads 3343m (wide low shelter cairn, traces of concrete, N 33.56224, W 3.88555). This seemed the most significant summit and may well be the highest point. This is in good agreement with the expected 3340m: the GPS was quoting 3m horizontal accuracy. Note: a map I have subsequently seen (see photos) shows a 3326m trig point at the N summit - the concrete we saw could be a remnant of this.

Satisfied we had bagged the Ultra, despite the location discrepancy, we headed down, reversing our upward route with a few minor variations. After revisiting the sheepfold, instead of descending to the traverse path we made one last traverse leftwards then headed straight down the ridge to the little col (N33.48308 W3.97740, 2113m), then straight down the last 500m descent to the car.

Mercifully the sun set behind a ridge during the last 15 mins. The combination of heading straight into the sun and the rubbly often unpredictable ground had made the descent particularly gruelling. We then made a long day even longer: Andrew drove us north for a few hours past Fes, as we were hoping to complete the set of five Moroccan ultras with an ascent of Jebel Tidirhine the next day.

Considering the lack of prior research, we were pleased to have bagged this summit. It may be that it is ascended relatively infrequently, despite its being the Middle Atlas range highpoint.
On the wildlife front, I was struck by the number of red-billed chough on this mountain: we saw a flock of about 100 near the summit.

Bou Nasser photos
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:8280 ft / 2522 m
    Extra Gain:1312 ft / 399 m
    Round-Trip Distance:21.9 mi / 35.2 km
    Route:West ridge
    Trailhead:dirt road above Oulad Ali  5302 ft / 1616 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 2+
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Open Country
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:6 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:5 Hours 13 Minutes

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