TOPO Hiking

On the Tsaranoro trail, Stage 3

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An absolutely major route for this 3rd stage of the trek on the Tsaranoro trail, with the ascent of the peak offering a 360° view of the region and, in the second part, a magical, aerial finish over the Tsaranoro valley. It's a big stage, with both positive and negative gradients, and a long distance: it leaves its mark on the legs. No waste on an exceptional itinerary, splendid panoramas and a varied route with a breathtaking finish at camp 4. The weather was more than fine this time, and the views of the Tsaranoro from the lunar plateau are quite incredible.

Technical summary

Type ✦ Hiking

Location ✦ Tsaranoro Valley

Region ✦ Ambalavao

Country ✦ Madagascar

Length ✦ 20,5kms

Elevation gain ✦ 1060m

Negative gradient ✦ 1500m

Max altitude ✦ 2658m

Difficulty ✦ D

Duration ✦ 7h to 8h

Interest ✦ ★★★

Access to the place

From Camp 3 in the park, a day's hike from the Namoly valley. See post stage 2.

Map & topo

Stage 3 is marked in green on the map.

Itinerary description

Hiking to the start 2'

From Camp 3, head slightly uphill in the direction of the massif to quickly find the path heading south towards the orange wall.

Course

The positive altitude difference is mainly due to the ascent of the peak (+600m) and the climb to the lunar plateau (+200m). The negative altitude difference is due to the descent from the peak (-600m) and the long descent to camp 4 (-500m). Water can be found along the way, so refuelling is no problem. The route is always marked with National Park metric markers and blue arrows in the second part, traced during a trail organized in 2016. All the trails are prepared, sometimes a little too much so. There are a few passages on granite slabs with good grip, but they are easy and not very exposed.


Part 1: Ascent of Imarivolanitra peak (2658m, 1h30 to 2h from camp 3)

From Camp 3, the trail climbs up towards the large orange walls, skirting them and then passing over them. The path climbs up in stages and then steeply into a natural access valley: stone steps and adhesions for a quick 400m climb. It ends at the foot of a large orange cliff, which we follow in the opposite direction to reach a small pass.


This takes you into the heart of the massif, a sort of high plateau with lots of boulders and small peaks. The Imarivolanitra peak comes into view. We cross the high altitude "plain" on a well-developed couloir in the scrub to attack the peak from the south and climb gently to the summit. The climb ends on a series of undulating slabs. Exceptional view of the summit.


Part 2: Climbing up the Andringitra chain to the lunar plateau

After descending from the peak to Camp 3 (1h to 1h30), the trail continues northwards along the cliff guards that form a sort of long granite ridge. Wide open spaces, high plains that follow on from one another and, at the end, a view of the Namoly valley and even Ambalavao under clear skies.


Almost at the end, the route climbs back up to the bars for a short but steep ascent to reach once again a mini-altitude plain, which we climb for a while before finally emerging on the lunar plateau. 1st view of the 800m Tsaranoro walls in the distance!


Section 3: Passage along the Tsaranoro valley to camp 4

The lunar plateau is a kind of wide granite basin with pretty rock piles, sometimes pinkish, with yellow or orange streaks in places. The Tsaranoro valley can be seen behind us. We cross it and finally arrive at the gateway to the Tsaranoro valley: a magical aerial view of the valley! A long descent into the valley, with palm trees on the horizon and the Tsaranoro in the background. In the background, on a basin above the valley, a river, savannah fields and camp 4, ideally placed at 1600m.


Bivouac

Camp 4 comprises 2 traditional stone shelters with straw roofs for cooking and accommodation for porters and guides. A camping area is located next door, close to a river.

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