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The east face of Tsaranoro Be, Madagascar, showing the line of the new Austro-Czech route, Short Cut (5.13a, 800m and 16 pitches, Benes-Berger-Scheimpflug-Sobotka, 2006). [Photo] Ondra Benes

Ondra Benes and Tomas Sobotka from the Czech Republic recently combined forces with Austrians Harald Berger and Florian Scheimpflug to complete a big new route in Madagascar’s Tsaranoro Massif. On the largest wall in the group, the 800-meter east face of Tsaranoro Be, the team tackled the obvious black water stripe between the South African route, Vazimba (7a max, 800m and 18 pitches, Hufner-Mason-Munting, 2001) and the original line of the face: Gondwanaland (7b+, 800m and 21 pitches, Botte-Cola-Egger- Gargitter-Obojes-Obrist- Thaler-Trenkwalder- Zanesco, 1996). Climbing ground up, as is the ethic here, the team spent five days fixing ropes and equipping all sixteen pitches of their new route with a total of 140 bolts (the area is renowned for its course-grained compact granite, which although often sporting a variety of small holds, generally offers zero scope for natural protection). The majority of the climbing was 5.11d and above, with the crux a weighty 5.13a. On September 30 Benes and Sobotka finally made the one-day redpoint in just 10 hours, a rapid time made necessary due to the intense heat, which caused excruciating pain to cramped feet. Shortly after, Berger and Scheimpflug also completed a redpoint ascent and the climb was christened Short Cut (VI 5.13a, 800m).

Tomas Sobotka starting the fifth and crux pitch (5.13a) of Short Cut on the east face of Tsaranoro Be, Madagascar. The belay ledge is common with Vazimba (5.11d max, 800m and 18 pitches, Hufner-Mason-Munting, 2001), which climbs flakes out to the left. [Photo] Ondra Benes

After a suitable rest Benes and Berger started to work Bravo les Filles (5.13 A0, ca. 500m and 13 pitches, Feagin-Hill- Rodden-Pyke, 1999) on Tsaranoro Kely. On the first ascent Lynn Hill had only been able to climb the crux eighth pitch with rest points but it was finally free climbed in 2004 by the Spanish Pou brothers at 5.13d. After three days practice, both Benes and Berger led the route free in a day with no falls for the second and third free ascents. Meanwhile Scheimpflug and Sobotka made an on-sight ascent of Always the Sun (5.13a, 5.12c obl, ca. 450m and eight pitches, Farquar-Mayers- Turner-Thomas, 1999, with Steve Mayers the only one to lead the runout crux pitch at the top of the wall) on the north face of Karambony. However, the Austro-Czech team were beaten to the second ascent of this route by the British gathering of Anne and John Arran, Giles Cornah, Jerry Gore and Gaz Parry, with Parry the one to make the impressive onsight ascent of the committing crux eighth pitch (click here for a full report on the British trip, as well as for details on a Polish-French visit).

Benes and Berger were in good form before this visit: during the summer the 23-year-old Benes made a rare repeat of Beat Kammerlander’s multi-pitch masterpiece, Silbergeier (5.14a, six pitches), on the Fourth Kirchlispitze in Switzerland’s Ratikon, while Berger had made the first free ascent of an old Mathis sportingly-bolted project, Antihydral (5.13d, six pitches), up the wall just to its left.