With his project of freeclimbing Patagonia’s Cerro Torre, Tyrolean mountaineer David Lama might have met his Goliath. Here he explains why.
History is rarely written by 19-year-old's, but the case of David Lama certainly is an exception. Making headlines in the world of climbing on a regular basis is one of the Austrian climber’s trade marks. At the tender age of 14, David became World Youth Champion. At 15, he was the youngest ever World Cup winner and one year later he won the European Boulder Championship.
David’s latest project might eclipse all of these achievements though – the attempt to freeclimb the Cerre Torre – a granite needle with an elevation of 3,128 metres (10,280 feet), which is considered one of the most challenging mountains on earth.
When does your plane leave for South America?
November 18th, at 6.25 in the morning. It’s gonna be an early start!
According to word of mouth around your project, it could be a milestone and a new era of rock climbing. Can you explain what exactly it is that you’re trying to accomplish?
Together with my best buddy Daniel Steuerer, I will try to make the first free ascent of the infamous 'compressor route' on Cerro Torre, a route which has loads of historical background. It has been tried by several alpinists, but no one has been successful so far.
What is so difficult about the mountain?
Most of all the ever changing weather conditions. Cerro Torre has to be climbed extremely quickly. You have to make use of sunny spells, which are quite rare. Apart from that, it’s the walls that are extremely challenging – they are steep and smooth, especially the last 500 or 600 metres to the top. Cesare Maestri, who made the first ascent in 1970, left an entire highway of bolts and pitons in the mountain’s south-east face, which has nothing to do with today’s climbing ethics. Still, it’s improbable that more than a dozen climbers would have reached Cerro Torre’s peak if it wasn’t for that bolt-trail.
But you want to freeclimb the mountain?
Back in the days of old school mountaineering only conquering the peak was important – not so much how this goal was reached. To make it to the top, pitons and even ladders were used. Daniel and I want to make it without any sort of aid, which means we only climb on the natural surface of the mountain – rocks and ice. Pitons are only employed for safety reasons.
What are your chances of succeeding?
Practically a snowball’s chance in hell (laughs). No, I’m only kidding. Honestly, there’s a substantial possibility that we won’t make it. Many climbers were shown their limits by that mountain. But if we make it, it will be a milestone in the history of Alpine climbing.
How much time did you reserve for the project?
Three months and I’ll spend them constantly with my expedition partner Daniel. I’m sure there will be tensions living together in our tents, which offer only extremely confined space. On the uppermost section we’ll have to spend the night either in a rock lair or in an ice cave. Dustups are almost inevitable under those conditions.
Why did you chose Daniel as a partner?
Because he is one of my best friends. And because he’s stubborn. If he’s got something into his head, it sure is going to happen. He will goad me into continuing if I should run out of motivation.
How good a climber is he?
He’s got lots of Alpine experience and he’s a skilled ice climber, which will complement my rock climbing abilities. Most importantly, he’s someone I know and trust.
Cerro Torre is situated inside of Los Glaciares National Park. Is it difficult to transport all of your equipment inside of it without breaking any of the laws of the National Park?
Daniel and myself will be carrying all of our stuff into the park and out again. Transport flights are forbidden, but it’s not in our interest to leave any traces anyway.
Will the project be documented?
The entire expedition will be documented by a film crew and by a photographer, perhaps even from a helicopter. The crew knows exactly what they are doing and beyond that they will be supported by guides, so that the two of us can concentrate exclusively on climbing.
In case of success, which project could possibly top reaching Cerro Torre’s summit?
I haven’t thought about that yet to tell you the truth. At the moment all that is on my mind is the Cerro Torre. It’s always just me who finds interesting challenges for myself, I don’t think I’ll run out of ideas for possible follow up projects.
Keep in touch with David's progress at David Lama