Hombori region; Hand of Fatima, Hombori Tondo and Naama Tondo various new routes. In January our team from the Groupe Militaire de Haute Montagne traveled to the Hombori region of Mali, our goal being to put up new routes on the Hand of Fatima. We chose the steepest and blankest walls in the group and, with the help of a power drill, managed to open seven new lines.
On January 6, 7, and 8 Thomas Faucheur, Arnaud Petit, and I put up Black Mamba (320m, 7a+, 6c obl) on the north face of Suri Tondo, the most northerly of the main formations that comprise the Hand of Fatima. This is a superb, sustained, and strenuous climb, right of Grains of Time, that is partially protected by 10mm bolts but needs some Friends for the cracks. We equipped the belays with chains for a rappel descent. On the 18th, 19th, and 20th Guillaume Baillargé, Francois Savary, and I climbed Le Cri (320m, 7a+, 6b obl) a little to the right of the previous route. It is less sustained and less equipped than Black Mamba but on exceptional rock.
On the east face of Wanderdu, south of Suri Tondo, Baillargé, Thierry Pellirrat, and Savary put up Panique à Gotham City (250m, 6c, 6b obl), a super seven-pitch route, with an exposed last pitch through the capping roofs. On Hendu Tongo, on the north side of Suri Tondo, Lionel Albrieux, Baillargé, Pellirrat, and Savary established Vol au Vent (280m, 9 pitches, 7a+, 6b obl).
Our main objective was the virgin north face of nearby Hombori Tondo, a wall 400m high. Arnaud Petit, who had joined us, knew the mountain from a previous visit. At First sight we were all impressed by the steepness of the wall, which looked devoid of holds. However, after our success on Suri Tondo we decided to give it a shot. The first pitch was what we expected: tricky 7a+ on small holds. Then everything went well until the middle ledge, where large vultures witnessed our efforts from their nest. A blank section of 50m curtailed our enthusiasm. The rock got worse, and Arnaud and I spent the whole day on the first 20m, cleaning, equipping, and finally sending the crux of the route: 7c+ on very small edges. The rest of the route went more easily, and after five days of climbing by five different people (Albrieux, Faucheur, Pellirrat, Petit, and me), Futuroscope was born. The route is totally equipped; five of the 12 pitches are 7a or above. Later, Albrieux, Faucheur, and Pellirrat returned and, at the far left side of the wall, put up L’Echappée Savatrice (230m, 6c, 6b obl), a fine seven-pitch route with two strenuous final pitches.
Finally, on Naama Tondo in the Naama Massif, Baillargé and Pellirrat climbed the northwest spur of the northwest tower of Torre Escondida. This gave a 250m route (seven pitches) with obligatory difficulties of 6b. Traditional protection is mandatory, but there are 10 bolts on the route.
All our days spent going up and down fixed ropes had cost a lot in time and energy. However, the game was to open everything from the ground up, hauling or carrying the drill, and free-climbing as much as we could, We used bolts only where necessary and when it made the climbing nicer. These rules forced us to spend sometimes more than four hours on a single pitch and achieve no more than two or three ropelengths a day.
The last week of the trip was spent climbing the classic routes on the Hand of Fatima, such as the North Ridge and Abert, but we also enjoyed some bouldering and sport climbing close to the campsite, using the last of our bolts to create some difficult lines.
One of the best days involved a football match, organized by the school kids of Hombori. The great French climbers lost a little dignity but won a lot of friendship.
Manu Pellissier for the Groupe Militaire de Haute Montagne, Chamonix, France