MH19 – a new High Atlas crossing

updated October 2017

mh193 - 1Over the years there’s demdembeen talk of a High Atlas crossing in 100-km span between the MH12 Demnate backroad (right) and MH1 via Agoudal. The 4000-m ridge of the Mgoun massif lies between them. There are trekking trails which probably could be threaded together M3acoveron a light bike, but now Moroccan road builders have completed what I’ve dubbed ‘MH19‘, a route usable in any vehicle as long as conditions allow.
I heard about it too late to describe in the 2017 edition mh19 - 1(right), although it is mapped (below right). I got to actually do the route just as the book was published in October. Like many Morocco routes it’s a straightforward drive once you find the start, doable without much of a description or GPS: all you need to know is:
1. Fork right, off the road at the top end of Alemdoun village (left) for Ouzighimte, (aka: El Mrabitine)
2. Have a 200km fuel range.
Elevation profiles show the road climbing steeply from the south, but the gradient on the entire route is never extreme, and as long as the surface remains smooth, the route is doable in a regular car or a fully loaded big adv bike.
It took us 3 hours to drive / ride the 80-km of piste from Alemdoun to Tabant.

Wikiloc map and kmlmh199

MH19‘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-aitboumh191 - 1The route is sealed for the first 40km to Alemdoun (cafes, fuel if you ask). On the way you’ll pass many Rose Valley auberges in the villages.
At the end of Alemdoun, leave the road and keep right (north), not west with the tarmac. Now on the dirt, climb up to Amejgaj village. Here an old piste splits right (east) to follow the Amejgaj Gorge and the river to join up inmh19ameskar the Ameskar valley (right).
Otherwise, the new route takes you up to a 2300-m pass before dropping down to Ameskar mh19tizihamadand rejoining the gorge route. Now the main climb begins to the 3042-metre Tizi n’Ait Hamad (~KM70). From the top of this pass (left; telecom tower; bloke in a shed) Jebel Mgoun summit (4071m; second only to Toubkal) is 16km to the west. When we did this route, this was the rougher half of the crossing, but still smooth enough to be doable in a 2WD or a heavy bike.
mh192-1You descend from the Ait Hamad (left) into the valley of the Mgoun river, bypassing some remote villages. Much of this descent to the stream has been metalled (capped), though it was still covered in loose gravel. There was a road-builders’ camp near a diversion around the Mgoun stream crossing (ford unfinished or already under repair), so it looks like the rest of the route here will be similarly capped.
From here the climb to the Tizi n’Aït Imi (2898m; ~KM102) is less steep (as the profile shows), and at the top Aït Bouguemaze valley lies 20km below. Near Tabant (~KM120) the tarmac resumes and there are shops and basic ‘omelette-bap’ cafes before you join MH18 (if heading west). As the whole area is popular with trekkers, there are several auberges hereabouts.

mh193 - 1

Fuel
There is a small Total just west of the Rose roundabout in Kella; the point where you turn north of the N10. At the Aït Bouguemaze end, the nearest fuel is either Azilal, 79km to the north via MH17 – a fabulous drop from the pine forests. Or stay on MH18 west to Demnate; 83km – about 90 mins of near constant bends.
Total fuel-to-fuel distance from Kelaa to either is around 200km.