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Moroccan Honeymoon: A Photo Essay

Tsouiant and Tadrarate cliffs in the Taghia (pronounced Taria) Cirque. Taghia is a small, isolated village in the High Atlas nestled among the pink, sculpted limestone walls of Timrazine, Taoujdad, Oujdad, Tsouiant and Tadrarate. French climbers discovered the rock potential of this remote valley in the early 1970s. [Photo] Caroline George

A week after speaking our vows, Adam and I were lost in Morocco’s Todra Gorge, a tall and narrow canyon with hundreds of limestone routes. We were overwhelmed still–not just from the climbing and the marriage, but also from a ten-hour bus ride with smelly goats, and by the street merchants who incessantly offered glasses of Berbere Whiskey–mint tea loaded with sugar–with hope that monsieur would buy a little piece of jewelry for his gazelle.

Climbing is what defines each of our lives, and our life together. Adam and I met climbing. Our first date was climbing. Our first kiss was climbing. So, a climbing trip–but not just any climbing trip–was the only way we conceived of spending our honeymoon. We envisioned Arabian Nights: riding camels beneath shimmering stars, sleeping in golden palaces, tasting exotic Arabian delicacies. What we found was different, more chaotic–labyrinthine bazaars, donkeys hogging the roads, honking horns and shameless haggling–but just as satisfying. Plus, the gorge offered peace. Each morning sunrise kindled ochre limestone against a fading navy sky.

And these were merely the start. Over the next few weeks we stood atop the highest dune of the Sahara; a muleteer guided us along ten miles of riverbed to walk from Todra to the Taghia Gorge in a heavy storm; we climbed some of the world’s most featured and sculpted multipitch limestone routes; a nutty taxi driver gave us the ride of our lives; we stuffed ourselves with tajines, the traditional stew simmered with saffron and ginger. With every breath we learned more about the person we had just vowed to spend our life with.

It may sound like we should have done that before we got married. That is, getting to know each other. But consider this: we first met on Ames Ice Hose in Telluride, Colorado. While rappelling my ice axes slipped, falling three pitches like two darts that nearly missed Adam, just starting up Pitch 1. A few months later, wearing a borrowed wedding dress and poaching the lounge room of a fancy hotel, we each played the role of the marriage officer and agreed to spend the rest of our lives together. Nothing about our relationship had been ordinary, but it all felt right. Nothing was the fairytale; everything was real.

Morocco was no different. The only golden dome we slept under was the sky, and our only care was the glory of now.

Caroline enjoying the third pitch of Pilier du Couchant (5.10b/c, 600′), Todra Gorge, Morocco. [Photo] Adam George

Djemaa el Fna. This open market in Marrakech is a microcosm of all that Morocco has to offer: scent of spices and cooking, delicious and cheap colorful food, loud mosques, veiled and unveiled women, storytellers and magicians, acrobats and snake charmers. [Photo] Adam George

Marrakech Souk. [Photo] Adam George

A town along the long bus ride from Marrakech to the entrance of Todra Gorge. [Photo] Caroline George

Adam on Le Reve d’Aicha (5.10b, 600′), Timrazine, Morocco. [Photo] Caroline George

Timrazine Pass, where a steep, muddy and snow-covered descent proved difficult for the loaded mule. [Photo] Caroline George

Caroline celebrates the sunrise atop what is said to be the highest dune in the Sahara. [Photo] Adam George

Caroline looks toward the trail, weather threatening a plan to traverse into the Taghia. [Photo] Adam George

Adam on the steep and exposed Au Nom de la Reforme (5.11c, 900′), Taoujdad, Morocco. [Photo] Caroline George

Caroline walking down the Riverbed on her way out of Taghia, Morocco. [Photo] Adam George

Caroline heads to the Timrazine Pass as the colors of autumn run into fresh snow in the Central Atlas Mountains. [Photo] Adam George