American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Africa, Madagascar, Tsaranoro Be, New Routes

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

Tsaranoro Be, new routes. The prominent series of corners that form the right side of the Yellow Pillar left of Gondwanaland was climbed in May by South Africans, Alard Hüfner, Mike Mason, and Matthew Munting. This “classic” line had been attempted on several occasions before by climbers of high caliber such as Arnaud Petit, but the highest point gained appears to have been approximately halfway up the route. Reports suggest that heavily vegetated cracks had put off a number of climbers. Christened Vazimba, the new 800-meter line was climbed in 18 pitches with difficulties up to 7a maximum. Camalots to size 5 are required.

A month later a Spanish-Swiss team comprising Toni Arbones, Benoît Dormaz, and Miriam Richard completed a sensational line up the front face of the Yellow Pillar left of Vazimba. Vazaha M’Tapitapy (Crazy White Men) is 650 meters in height and 16 pitches in length, entirely equipped with 160 stainless steel bolts. The team appears to have terminated their route at the top of the pillar, though it would be possible to continue up to the summit by following the last few pitches of Vazimba. The climbing is very sustained with 10 of the pitches 6c or above and the crux eighth pitch thought possibly to be as hard as 8a. Local activists report that this may be the best line to date in the country.

Right of Gondwanaland the 1999 Swiss Route, Norspace (Walter von Ballmoos/Stephan Salm: 16 pitches; 7a max) was re-equipped by von Ballmoos, with Jürg Bernhard, Andreas Bähler, Curdin Gliott, and Viktor Schwarz. Originally, the 73 protection bolts were placed with a hand drill making the Swiss party the only team since Albert and Arnold on their first visit in 1995 not to use a power drill to create a first ascent on the big walls of Tsaranoro. After consultation with Salm, von Ballmoos decided to re-equip the route, bolt for bolt, using a power drill and the best quality long-life bolts. It took five days with one rest day to complete the job, climbing twice up to pitch six, then finishing the rest from above. However, one bolt was added to pitch six. Then on a subsequent day von Ballmoos redpointed the route, except for a rest point on pitch 9 and pitches 14 to 16, where ropes had been left for the team to finish this section in the dark. The grade was confirmed as solid 7a (in August 1999 Misako Koyanagi, Jim Haden, and Mike Libecki climbed all the difficulties at 5.11 c/d before rappelling from the top of the 14th pitch, while on the second complete ascent—in 2000—Alexander Buzinkay and Rado Staruch felt the protection to be very well spaced and rated the crux as 7a+).

Norspace was attempted in October by the British climbers mentioned below. Incidentally, the name comes from a young boy who was at Camp Catta at the time of the first ascent. At the same time as the Swiss were at work on their route, the all-female team sponsored by The North Face was creating Bravo les Filles. The young lad was always talking about “norspace” rather than “north face” and the name stuck.

Gilles Gautier, Madagascar and Grzegorz Glazek, Poland

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