Madagascar – Ground-up experience

This summer became one full of first ascents for team climber Siebe Vanhee. After the successful Common-Ground expedition in the remote tundra of Siberia, Siebe joined forces with fellow climber Seán Villanueva O’Driscoll. They took off for an adventure in the Tsaranoro massif in the south of the African island Madagascar on a mission to attempt an unclimbed face.

On their first hike to the Tsaranoro Atsimo they spotted a smooth, green, yellowish wall followed by a perfect headwall right next to “Mora Mora” (a line first free climbed by Adam Ondra in 2010 at 8c). This was it, the unclimbed line they were after.


Armed with a drill, skyhooks and a thirst for exploration, the duo tackled the face bolting ground up. Steadily they moved their way up the dark granite climbing on positive crimps in the grading range 6th to 7th. Crimping hard, making big falls, trying to figure out methods and searching for features to continue bolting, they managed to advance up to three fourths of the pitch. The headwall was next and proved to be the biggest challenge, the climbing was vertical with small rounded crimps and crystals. After almost a whole day they managed to conquer this obviously harder section. They took to their portaledge for the night and the next day they finished the last pitch at a surprisingly quick tempo.

After six days of determination and doubts, the first ascent of the route was done, they had reached their goal and established a new climb, a tough one.

Still up for a challenge and convinced that the route should “be left for future generations”, they decided to give it a proper hard free-climbing battle anyway, just for the fight. To their own surprise they managed to free climb the line after three days effort, they called it “Fire in the Belly” (8a+/12pitches/700m).

“Climbing and exploring is a lot about failing, patience and self-knowledge. The happiness you get out of these, sometimes difficult, moments you make yourself. Success stories are always nice to hear, read and experience, but are rare. I have to say this Madagascar Ground-Up Experience is one of those rare-ones. A reason to respect and enjoy this experience even more.” – Siebe Vanhee, 2015.


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