The French climbers Arnaud Petit and Jonathan Crison, guiding six young competition climbers, have set a beautiful new 15-pitch 7c+ (5.13a), Soavadia, on the Tsaranoro Massif, Madagascar, as part of the FFME (French Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing) Roc Aventure Program. “I am happy to have shared this project with this young team of climbers coming from competition,” Petit wrote in an email exchange with Rock and Ice. “The idea of French Federation FFME is to give them opportunities to learn new things in the wide repertoire offered by climbing.”
As part of the Roc Aventure Program, the group has climbed all around the world, and explored all disciplines of climbing. “In 2 years we have been exploring crack climbing in Liming, slab climbing in Corsica and bolting in France,” Petit said. “Madagascar was the last course, with a nice expedition. These guys have now the skill to climb big walls or trad, and it’s rewarding to see this.”
The climbers Dora Sulinger, Manon Barnier, Tom Durel, Julien Forgue, Robin Valet and Tristan Roguiez participated, guided by Petit, Jonathan Crison and Gaël Bouquet des Chaux, the latter of whom also acted as photographer for the expedition. Petit, a former competition climber, won both the European Championship and the overall Lead World Cup in 1996. He achieved the first ascent (with the recently deceased Stéphane Husson) and first free ascent of Delicatessen (8b/5.13d) in Corsica. He was also the first, in 2008, to free all pitches of Tough Enough (8b+/5.14a) a notoriously hard 400-meter climb also in Tsaranoro, which attracted climbers from all over the world.
Soavadia is around 600 meters, with 15 technical pitches and two lower-grade pitches at the top. The crux pitch, Petit said, “is an exposed prow with some crystals for the left hand and an arete right.
“We are all proud of this line,” said Petit. “First, because it offers great climbing with a good variety (even if the style here on this featured granite is mostly face climbing) and with pitches that aren’t too hard, it will become a classic.”
The team was friendly with their bolting, keeping the runouts relatively low. “I would say like in Ceüse or even closer, which is new for the area, where only [the Swiss climber Michel] Piola’s routes before were not too scary,” Petit said. “This took more time and more energy, but seeing too much elitists lines that are never repeated pushed us to make this choice.
“We put some sustainable equipment (actually most routes here are not stainless bolted and are quite scary after 10 years old), and stainless chains at belays.”
Petit said he’d visited Madagascar several times, but that this was his first time putting up a route on the island. The team called the line Soavadia (bon voyage in French) because it “is quite a journey,” said Petit. “The idea was to reach this big gorge between the 2 Tsaranoro [summits] that would for sure provide a good bivy for numbers of people. Also, I knew that the rock is better on the South Tsaranoro and the pillars at the top looked very exciting.
“The climbing in Tsaranoro is mostly face climbing with some edges,” Petit said. “The place is on the way to become more popular, as some climbers are rebolting some old routes and some are putting up new easy ones.” James Garett and Timmy O’Neill recently bolted a 250-meter 5.9, Sweet Avocado, and the FFME team also bolted a 6c (5.11a) of the same length, Les Vazahamateurs, while they were there. -Owen Clarke
For those of you raring to get out there, “You can climb Soavadia on a long day,” Petit said, “but if you want to enjoy the wall longer, the bivy spot is great. You will just have to share your food with some ground squirrels.”