We chat with David Lama about his next challenge, now that his Patagonian victory is history and talk about his desire for adventure which has led the Austrian climber to the Mont Blanc region of Chamonix, France. There he solo climbed the 1500ft route “Les Barbares” on the north-west face of Points supérieures de Pré de Bar.
You have already been in Chamonix for the annual climbing World Cup several times, what is it that draws you to the town at the foot of the famous Mont Blanc?
The pointy granite peaks, the endless seeming glaciers and the steep, icy faces have always impressed me whenever I came to Chamonix. But during the time when I was climbing competitons I didn’t have enough chances to sample the pleasures of the stunning mountain range. But now, as I’m currently just focussing on alpine climbing, the Mont Blanc region offers an alpine playground you don’t find anywhere else in Europe.
How was the feeling of being all by your self on the glacier?
It is kind of intimidating being all by your self and being surrounded by all these walls that are 1500ft to 3000ft high. When I reached my bivouac spot the very first day, ice avalanches kept coming down from a serac to the right of me. Seeing something like this soon makes you realize how small you are. But on the other hand it’s also amazing being all alone in such a stunning landscape und hiking back to civilization completely shattered but satisfied after an exhausting climb.
The Route you climbed is called "Les Barbares", in what way do you turn into a barbarian during such an endeavour, far away from civilization?
During such an adventure you often miss out on civil morals and necessities that normally are part of your everyday life. You just have to focus on what’s important. For example I see no point in brushing my teeth before going to sleep; there are more important things in a cold bivouac then having shiny teeth…
Concerning the route itself, what were the main difficulties?
The route is about 1500ft long and leads through a vertical face of rock and ice. It took the climbers who first ascended it five days to reach the top of the wall. I knew I had to climb it within a day, as I didn’t bring along bivvy equipment. The lower portion of the wall I ascended pretty quickly, as I didn’t belay much. From the middle on upwards the climbing got really difficult and demanding and some pitches took me more than an hour. After 13 hours of intense climbing I reached the summit.
Is fear a constant companion when you climb solo?
There is no room for mistakes when climbing solo, you constantly have to have everything under control. You should never go to your limit so you can keep the upper hand of the situation also if something unsuspected comes up. In that respect I personally consider experience and genuine self evaluation more important for solo endeavours than just the ability to deal with fear.
How do you belay on a solo ascent?
I fix the end of my rope to a placement, tie a knot in the rope after about 20 ft and then start climbing. As soon as I reach the knot I fix a new one and untie the old one. When climbing in this style you are theoretically belayed, but actually falling is not an option when soloing. The consequences of getting hurt are just too severe in this terrain.
What are your next goals and projects?
In the last weeks I’ve been mostly sportclimbing, as this is the best way of preparing for alpine multi pitch routes. I’ll go on expedition to Pakistan this summer to try a 6000 and a 7000 meter peak to gain more experience in high altitudes. In autumn I would love to go the Yosemite Valley for some big wall climbing.