The French team of Thierry Giginot and Patrice Glairon-Rappaz spent several weeks repeating quite a few of the classics from last year and making a greatly criticized second ascent of Fantasia that involved new bolts and holes for hooking. Meanwhile, Gerard Thomas and Jacky Sananes put up the highly recommended and praised seven-pitch Pectorine in May. The climbing is exceptional on perfect rock with an incredible pitch on knobs and chicken heads (V+); difficulty is moderate with most pitches in the 6a/b range. The line is on the very wide wall right of Karambony, at the opposite side of Tsaky-tsaky and Ebola. Descent is made via the classic Karambony gully.
Two Swiss brave hearts who were present at the same period as the Bravo Les Filles team (see below) applied a different approach, working very hard and hand-drilling the 16-pitch Norspace. Stephane Salur and Walter von Ballmoos spent nearly a month in June and July on their project. Difficulties were consistently around 6b/c; two pitches had single 7a moves. The line is directly right of Gondwanaland and exits in the gully between Tsaranoro Be and Kely.
Michel Piola came back with his family and friends and repeated quite a few of the now-classics from his 1998 expedition. They spent ten days on the northern limestone cliffs in the Diego Suarez area, where they bolted a dozen single-pitch routes up to 7b. They also put up a fun ten-pitch route on the right-hand side of Karambony’s north face, which goes up slabs just left of the gully. It is actually two routes: Alien I goes for the first four pitches to a big slanting ledge and finishes on top of the protruding pinnacle (above a characteristic yellow roof) with two more pitches (5c/6a max). Alien II starts from the ledge, has a common pitch with Alien I, then goes straight up for five or six pitches (6b max). The 350-meter route was opened on August 3 and 5 by Piola and Fabian Pavillard.
September turned out to be very busy with the visit of two impressive Spanish mutants. Francisco Blanco and Toti Vales opened a bold line of 12 pitches (plus 150 meters of III-IV climbing to the summit) named Via Mora Mora. Francisco bolted this incredibly hard and continuous route over six days in September, including a 150-meter, totally continuous 7b/c+ groove in the upper part. Although not redpointed, pitch 7 implies a long 55-meter 8b/b+ pitch. It is possibly the hardest route to date and seems to be quite engaged climbing. This 700-meter line lies just right of Mai Piu Così on Tsaranoro Atsimo. This was also the first route of such difficulty opened from the bottom with a Ryobi gas-powered drill.
Mike Turner, Louise Thomas, Steve Meyers and Grant Farquar (UK) repeated many routes in September and opened the much-sought-after north face of the Karambony. From September 15-22, they established Always The Sun, which lies between the Rainboto pillar and Aliens gully. Difficulties up to 7c+ were unexpectedly concentrated on the second half of the climb.
Probably the last major route of the season was opened from October 8-17 by another Swiss team of Dennis Burdet, Régis Dubois and Damien Ruggieri. Taoka Gasy (the local Malagasy ethyl alcohol, heavily absorbed by locals and some visitors) has 15 pitches plus 130 meters of climbing/scrambling to the top. Seven of the pitches are 7a or harder, with a crux of 7b+. (See topo.) The same Swiss team put up Le Catta Marrant on the west face of Pic Dondy on the other side of the valley facing Tsaranoro; they were accompanied by Christian Delaroche, who had already made an attempt on the face (nine pitches, V+ max) in 1998. Despite some lichen, they found very beautiful friction slabs and some impressive grooves on the upper part. They confirmed the quality of the face and the big potential of the large western face of Dondy. Le Catta Marrant is a very beautiful 23-pitch route of moderate difficulty with only a few 6a sections. However, protection is scarce.
In 1998, with my daughter, Badria (Baba), I put up Baba Kely to the right of Alien I. The route has four pitches up to V+.
Gilles Gautier, France