Montana State University

North Face climbing film Nov. 16 is benefit for student summer service scholarship to Morocco

November 5, 2009

Ayoub Ouameurosaid and (from left) Montana State University students Chandra Kintsler and Chad Evans and Farah McDill of Colorado State University rest after a day of work on the renovation of a 400-year-old building that will become a library in the remote area of Zawiya Ahansal, Morocco. A Nov. 16 showing of a film about the first American climbing ascent in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco will help fund scholarships for MSU students interested in working on the project next summer. Photo courtesy of Kristoffer Erickson.    High-Res Available

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A Nov. 16 showing of a The North Face Expeditions' film of the first American climbing ascent in a remote area of the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco will help fund scholarships for Montana State University students interested in helping renovate an ancient Moroccan building next summer.

"La Bas: Climbing and Philanthropy in the Enchanted Taghia Cirque, Morocco," a film by The North Face and Rush HD, will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16 in the MSU SUB Ballrooms.

Kristoffer Erickson, photographer, MSU graduate and one of five featured climbers in the film, will speak and present a slide show on the first ascent prior to the film. All proceeds from ticket sales, which are $10 for general admission and $5 for students with an ID, will fund a graduate scholarship to work on a service project next summer in Zawiya Ahansal, a remote area of Morocco's central High Atlas Mountains.

In addition to Erickson, "La Bas" features The North Face sponsored climbers Conrad Anker, Heidi Wirtz, Renan Ozturk and Kevin Thaw. Following their first ascent, the climbers helped build trails for the herders who live near the Taghia Cirque and helped rebuild the village's school roof.

Cloe Medina Erickson, a graduate of the MSU School of Architecture, is also featured in the film and she is currently directing the renovation of a 400-year-old Moroccan fortified granary, or igherm, into the library and community center for a cluster of five Berber villages.

Now a historic preservationist, Cloe Erickson is in her fourth-year of directing the renovation of the 300-400-year-old fortified granary in what is considered a holy village in Morocco. Founded centuries ago by a Muslim saint, the village is on a historic pilgrimage route between Marrakesh and Timbuktu and populated by descendents of the saint.

The Ericksons first travelled to the area, which is near spectacular but remote rock climbing while on their honeymoon and established a relationship with the community. Cloe Erickson speaks Arabic as a result of initial studies in the language in the MSU-based Arabic language program.

"If we were going to keep going to this place we felt we needed to do more than just enjoy the natural surroundings," she said. "Plus, the (community) has amazing architecture, which is my number one passion."

Erickson said she began working with the MSU School of Architecture to partner in the project. Last summer Bill Rea, an MSU architecture professor, and six MSU students, and another from Colorado State, worked with Erickson and the villagers on the renovation and lived with local families. Erickson hopes to take another 10 students to work on the project next summer and is now taking applications for students interested in working on the igherm.

"To go to another country and be a part of a real project and work with locals on an innovative project is something I am really proud to offer to students," she said.

The fundraising event is sponsored by MSU's Office of International Programs and Erickson Creative Group.

For more information about the Igherm Restoration and Library Project, or to apply for the 2010 study abroad opportunity in Zawiya Ahansal, go to or Applications for the 2010 study abroad service project will also be available at the benefit.

Cloe Erickson