Tsaranoro, various climbs and new routes. Dave Kenyon and I arrived at Camp Catta on September 19. Our first three days were spent repeating the excellent existing routes, Alien II (350m 6b), Croix du Sud (300m 6b+), and Pectorine (250m 6b/A0) on a variety of crags to get a feel for the place, the coarse granite, the style of climbing, and the intense heat.
September 24-27 were spent on the water-streaked dome of Vato Varindry, a boulder by the standards of the area being a mere 320 meters high and 600 meters wide with only two existing climbs. During those days we opened a new route from the ground up, the local ethic. The result was a seven-pitch 6c (maximum and obligatory), which we called Malagasy Maroto (Madagascan Hammer) in memory of the happy hours Dave spent hand drilling on pitch two.
September 29 saw us going for the alpine start in order to repeat the superb Out of Africa (600m, 14 pitches) on Tsaranoro Kely. A fantastic route, that saves its 7a+ crux for the last pitch. The ascent took us eight hours and the abseil descent a further two hours. After a brief look at the new route potential on the right hand section of Lemur Wall and Mitsin Joarivo, we decided once more to focus our activity on Vato Varindry, where we spent five days opening an eight-pitch (325m) route, on which the first five bolts were placed from skyhooks. The result, Karma Chameleon (7a+max/6c obligatory) was finally completed on October 7.
October 8 started early in order to attempt the bold and impressive Norspace on Tsaranoro Be. We backed off after six pitches due to Dave’s fingers and my head being in bits. The climbing up to that point was good but worrying due to the slightly friable nature of the rock and the scarcity of bolts. A bit of traffic should result in the route becoming a classic. We salvaged the day by repeating the highly enjoyable Le Cas Nullard (a classic 450m 6a) and traversing Karambony in order to look for the further new routing projects.
Oct. 9 and 10 saw Dave desperately trying to re-grow his finger tips, whilst I opened up the amenable Lemurs Ripped my Flesh (220m, 6b+ max or 5+ with two points of aid) on Karambony’s lower slabs (Editors note: it appears that the first part of this route, as far as the half-way ledge, had previously been climbed four years ago by Gilles Gautier with his daughter and named Baba Kely, 5+).
October 11 and 12 saw the drilling continue as we ascended a groove line high up on Karambony to produce the jolly Le Mur Lemur (100m: 6b+ max and obligatory). Our final route before the tortuous journey home. In total we repeated five of the Massif’s 28 routes and climbed four new lines (22 pitches, 1000m) on which we placed 120 protection bolts and 42 belay bolts over the course of 13 days new-routing in the baking sun. The members of the expedition would like to thank the Karabiner Mountaineering Club, Bendcrete Climbing Walls, Fuji, and Hilti for their generous support that helped to make this expedition a success.
Duncan Lee, England