American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Africa, Mali, Hand of Fatima, Suri Tondo, North Summit

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2007

Hand of Fatima, Suri Tondo, north summit. In February Eliza Kubarska and I, from Poland, arrived beneath the famous sandstone towers known as the Hand of Fatima. Our main objectives were a new route on one of the main towers that make up the Hand and look for new possibilities in lesser-known areas. As the best time for climbing in this region ends in February, when temperatures rise considerably (on one day we experienced 56° C), we were the only climbers in the area.

Our presence was only possible thanks to Salvador Campillo and his family, especially his wife Miriam Dicko and her son Yaye, who run the climbing campsite in Daari village. Together with friendly Moussa they arranged frequent water supplies. Dehydration is the main concern in desert climbing, and each day we approached the climb with eight liters of water.

After a reconnaissance we realized that the big northeast face of Suri Tondo only had two routes. The line we decided to try seemed to be compact and relatively long, so we weren’t sure if we had enough ropes and bolts; we came prepared only to try something short.

Our original idea was to climb through the immense roofs high in the center of the wall. However, the higher we got, the more we realized that the rock in these roofs was loose, and huge blocks might collapse if we climbed on them. We decided to slant right and bypass the overhangs on a solid part of the face. In doing so we found excellent rock. In fact there is only one place on the route where the rock is dubious, at the level of the big roofs. A ledge there looked dangerous to me. It could have formed a good hold, but we decided not to touch it and instead found a more bouldery alternative.

While we were climbing, the infamous Saharan wind, the Harmattan, started to blow, covering everything with a thick layer of dust, from fixed lines on the wall to filters inside my camera bag. After a few days of this wind, vision decreased to 100m. The only advantage of the dry Harmattan is that it lowers the temperature.

After six days we finished the line. Before the redpoint ascent we removed ropes and installed independent rappel anchors. This descent is probably the easiest way to rappel from Suri Tondo’s north summit. We redpointed our line on March 15, naming it Krolestwo Sepa or Royaume de Vautour (Vulture Kingdom, 450m, 7b, 6b+ obl). Our line is partly equipped with bolts, but some crack sections required traditionally placed protection in the form of Friends. During the climb we watched, and were watched by, huge vultures (and marabouts, local Muslim hermits), which sometimes flew only 5m from us. The birds didn’t seem to be bothered by our presence and luckily we didn’t climb through their nests.

After repeating some established routes on the Hand of Fatima, we drove around the main massifs that make up the Hombori Mountains. The potential for new routes seems almost infinite: hundreds of kilometers of unclimbed walls 200m to 300m high. Massifs such as Sarniere, Dyounde Plateau, the cliffs above Boni village, and many remote towers await future ascensionists.

David Kaszlikowski, Poland

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