Just days after receiving a special mention at the Piolet D'Or climbing awards in Chamonix, France, Red Bull athlete David Lama headed to Alaska with Dani Arnold to put up a bold new line on Moose's Tooth.
With characteristic speed the pair were on the route within two days of landing on Buckskin Glacier and in a four day out-and-back push succeeded in putting up a new route up the center of the 1,500m east face, which they named Bird of Prey.
The route had difficulties of 6a, M7+, 90° and A2 and was not without some excitement. While there was no obvious crux, the pair faced poor protection on hard but brittle ice, multiple route-finding challenges that involved several pendulums to connect different crack systems and a close-call when Lama took a lead fall.
It occurred just as Lama was leading past one of the massive, fragile snow mushrooms that Moose’s Tooth is famous for. “The snow formation looks extremely fragile, and I was aware that I shouldn’t touch it," he said afterwards. "I was almost above it when I finally got good gear in.
But when I placed my ice tool on a small crimp and put weight on it, part of the crimp broke. I caught myself with my left hand, but lightly touched the snow mushroom, which collapsed, sending hundreds of kilograms of snow onto the ropes, pulling me down. Our protection held – but the weight of the snow pulled one of the pins at the anchor.”
Two further pitches led to the summit, which the pair reached 48 hours after setting off. Another 48 hours of rappels and they were back on the glacier.
Afterwards Lama said: “Starting out in Alaska by attempting a first ascent of this difficulty is certainly bold and a little brash, but often it is that kind of impartiality that you need to open up new perspectives and get the idea to try a route like this for the first time.”