The Welsh/KMC Tsaranoro Massif 2001 Expedition.

Date: September 17th - October 16th 2001

Members: Dave Kenyon and Duncan Lee

The Tsaranoro Massif at sunrise The Tsaranoro Massif
The Tsaranoro Massif

Dave and I arrived at the fixed base camp (Camp Catta) on Sept. 19th after hauling 80kg of kit half the length of Madagascar (the 4th largest island in the World) by taxi-brousse (a minibus bursting at the seams with roof rack piled high), taxi-be (a 9 seater battered estate car with 13 occupants plus assorted belongings), bache (a pick up truck with 14 people and tonnes of cargo) and a decrepit 4x4 for the final 10km.

The first three days were spent repeating some 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.

Dave Kenyon on Alien II on Karambony Dave Kenyon on le Croix du Sud on Vatovarindry
Dave Kenyon on Alien II and le Croix du Sud, Vatovarindry

Sept. 24th-27th were spent on the water streaked dome of Vatovarindry (a boulder by the standards of the area being a mere 320m high and 600m wide with only two existing climbs) opening up a new route from the ground up; the local ethic. The result was a 7 pitch 6c (maximum and obligatory), which we called "Malagasy Maroto" (Madagascan Hammer) in memory of the happy hours Dave spent hand drilling on pitch 2.


Sept. 29th saw us going for the Alpine start (ish) in order to repeat the superb "Out of Africa" (600 m, 14 pitches) on Tsaranoro Kely. A fantastic route, that saves its 7a+ crux for the last pitch. The ascent took us 8 hours and the abseil descent a further 2 hours.

After a brief look at the new route potential of the right hand section of Lemur Wall and Mitsin Joarivo we decided once more to focus our activity on Vatovarindry where we spent 5 days opening up an 8 pitch (325 m) route which saw the first 5 bolts being placed from skyhooks. The result, "Karma Chameleon". 7b max/6c obl., was finally completed on Oct.7th.

Dave Kenyon on the runnel pitch of Karma Chameleon
Dave Kenyon on the runnel pitch of Karma Chameleon

Oct. 8th started early in order to attempt the first repeat of the bold and impressive "Norspace" on Tsaranoro Be. We backed off after 6 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. 9th and 10th saw Dave desperately trying to regrow his finger tips whilst I opened up the amenable "Lemurs Ripped my Flesh" (220m, 6b+ max or 5+ with 2 points of aid) on Karambony's lower slabs.

Oct.11th and 12th saw the drilling continuing as we ascended a groove line high up on Karambony to produce the jolly "Le Mur Lemur" (6b+ max and obl., 100m). Our final route before the tortuous journey home. At least the bags were considerably lighter on the return trip.

Dave Kenyon drilling on Le Mur Lemur Dave Kenyon heading into uncertainty on Le Mur Lemur
Dave Kenyon on Le Mur Lemur

In total therefore we repeated 5 of the Massifs 28 routes and climbed 4 new routes (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

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