The first tour of Lecco’s Spiders project just came to end, in Todra gorges. The goal of this project is to travel into climbing and freeclimbing on the world’s big walls.

From this first stage, Cesare Bugada, Simone Pedeferri e Marco Vago came back home having opened a new route of 200 mt on the big wall of Poisson Sacret, few kilometres from the entrance of the gorges, that they called “Le berbere et la gazelle”.

Poisson Sacret, a 500 mt wide wall, offers to climbers other six routes. “La Berbere” is a 7 pitches route, that ends up with max difficulty 7c+ (7a obbl.), and has been opened in ground up style by the three Spiders. Unfortunately Cesare Bugada had to leave the team earlier to get back home, so only Vago and Pedeferri could finish the job, freeing all the pitches.

In the meantime other walls and crags have been explored, other experiences have been lived and interesting meetings became “salt” of this project, as Marco Vago is telling in his story.


Le berbere et la gazelle” and other stories by Marco Vago.

Africa is the ideal destination for light mountaineering expeditions with free-climbing purpose.

At least you can avoid uncertainty of the weather and it fits perfectly to people who have just two weeks time: it means you will have 100% chance to try your project!

So far we had a very short time to decide and organise it, our choice fell on the quite touristy Todra Gorges in Morocco, a popular destination for climbers as well for normal tourists.

After asking information to many friends, we understood that there was a serious opportunity and space enough to try to open new routes.

Right after arriving to the destination, we realized that nearly every multi pitch route already settled on the walls outside the gorges, was following very logical lines. The existing climbing routes are following cracks and dihedrals, while the steep walls, with blobs and holes in fabulous limestone, offer virgin and perfect rock for new lines to be settled with modern ground up style, using a drill to place 10mm fixes where you can not protect with trad gear like nuts, friends and pitons.

After a day of check we decided to go for a line on Poisson Secret wall, 200 m high and about 500 m wide, 3 km from gorges. There are other 6 routes settled in this area. We started on a beautiful and steep wall, riddled with holes. Our new route took us tree days of work. The dry and windy weather conditions, typical of the desert, let us work also during the hottest hours of the day, while, in the late afternoon, after 3 p.m., when the rock wall was finally overshadowed, a sweater was welcome.

Setting a new route is very different from climbing during a normal repetition: the rock is unclimbed, it can be crumbly and rotted; unstable rock needs to be removed; you never know what you are going to find out after you move from last protection. You have to deal with endless moments of physical and mental stress while you are drilling far from the gear… It’s tough to have to deal with long periods of work hanging on the harness, with short but intense moments of demanding climbing. After setting a route, not only your body needs just a good rest, you also need physical rehabilitation to get back skills for a smoother climbing, necessary to free the new route.

In order to get back to our shape, we decided to take some days to repeat already existing routes into the gorges, like the quite well known “Al Pilioer du Couchant”, and some other routes on the nearest crags.

After meeting Mimoun, a 28 years old Moroccan climber, who told as about some interesting crags near his home, me and Simone decided to leave for Amellago and the gorges de Imitr, while Cece had to rush back to Italy for work commitments.

We arrived in Imitr driving on a dirt road, after two hours and half driving from Todra,.

Here we could climb for two days on stunning limestone crags with tufas that could head up to thirty metres. The environment was a much more comfortable and relaxing compared to Todra where locals, even if hospitable and polite, are bothering tourist trying to sell their handicraft products like carpets and bags, contriving whatever it takes to create a sort of business.

Imitr, on the opposite, is a little piece of heaven: electric energy arrived just two months before our arrival; people are growing their crops for their own needs and they only eat what earth provides them. You can’t even find any bakery because everybody simply makes his home baked bread.

The crags still offer many possibilities of putting up new routes, but up to now, only some French and Spanish climbers have done something, because local young climbers don’t have enough resources.

After a few days, climbing skills seem to come back in our arms, mainly for Simone, who manages to repeat the hardest of the area: an 8b, settled by Francois Clair in 2001, that seems to have been repeated only once in 2003, as Mimoun told us. Mimoun is expert of this area, he knows everything and everyone. In these two days we have been guests in his little “gite de tape”.

Now we are ready to go back to Todra and try to free our new route.

After a good night sleep, we rest waiting the shade of the late afternoon to make an attempt.

We are quite sure that every pitch is climbable. Simone is sceptical just about the sixth pitch, that is basically a five meters long roof, poor in holds and where the beta is hard to understand: you have to try to climb to feel how they really are.

The available time is not much: just about five hours of daylight. So we decide that whoever will fall, no matter if when leading or second climbing, will be lowered down to the belay to be able to try it again. There won’t be enough time for each of us to lead every single pitch, but at least we both will be able to free climb the complete route.

Our holidays are ending soon, and this is the last chance. Actually the first five lengths flow away without problems, with alternate leading on the pitches, as we arrived at sixth length. Simone makes a mistake trying to top out of the roof. Anyway it’s a good sign, it means that it’s possible to climb it. My attempt gets stuck at the same point. After a while, I find my solution, but I am not sure I will have enough power to succeed in a second attempt.

Simone goes for the second go: with a sequence of four lock offs, he manages to pass the crux and reach the top. At this point I start climb the pitch as second, I reach the base of roof and, after some second of shaking, I go for the key sequence. It’s not time for hesitation, I keep saying “no matter how” and I go for the beta I tried in the first go. The solution is more unsteady than Simone’s one, but requiring less physical strength. I reach my partner who shakes me the hand and congratulates me. We are both very glad of the result and the last pitch goes quickly.

The craziest part of this ascent was that we had to climb wearing the winter jacket in the middle of the Moroccan desert, because of the really strong wind, unbelievable!

We quickly abseil the wall and we reach the car at dusk. We catch up with some French friends and we go all together to Mimoun’s that is waiting for us with some excellent mint tea. We talk about the just ended experience, new projects and loose ends we must tie up, but these will be, I hope, other stories to tell.

Marco Vago (Spiders Group – C.A.I. Lecco)

Todra Gorges (Poisson Sacret) – Marocco Le berberre et la gazelle, set by Cesare Bugada, Simone Pedeferri, Marco Vago. First free-climbing ascent by M. Vago, S. Pedeferri, in a day, on the 23/03/2006. Difficulty: 7c+/7a obl. Length: 200m/ 7 pitches (7b+,7a+,7a,7a+,7a/b,6b). Gear: 9 quickdraws, 1 micro-friend, friends n.0,50, 0,75, 2. Abseiling in double ropes.

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le berbere et la gazelle