American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Africa, Madagascar, Andringitra National Park, Tsaranoro Massif, Various Activity

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

Tsaranoro Massif, Various Activity. Last summer three different teams visited the Tsaranoro Massif in the Andringitra National Park. All the visiting teams, except Kurt Albert and Bernd Arnold, who had first visited the area some years before, used electric power drills to place bolts. All lines are bolted. Bolts are well-spaced and falls up to 20 meters are possible on most of the lines. All routes were opened ground up without previous rehearsal, except for Tsac Tsac (Gilles Gouthier and Alain Thiberghien), which was opened via rappel bolting. It’s not described in this account.

In early April, Arnaud Petit and Stephanie Baudet (F) visited the area and made a repetition in two days (not one as claimed, since the second day was used to rappel 800 meters) of the longest route of the area, Gondwanaland. The route was climbed on-sight except the crux pitch. The overall grade (F7a+) was confirmed. Petit, with Gilles Gauthier, then made an attempt on the obvious dihedral of Tsaranoro Be, which joined the line of a previous attempt of Italians Campana et al after five pitches. The line up to there has difficulties of F6b/6c.

Later in the season, the team of Manlio Motto and Emanuele Pellizzari (I), Benoit Robert (F) and Michel Piola (Swiss) arrived for a one-month stay, during which they established seven new routes. From June 23 to 27, Pellizzari and Piola opened Fantasia (A3+ F6c), a predominantly aid route on the overhanging left comer on the left face of Karambony. It’s opposite the first route of the area, Rain Boto (Kurt Albert and Bernd Arnold). The key pitch, a traverse right under a big roof, has potential for a dangerous (or fatal) fall. For the first 11 pitches, no bolts were placed apart from those at the belays. On pitches 11 and 13 (in the free climbing sections) there is fixed protection. It’s impossible to retreat via rappel after the seventh pitch.

While the two were climbing Fantasia, Motto and Robert climbed the Normal Route (F5+ for ten meters) on Karambony, meeting Pellizzari and Piola on top. This is also the descent line for the formation.

Motto and Robert established the 250-meter route Ebola (F6b+) on the right slopes of Karambony. The four then joined forces to establish Out Of Africa (F7a, 14 pitches) from June 29 to July 2 on Tsaranoro Kely. It was repeated, again, by Pellizzari-Piola on July 3. As of today, this route can be considered the “normal” route to the summit of Tsaranoro Be. The line is on the right (lower) pillar of Tsaranoro.

Later on, the team split again, creating two new lines on Vatovarindy: La Coix du Sud (Piola-Robert) and Veloma Madagasikara (Motto-Pellizzari). La Coix du Sud takes the left ridge of the face and joins the center line of Veloma Madagasikara on the final belay. With Veloma Madagasikara, the Italians were looking for an easy line and got a reasonably difficult one (F7a+), while the French, who were looking for a hard line, got an easy one with La Coix du Sud. At this point the team suffered from a shortage of bolts, not because they placed too many (never more than eight per pitch, with an average of six every 50 meters) but because they had climbed too much. On Mitsin Joarivo, a dome in between Vatovarindy and Tsaranoro, Piola and Robert then established Le Crabe aux Pinces d’Or, an overhanging line of ten pitches with maximum difficulties of F7b+.

Still not tired, the French-speaking team went to Le Dondy to open Le Revoltes du Dondy, a very exploratory 1600-meter line that gets to the summit of this very grassy mountain. The team reported overhanging turf, cow shit falling from above, and tropical grass.

All the routes except for Fantasia have been repeated. The rock is granite, and very solid. Most of the cracks are choked with tropical grass, which is very hard to remove; for the talented, two ice axes and experience in dry tooling is enough to work out a nice line. All the face routes are bolted. Fall potential up to 20 meters is normal. Fantasia has bolts at the belays.

The valley and its inhabitants are not prepared for more than ten climbers/tourists at a time. They haven’t food for themselves and too many people at once will ruin their culture. Water sources are poor. Hygiene is a delicate issue; climbers live higher than the locals, which means defecation up-stream will contaminate their water. Climbers will find nothing to buy in the villages. Do not buy the locals’ food. If you do, they will use the money to buy cigarettes instead of food. Never give candy to the children, since they can’t brush their teeth and you will forever ruin their smiles. They don’t have shoes and don’t need them. If you can, bring warm clothes for locals, which they do need. Don’t carry pens or other typical Western gifts: give them food (they basically eat only rice), possibly proteins, especially for the children. With the equivalent of $50 you can buy them a few tons of beans—enough protein for a year. Don’t leave any garbage, nor bury it: locals will recover it to see if they can find something useful and leave the rest to the wind to blow away.

Only really enviromentally conscious teams should consider an expedition to this area.

Emanuele Pellizari, Italy

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