European EV Road Trip Part 1: RFID, Apps and Planning

I've been getting a number of questions from people who have seen our EV campervan European trip videos asking what apps and RFID cards we used to activate charge points. I will attempt to answer these questions in this post. I will also do a 'part 2' post on cables and accessories we used to charge an EV safely from campsite hookups and European sockets.

Activating Charge Points (RFID and APPs)


TL;DR

In general mainland Europe has much better interconnectivity (roaming agreements) between charging providers than the UK, for many countries a single ChargeMap Pass RFID will activate almost all charging points.

Rapid charging on Fastned network in Germany, one of the best charging networks in Europe 

Transport Carbon Emissions: Which is best? Plane, Train, Car, EV?

Travel is at the heart of the outdoor community. Travelling to explore new places and experience new things is very enjoyable and has many positive benefits. However, it's undeniable that the way we choose to travel can significantly contribute to climate change which is damaging the outdoor environments that we love. I recently read a very well written article by Rosie Watson: Building a sustainable outdoor community after COVID-19. Quote: 


"COVID-19 has driven the message home to appreciate the local, but more importantly, climate science is telling us clearly that flying for adventures or sport cannot be justified. Therefore, flying for adventures should not be communicated as a desirable behaviour within our culture, no matter how intrepid or boundary-pushing the trip was."

The impact of travel varies significantly depending on the chosen mode of travel, I often get asked by friends and family what is the difference in carbon emissions for different forms of transport. This is a topic that I'm very interested in, I always try to include a comparison chart embedded in each of my travel related blog post. However, these charts are difficult to reference therefore this blog post will be dedicated to the cause! 

I created this chart myself since most of the online carbon calculators are not very accurate. Here is a link to my Google Spreadsheet so you can follow my calculations and data sources for yourself and modify to fit your specific journey.

I choose the journey between Manchester to Avignon as an example since it's a common journey for UK climbers to reach the French climbing destinations. It's also a journey which can easily be made by train or plane since Manchester has an airport and mainline train station. This makes calculations easier. Valence is one stop earlier on the train and Marseille is one stop later. 



Here are the assumptions and details for each transport type:

DMM Article: Do Climbers Dream of Electric Vans?


DMM a local climbing hardware manufacturer recently published an article I wrote about my electric campervan. Read the original article on DMM's website here.

Growing up in Snowdonia North Wales DMM has always been one of the local companies I admire the most: their ethos of in-house designing and manufacturing state-of-the-art climbing hardware resonate with me. The DMM factory being located on the shore of Llyn Padarn a leisurely 5min bike ride of my house. 10 years ago when I started my own company I was keen to where possible manufacture locally to keep transportation energy to a minimum. This is worked out well, we still manufacture all our electronic energy monitoring and EV charging hardware in a factory in Bangor, local manufacture has lots of benefits.

It was an honour to write an article for DMM. The reception of the article was very positive, hopefully it will help inspire others to lower the ecological impact of travel. Here is a copy of the article:

Chuilla Spain via Electric Campervan in time for Christmas

Rather bizarrely our Christmas holiday hit the local news! Myself, my partner and our dog traveled to a famous climbing area called Chulilla near Valencia in Spain over the festive period. What caught the attention of the Daily Post is that we travelled there and back in our electric van. It’s a second hand Nissan e-NV200 with a 24kWh battery that we have converted into a camper. This was the 3rd road trip we’ve done in Europe since converting it.




Our van is an early Nissan e-NV200 model with a small battery (24kWh) compared to new electric vehicles (EVs), which have ranges of 200+ miles (longer than most people’s bladder range!), but the fact that even low range EVs like ours can do long journeys shows how extensive the charging infrastructure in the UK and Europe actually is.


Electric Campervan Euro Climbing Roadtrip: UK > Austria > Hungary

This summer we went on a long trip European trip in our e-NV200 electric campervan. The main motivation for the trip was to attend a friends wedding in Hungary. We took the opportunity to make trip out of it and visit some climbing locations along the way.  I made some video edits of the trip, mainly to try to show what its like to travel around Europe in a fully electric van, a 24 kWh Nissan e-NV200.

On the way we climbed in:

Austria (Zillertal): Ewige Jagdgrunde Bergstation - awesome granite crack climbing, wish we had longer here. The bouldering in this area looked fantastic. Sadly it started raining. The Zillertal area had an excellent guidebook.

Italy: Napoleonica - amazing location high above Trieste, a bit hot and polished

Slovenia: Misja Pec / Osp - Totally awesome, been on my wish list to visit for many years. Did not disappoint. Great climbing in a beautiful location and nice campsite. Keen to return when temperatures are a bit cooler.


Part 1: Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿, England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿, France 🇫🇷, Belgium 🇧🇪, Germany 🇩🇪, Austria




Tesla Trip to S.Fance & Céüse

Recently we were lucky enough to be to invited to a friends wedding in the south of France. The most obvious mode of transport would be to hope on a plane, however being aware of the environmental impact of flying I've managed to avoid flying for the past 5yrs. A single return flight to the South of France would emit 75% of a persons annual carbon allowance if we are to halt the effects of climate change.

Train travel and EV travel are very low carbon in comparison to flying, especially in France where most of the electrical energy is generated by low carbon sources (mostly nuclear).

A train is a very good option for travel to the south of France, it's possible to get a direct train from London to Marseilles, we've done this trip via train several times before. It's very quick an easy. However, we were keen to squeeze in a days climbing in the alps and would require a car to travel around and reach the wedding venue.

Our Nissan e-NV200 EV campervan is currently in a bodyshop getting new rear doors and a bumper after being rear-ended last month. The E-NV200 is totally capable of making a trip to the south of France (we drove across France on our way to Spain). However, with a 24kWh battery and 70 mile range it would have taken us 2.5-3 days from N.Wales to travel to the south of France; obviously not ideal if only going for a short period. We were very lucky that my in-laws kindly offered to lend us their Tesla Model S for the trip, we did not need much persuading to take them up on this very kind offer! Since the Tesla is a 2015 model it's got free supercharging which meant our total fuel cost for the trip was less than £5 (charging at home). It's possible to rent a Tesla Model S for £80/day with free supercharging.

Driving a Tesla long distance is very smooth and easy, the in-built sat-nav automatically navigated us to supercharging locations and told us how long to charge in each location. The Tesla Models S60 has a range of 200 miles, we found this to be plenty, we often felt like we wanted a break from driving before the car needed charging! Most supercharging stops where less than 30min after 3hrs of driving at 80 miles when road conditions allowed with A/C running since it was over 30 deg C outside! Autopilot was engaged taking control of accelerating / braking and steering while on the motorways, this made the drive very easy and relaxing.

Here's a video edit of the trip:


Climbing in Jaén, Electric campervan trip to Southern Spain (2500 miles)

I love rock climbing, however living in North Wales means it's almost impossible to enjoy climbing outside for half of the year during the winter, it's wet cold and generally miserable. Climbing indoors at indoor climbing centers is fun but no substitute to the real thing. For this reason it's a real treat to travel somewhere sunny and warm during the winter months to go rock climbing. I've managed to avoid flying for 5 years, instead in recent years opting to take the train to Spain, Morocco or Sicily

At the end of last year (2018) we converted a Nissan e-NV200 electric van into a fully electric campervan. We figured this winter would be a good opportunity to go away for a trip to the van. Traveling in the van rather than the train would allow us to take our Spaniel dog with us. Sadly due to  last minute change of dates lack of ferry doggy cabin availability meant we had to leave our dog behind :-(

Great Van Camping Spots In Jaen

We had heard about a new (for us) climbing area near Jaén in Southern Spain, some good friends of ours visited recently and gave the area high praise. Also, being in Andalucia it's south enough to have a good chance of being warm and sunny, a very important criteria for us!


Nissan e-NV200 Vs. Peugeot Partner Electric Van Comparison

For the last two years, we've been a fully electric vehicle household driving over 40,000 miles around WalesScotland, Paris and the French Alps without burning any petrol or diesel, saving us a substantial amount of money and reducing emissions. We charge our vehicles overnight from a green energy electricity tariff and I often charge at work directly from solar PV.

As you can tell, I'm totally sold on the benefits and practicality of EVs, even living in rural Snowdonia range and public charging has not been an issue. I discuss these issues in depth in my Zero Carbon Future post.

We've been driving a 2014 24kWh Nissan LEAF and more recently a 2015 24kWh Nissan e-NV200 both of which we bought 2nd hand. We recently converted the e-NV200 to a campervan, it's been a super fun project. We've got some exciting EV campervan trips planned soon!

Since we got our first EV, 8 of our friends who live within a 10-mile radius in Snowdonia have also made the transition. I'm happy to say that recently my dad has decided to swap his 14yr old diesel pickup for an electric van! He decided to go with a Peugeot Partner Electric van since it has 3 seats in the front. With the help of Jonathan from eco-cars.net we managed to purchase a 2015 Peugeot Partner Electric in an auction. I picked up the van a few days ago.



Electric Campervan DIY conversion: Nissan e-NV200

Recently I've been working hard on converting a Nissan e-NV200 24kWh electric van into a campervan. I'm happy to report that the conversion process is nearly finished.

Reaching southern Spain after driving the e-NV200 campervan from North Wales UK





I used to own a diesel Citroen Dispatch campervan which I converted myself many years ago. This van served me well on many trips, however, as soon as we got a Nissan LEAF electric car a couple of years ago I sold the Dispatch campervan. I couldn't justify the high cost of running a diesel van compared to an EV and driving an internal combustion vehicle just felt old and wrong. The future is certainly electric. Switching to an EV is one of the most effective ways of reducing personal CO2 emissions, see my blog post Zero Carbon Future (low carbon present).


Exploring Norway by Train & Tesla!

Norway, a country of stunning coastlines, impressive mountain ranges, extensive wildernesses, 24hr daylight and the world’s hardest sport climb. A place that generates 98% of their energy via renewable sources and is the world leader in EV adoption. A land of top-notch cinnamon buns and the hygge culture, creating spaces and moments of cosiness, comfort and contentment.

Visiting Norway is something that we had been talking wistfully about for the past few years. Our honeymoon seemed like the perfect excuse to finally splash out (we knew a trip to this amazing country would be more expensive than a typical European adventure). So this summer we made it happen.

Paddling back after a day climbing at Flatanger, still baking hot and super sunny at 9pm!

Here's a short video edit playlist of our trip:


Overland Train

As with all our trips, we started by consulting the excellent train travel knowledge database that is The Man in Seat 61 and adapted one of his suggested UK-Norway schedules. We made our outward journey quite relaxed to allow us to have half a day in London and spend some time in Copenhagen (our top recommendation is going for a swim in one of their free, outdoor, harbour swimming pools, possible due to the work they have done improving the water quality over the last 15 years), before arriving in Oslo on the fourth day of travel. We opted to make the return journey more efficient, leaving Oslo on a Sunday evening and arriving home in North Wales early on Tuesday evening. The return journeys for two people, plus 3 Airbnbs (Cologne and Copenhagen on the way out, and then just Cologne on the way back because we took a sleeper train) was near enough £1000 in total (£250 one person one way). Our decision to go was relatively last minute, especially for the train ticket world. Booking tickets more than a month in advance would definitely help reduce this cost!


Our train journey

*Travelling via train emits 80-90% less carbon than flying [http://www.seat61.com/CO2flights.htm]. The international 'safe' level of emissions per person is around 2T/yr to contain global temperature changes at or below 2 deg C which will 'hopefully' keep runaway climate change and subsequent rise in sea levels at bay. Return flight from London to Málaga will emit 2/3T of carbon per person. 6.5T to Auckland Australia or 2T to New York. [Only Planet, Ed Gillespie 2014]

The journey was smooth and pleasurable. European trains are so spacious in comparison to UK trains, with ample luggage storage, which is especially appreciated when you are travelling with climbing, mountaineering and camping equipment, plus other ‘essentials’ such as red wine, nuts and pesto (we had been warned of the high prices in Norwegian supermarkets for these items!). Leaving Germany for Denmark marked the start of new train territory for us, and was rather exciting as it involved going on a ferry from Puttgarden in Germany to Rødby in Denmark. The train boards the ferry, then passengers go upstairs for the crossing to eat ice creams and drink coffee on the deck, enjoying the views before the ferry docks on the other side and the train continues on its journey. The bridge connecting Denmark to Sweden was another pretty spectacular section and as soon as we entered Norway, our books dropped to our laps as we watched the forests and lakes go by in the evening light.

The perpetual sunset was still in full force when we arrived in Oslo at 10.20pm. Buying 24hr tickets on Oslo’s public transport app we hopped on a tram, then got a ferry over to Nesodden, a peninsular fondly known as ‘the island’ to its residents, where we were staying with Amy’s friend Anja and her partner Daniel. Getting off the bus and walking to their apartment at 11.30pm felt like it should be 8pm.

Tesla EV Electric Car




The next day we went to pick up our hired Tesla, our transport and bedroom for the trip! It had always been the dream to do our Norwegian road trip in a fully electric Tesla - Norway being a country with such an extensive supercharging network, and so much renewably generated energy. We had been prepared to pay a bit more for the privilege, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover that through using the P2P website leieting.no we could hire this 2014 Tesla model S at the same price as a Ford Focus from a traditional hire company! We paid 14,900 kr for a 17 day rental, approx £100/day, split between four of us £25/day each. Coupled with the road tax exemptions and free public parking for driving an electric vehicle, plus the free fuel from supercharging, it meant choosing a Tesla made complete financial as well as environmental sense.

2000 miles in a Tesla Model S EV around Norway
Click here for a full-screen Google Map of our trip around Norway.

Dealing directly with the car’s owner was a great experience for us. He was super helpful and went above and beyond to help us out. When we needed a Norwegian mobile phone number to make use of a ‘start a rapid charge via text’ option (after the charging company’s app didn’t accept our British address or credit card and the helpline wasn’t manned over the weekend) he did this remotely for us. However, we mainly charged at Tesla Superchargers, which were all very smooth experiences. It was incredible to see bays of 30 plus superchargers with two-thirds usually occupied.



We only occasionally chose to top up at some rapid chargers using a Chademo adapter (included with the car) because we were venturing off the beaten track with some of our adventures. If planning a similar trip, we would recommend applying for these companies’ RFID cards to avoid any issues using mobile apps:
  1. Fortum
  2. Grønn Kontakt
Having poured over YouTube videos of people sleeping in their Teslas, we opted to buy an inflatable double mattress that would absorb the step between the folded rear seats and the boot. It took a while to fine tune the exact level of inflating to do, but we got there. Too much and the bed ‘burst its banks’ going up at the sides and making a dip in the middle, too little and you could feel the floor of the car when sleeping on your side.

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We certainly got slicker with ‘getting ready for bed’ as the trip went on. Here are a few of the things we learned along the way…


Things we learned while Tesla car camping:
  1. An electric air bed pump with 12V plug worked a charm, and having a mattress with the air vent/plug in the top centre made it easy to access.
  2. Using the Tesla "Keep Climate Control On" setting kept the interior of the car warm in the night and cool when the sun hit in the morning. 19.5C was our sweet spot temperature, and consumed on average 3-5kWh per night, decreasing predicted range by 15km - 30km (not much when starting with over 400km), depending on outside temperature and how long we slept for.
  3. Being able to have the windows closed and climate control on was also amazing for soundproofing.
  4. Reversing the parcel shelf to make a blackout for the rear windscreen was great for privacy and helping to sleep in 24hr daylight. We had a silver foil screen for the front windscreen and towels/clothing trapped in windows worked well as curtains for the door windows.
  5. Parking on a slight angle (frunk downhill) compensated for the upwards tilt of the rear seats to give a flatter bed.
  6. Having a hanging pocket system strung behind the two front seats was useful for storing phones, kindles, glasses etc.
  7. We kept food and cooking gear in the frunk, which meant breakfast wasn’t dependent on us getting up and packing the bed away. Our friends could get access to coffee, even if we were having a lie in!
  8. The Tesla mobile app allowed us to adjust the temperature during the night, lock the car and open the funk / trunk in the morning.
  9. Norway has some truly epic wild car camping spots! Here's a map/list of where we stayed.







We had unconventionally invited our friends Chris and Jen on our honeymoon! After a great trip with them in the Dolomites in 2012 we had been trying to coordinate another trip together for years. They were sleeping in a tent, so all of our overnight spots were good for a tent as well as a vehicle. Norway has a right to roam. You can put up a tent for the night anywhere in the countryside, forests or mountains (even on private land) as long as you keep at least 150m away from the nearest inhabited house or cabin. The 150m rule also applies to camping cars and caravans. If you want to stay for more than two nights in the same place, you need to ask the landowner's permission, except in the mountains or very remote areas.



None of us had been to Norway before and our itinerary tried to find a balance of accommodating everyone’s activity preferences, exploring the country and spending quality time in areas without always being on the move. Tricky, but I think we managed pretty well.




Some stats for EV geeks like me: we drove 3163km / approx 2000 miles using 542 kWh therefore averaged 3.7mi/kWh or 368 wh/mi. 





Activites

1. Trolltunga

Near Hardangervidda National Park.

Essentially a long walk from a very expensive pay and display car park (500NOK/day) to a photogenic rock! This was a last minute decision and we picked it as a destination to aim for on our first day driving west. Through the power of instagram it has become a very touristy thing to do. We managed to mostly avoid the crowds by starting late and getting to the rock around 5.30pm (if you are doing this it could be worth asking people who are leaving the car park when you arrive whether you can buy their ticket at a reduced price as it’s valid for 24hrs). Though we did get our picture postcard image of Norway, overall we would not highly recommended it. It’s a 27km round trip with an uninspiring slog up a tarmac road to start, though there are stunning views later on. Probably best enjoyed as a fell run off-season.


2. Uskedalen

The Yosemite of Norway.

Inspired by these guys who described the place as the smaller Nordic brother of Yosemite, we next headed to Uskedalen. The beautiful valley and waves of granite did not disappoint. We did a two-star Norwegian grade 4 route called Kolkjereryggen/Akslo Ridge, that went from the valley floor and topped out on the plateau below Ulvanosa (about 1000m ascent) via an awesome, long granite ridge. We walked down a marked tourist trail that took us to the north end of the valley. I took one for the team and did the link up section, running back up the valley to pick up the car. The harder routes on the walls looked amazing, we didn't have time to climb anything else, here’s a video showing what the harder climbing is like, I would love to go back.





3. Bergen

The wettest city in Europe!
Apparently, the rainiest city in Europe, though the sun shined for us! We parked on a residential street near Meyermarken garden, a 10min stroll to the harbour via nice quiet back streets.


4. The Ampere - Norway’s first fully electric ferry

Between Oppedal and Lavik.

After reading about it, we were excited that we could legitimately use it on our route from Bergen to Jotunheimen National Park without a special detour.
There are 2 other (non electric) ferries in the fleet that do the crossing, so check the timetable in advance. For us in 2018, The Ampere was coded as ‘B’ in the timetable. Being in an EV we got a discount for the crossing.


5. Jotunheimen National Park

A national park full of the big mountains! Arriving in Jotunheimen in the afternoon we walked 16km into the park to Skogadalsboen, an amazing hut part of the DNT network. Amy had researched and taken a fancy to this. Norway isn’t cheap, and staffed mountain huts are a whole other level of expensive, but if you can accept and switch off to this for a night, it is definitely a cool experience. Cocktails and a cosy candlelit dinner in the mountains was pretty special. The next day was cool and cloudy (a first for the trip), Chris and Jen went up Fannaråken (2068m) and Amy and I decided to run 14km up a different valley and then hitched the linking road back to the car.



 Skogadalsboen hut 


UKC did an inspiring article on the ridge climbs in Jotunheimen. We had all been considering Storen by the North ridge, a Norwegian 3+ route, but Amy and I felt we hadn’t been moving together fast enough on Asklo Ridge to take on this bigger outing (guidebook time of 17hrs). Asklo had been that awkward/blurred terrain of scrambling with sections of easy climbing up to Severe, which Amy would normally pitch on trad multi pitch days in the UK, but here we needed to be comfortable moving fast together with minimal gear between us.
To anyone on road bikes or even just driving, the 55 along the north of the park in an amazingly scenic road with good tarmac!

6. Flatanger

Home to the hardest sport climbing route in the world.

We stayed at Flatanger Camping campsite, a happy mistake because although it wasn’t the closest to the crag it was great value and had excellent facilities! We took advantage of their indoor lounge and cooking area (complete with an oven - very exciting after a couple of weeks cooking on a gas camping stove) by making pizzas and having some film nights. The campsite owners were very friendly and even had canoes and boats to hire, fantastic for exploring the surrounding fjords. The climbing at Flatanger was excellent, there is lots of climbing at all grade ranges on fantastic rock. I think the highlight for me was Berntsenbanden, a bit like a 7c version of Vector at Tremadog. Sport climbing on steep granite was really cool!





7. Innerdalen 

The most beautiful valley in Norway.

Our plan was to break up the journey back to Oslo by climbing Innerdalstårnet, a 1452m peak in apparently the most beautiful valley in Norway. Driving through sheets of rain to Innerdalen, we wondered whether our weather luck had run out. Waking up in misty cloud, Chris and Jen set off optimistically, while Amy and I slept longer, hoping the cloud would clear and planning to catch them up by fell running. Midday came, the cloud hadn’t lifted but we set off anyway, hoping we would be able to catch a glimpse of the stunning scenery at some point! At 1200m the miracle happened, we rose up above the cloud to climb the 200m scramble section (think Tryfan North Ridge) in glorious sunshine with a spectacular cloud inversion all around. The views were all the more special for the delayed reveal.

Dropping back down into the mist wasn’t such a joy, but we finished the day with coffee and freshly baked waffles and cinnamon buns at Renndølsetra, highly recommended.


Still having all the fun...just with less impact

This evening I watched a this fantastic film from Salomon. It epitomises everything I enjoy:




I can relate to the uneasy feeling of doing environmental damage while having outdoor adventures. I made the decision a number of years ago to give up flying, drive an electric car and become veggie...I still travel and climb just as much, just with slight less impact and greater fulfilment.

Thanks to my friend Terry Taylor for posting this video with his own words:

Nice to see that other people in the industry are aware of their footprint. I'm a professional skier based in France, and drove to the Alps from North Wales in my 24kw LEAF EV, with a seasons worth of kit, 7 pairs of skis, and a house plant called Barbara. The car has been mega in the snow, and we've had the biggest winter in 30+ years. The cold not a massive problem (-28 at times), and remote climate control is amazing! The local charger is supplied from the hydroelectric dam. Best decision I ever made.

Morocco Overland (Climbing in Talambote/Akchour)


Talambote Valley
I'm currently travelling at 300 km/hr, sitting on a TGV fast French electric train on my way back to the UK after a couple of weeks climbing and exploring in Morocco. We travelled overland to keep our carbon footprint to to minimum*; first via electric car to London then high speed electric trains through France and Spain and finally a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco.

Overland Travel

We followed the excellent Seat 61 London > Morocco train booking guide for advice on booking trains and ferries. Seat 61 is an amazing source of information for everything train related. We have their knowledge to book trains as far as Sicily (see blog post) and even China (see blog post)!  

Overland Route to Morocco
To maximise available time we left home on Boxing Day. Since there were no trains running we drove to London in our Nissan LEAF electric car. We have done this 280 mile drive many times before; there are so many rapid charging options at motorway service stations the journey is straightforward even in our 2013 24kWh Nissan LEAF (80-90 miles of range in summer and 70-80 miles in winter). However, on Boxing Day the weather was terrible: heavy rain and snow and freezing temperatures, which made the journey slightly more exciting than expected and meant we had to stop to charge a little more often than usual.

The next morning we relaxed into the comfy seats of the high speed electric trains from London to Paris and then Barcelona. We arrived in Barcelona in time to head out for some late tapas after checking into an AirBnb. The following morning we got a train from Barcelona to Algeciras with one quick change in Antequera-Santa Ana. Since alcohol is hard to obtain in Morocco, in Algeciras we stocked up on NYE celebration supplies (wine and whisky) before boarding the ferry. The alcohol allowance is a litre of wine and a litre of spirits per person. At this point the journey started to slow down. The ferry was 3 hours late departing, we joked that we were already experiencing Morocco! Things seem to happen when they happen in Morocco, following no apparent schedule and generally at a much slower pace!

On the ferry we met up with our friends Jon and Emily who were bringing their camper van to Morocco from Southern Spain. Eventually we arrived in Tanger Med port and, after a lengthy customs clearance process for us and an even longer one for the van, we finally started the 2.5hr drive in the camper van up into the mountains at 1am! The drive was rather exciting, negotiating roadblocks and detours. Eventually at 4am (5am for us on Spanish time!) we made it to Cafe Rueda near Talambote/Akchour where we would be staying for the next couple of weeks.

After some much needed sleep we awoke to an amazing sight: a massive wall of limestone bathed in warm, Moroccan winter sunshine.

View from Cafe Rueda


Panorama view from Cafe Rueda
Looking back towards cafe Rueda




Topos / Guide book

The valley of Talambote is located in Northern Morocco, Talassemtane National Park, in the heart of the Rif and near Chefchaouen. Most of the climbing topos for Talambote/Akchour are now published on Cafe Rueda's website. A guide book was published in 2016 which I bought from here delivered to the UK. Even though the guide book has most of the latest routes it's worth taking a look at the folder in Cafe Rueda full of hand drawn topos and notes, there are a number of new additions that are not in the guide book.


La Rueda Wall Topo

The Climbing


I first heard about the climbing near Talambote/Akchour after reading Jacob Cook's excellant UKC article and Hazel Findlay's blog post. A few years ago I had a really enjoyable and memorable trip big-wall climbing in Tagia in Morocco (see my blog post). I was keen for another Moroccan adventure. A sunning 400m high limestone wall dominates the vista from Cafe Rueda, however there are also lots of single pitch crag options. The best that we visited being (in no particular order): RatasKosy, Triangel and Pinchos.



Hand Jamming at Kozy

7b at Gaza

7b at Ratas, the best roadside crag

Most of the climbing in Talambote/Akchour is very well equipped by foreign climbers with well placed bolts and anchors. There are a number of multi pitch routes on the main wall which are partially equipped, but we didn't try any as there were enough fully equipped routes to keep us busy during our two week trip.

The climbing is varied, the routes on the big wall often have tufa sections, the single pitch crags have a variety of pockets and some sharp edges. Most routes have only recently been equipped and have not had many ascents. Expect some sharp and dirty holds and a bit of loose rock. Sometimes walking and approaching crags can be tough due to the lack of paths and ferocious spiky vegetation!

The highest and best looking sector on the wall is La Rueda Wall. The multi pitch climbing highlight of the trip for me was climbing Sahara 7b 245m. 6 pitches of excellent sustained varied climbing (5 consecutive pitches of 7a and above) on La Rueda Wall on lovely solid rock.

Luke on Pitch 5 of Sahara

Luke leading 7b tufa pitch 4 of Sahara

Sahara is number 6 on the topo




Climbing the standalone pillar of Panabdul was a cool experience. Although unfortunately we couldn't sign the route visitor book since it had got wet:


Wildlife and Rest days 

One of the standout highlights of the trip for me was seeing the local wild monkeys up close while climbing Magic Rueda at Eperon Kert on the left hand side of the big wall. The monkeys seem to be concentrated in the rambling sectors between Africa and Eperon Kert. Seeing so many monkeys in the wild so close was an unforgettable experience, it was like being inside a monkey enclosure in a zoo! We even saw a mother monkey carrying a baby monkey on her back while climbing up the wall!



The scenery around Talambote/Akchour in Talassemtane National Park was stunning. On rest days we went for a number of walks around the area.

Looking down on Bridge of God above Akchour

Looking down on Akchour valley 

Weather / Conditions

We visited Talambote over new year (late December / early January). When the sun was shining the temperature was great for climbing. It was even a bit too hot to climb in the sun for the first few days! We experienced a few days of rain during our visit and a number of overcast and windy days. The temperature on overcast days and at night was actually quite cold. There was even some snow on the higher hills around us! The cold temperatures made living and climbing quite uncomfortable at times. Cafe Rueda has no form of heating, the building is obviously designed more for keeping cool in the summer rather than warm in winter! I would recommend taking sleeping bags to supplement the blankets provided!

Snow on the hills above Akchour!

A sign of bad weather to come, cloud moving in


Possibly a better time to visit to have a higher chance of good weather would be Spring/Autumn, but be prepared to have early starts when climbing on the big wall since the sun hits it about 12pm and then it's in the full sun all day.

Morocco Experience

Great to see wind-turbines alongside camels on Moroccan 100 MAD bank note (about £10)

Travelling in Morocco is quite an experience, leaving Europe is very noticeable,just about everything is different! We found everyone we met to be very friendly and welcoming, even though more often than not people are very poor. I wrote extensively about the experience of travelling in Morocco in the first part of my Taghia blog post: Morocco Taghia - Part 1: Travel, People and Landscape. Spending time in Morocco certainly makes you appreciate so many things we take for granted in our everyday lives.

Large parts of the surrounding villages are only accessible via donkey with no running water or electricity

Carpet and cloth making is a big economy in Morocco. We brought some lovely cushion covers home with us

Traditional very very sweet mint tea, responsible for mot adults not having many teeth left!

The historic 'blue' town of Chefchaouen is only 20min away from Akchour and makes a very interesting rest day exploration activity
* Travelling via train emits 80-90% less carbon then flying [http://www.seat61.com/CO2flights.htm]. The international 'safe' level of emissions per person is around 2T/yr to contain global temperature changes at or below 2 deg C which will 'hopefully' keep runaway climate change and subsequent rise in sea levels at bay. Return flight from London to Málaga will emit 2/3T of carbon per person. 6.5T to Auckland Australia or 2T to New York. [Only Planet, Ed Gillespie 2014]