‘MH19’ – a new High Atlas crossing

demdemmh1Over the years there’s been talk of finding another Atlas crossing in 100-km span between the MH12 Demnate backroad (right) and MH1 via Agoudal (left). The 4000-m ridge of the Mgoun massif blocks the path. There are trekking trails which probably could be threaded together on a light bike, but now it looks like the Moroccan road builders have done it for us. What I’ve dubbed ‘MH19’ is a proper car piste, at least for the moment.


Confirmation just came in that a new 200-km piste from Kelaa Mgoun on N10 is rideable north to Aït Bouguemaze, and probably 2W-drivable too.
As I heard about it too late, in the 2017 edition of the guidebook (left) this route is only mapped with no route description. I hope to try it later in the year.

Wikiloc map and kmlmh199

The track has of course been built to serve the villages high in the hills and enable transhumance over the ranges, but also makes a great way of getting up the ‘Rose Valley’ (Oued Mgoun) north of the N10, to the touristic ‘Shangri La’ of the Aït Bouguemaze valley.

‘MH19’ links the book’s two Jebel Sarhro west routes, MH14 and 15 which end near Kelaa, with routes MH16, 17 and 18 in the Aït Bouguemaze valley on the north slopes of the High Atlas.

kelaa-aitbouThe route is sealed for the first 40km to Alemdoun; as you head round and out of the village, leave the road and keep right (north), not west with the tarmac over a oued to the last villages. Now on the dirt, climb and drop over a ridge (there’s an adjacent piste through a narrow gorge just to the east). Now the main climb begins to the 3042-metre high point: Tizi n’Ait Hamad (KM70). From the top of the pass Jebel Mgoun summit (4071m; second only to Toubkal) is 16km to the west.
You descend from the jebel into a trough of the upper Mgoun river, bypassing a few remote villages, then climb again to the Tizi n’Aït Imi (2898m; KM102) before the final steep descent down to Tabant (KM120) just before MH18 where the tarmac resumes (if heading west). As the whole area is popular with trekkers, there are several auberges along the route.

There are plenty of fuel stations in Kelaa too. The nearest one after Aït Bouguemaze is either Azilal, 79km to the north via MH17 – a fabulous drop from the pine forests. Or stay on MH18 west all the way to Demnate; 83km. Total fuel-to-fuel distance from Kelaa to either is around 200km. Get in there quick before nature starts taking its toll.