Africa, Madagascar, Fast On-sight Repeats of Big Walls

Publication Year: 2008.

Fast on-sight repeats of big walls. At the end of September and October 2006, a French-Polish team (Marie-Claire Hourcade, Pierre Muller, Denis Roy, and myself) was very active in Madagascar. During the first two weeks of our stay we repeated many of the most important routes on the big walls of the Tsaranoro Massif in the Andringintra National Park of southern Madagascar. The most impressive performance belonged to 42-year-old French Denis Roy. In my opinion, his climbs were some of the best ascents ever in the history of Madagascar climbing. In nine days, Roy climbed many serious big wall routes, always leading, on-sight and in the fastest time. Roy climbed the 21-pitch Gondwanaland (7c), on the highest (800 m) east face of Tsaranoro Be massive. Gondwanaland was opened in 1996 by a South Tyrolean team. The route was graded ABO+ and has been repeated only few times since then. It offers very delicate climbing on insecure slabs, with the potential for risky falls. A British team in cooperation with French-Polish team partly re-equipped the badly rusted old anchors on this line, which wouldn’t have held long falls. After replacing those bolts, Roy (belayed by Pierre Muller) on-sighted the route in eight hours, leading all the pitches. The repeats of the route done before usually had taken two days.

His ascent was probably first on-sight of this serious route.

Then Roy, always accompanied by Pierre Muller, also climbed La croix du sud (300m, 6b ED-, on sight, 2-3 hours); Le crabe aux pinces d’or (320m, 7b+ ED+, on sight, 4 hours); Out of Africa (600m, 7a ED, on sight, 5–6 hours); Always the sun (400m, 7c+ ABO, on sight, 5–6 hours {most difficult last pitch}); Rain Boto (400m, 7b+ ABO-, on sight, 5 hours). It has to be stressed that granite in the Tsaranoro massive requires delicate, technical climbing on tiny and often breaking holds, so most of the climbers move up much more slowly than Roy.

Hourcade and I repeated Life In the Fairy Tale (500m, 7a RP), Le Crabe aux Pinces d’Or, Out of Africa OS, Rain Boto (rappel before the finish), and some other easier routes. Later on, we all moved to the north of the island where, apart from climbing many easy routes, Denis Roy onsighted Perfection (7c+/8a) and Ale Baba (8a/8a+). We all made a movie about climbing in Madagascar, produced by Denis Roy’s Totem Pole studio (

David Kaszlikowski, Poland