David Lama Climbs Stunning Sinkhole in Lebanon

Watch as Lama, the first to climb the beautiful Baatara Gorge, fights to complete a difficult route.
David Lama climbing Avaatara (5.14d), his First Ascent in the Baatara Gorge in Lebanon.
The first ascent of Avaatara in the Baatara Gorge © Corey Rich/Red Bull Content Pool
By Alison Mann

Accomplished climber David Lama fixed his sights on setting a route in the untouched Baatara Gorge in Lebanon for his latest adventure, and he faced a considerable challenge, maybe even more than he originally anticipated.

It was a bold move for the young athlete, as Lebanon isn’t known for climbing, but Lama wanted to explore new ground. Initially, it was tough to even find a climbable path up the gorge walls, but eventually he was successful in setting the new route Avaatara, a 5.14d climb (see our guide to climbing terminology and ratings here.

Watch his incredible first ascent of Baatara Gorge:

“If you travel roads that have already been discovered, you’re basically just following," says Lama of choosing to climb in Lebanon. "But if you go somewhere no one has ever been you’re basically in the lead. That’s something I really like.

“Lebanon is definitely a special place. It’s somehow a little bit exotic, a place that you don’t actually plan to go to as a climber, as it’s not really on the climbing map. That’s one factor that drove me to come here.”

David Lama climbs the first ascent of Avaatara (5.14d) in the Baatara Gorge near Tannourine, Lebanon on June 18th, 2015.
A look into the Baatara Gorge © Corey Rich/Red Bull Content Pool

As for the climb, it was set in a huge sinkhole, with a waterfall pouring through the inside. It had never been climbed before, so David had to be imaginative in setting his route. He initially had doubts it would even be possible.

Light shines through the caves in the Baatara Gorge in Lebanon.
The spectacular Baatara Gorge © Corey Rich/Red Bull Content Pool

“It’s not very common that you get to such a stunning location nobody has climbed," Lama says. “To find a climbable line in this cave, in this sinkhole, was really hard. I really had my doubts. The walls are incredibly steep and there are hardly any holds, so I was unsure there was a line I could free climb."

David Lama climbs the first ascent of Avaatara (5.14d) in the Baatara Gorge near Tannourine, Lebanon on June 18th, 2015.
David Lama on the first ascent © Corey Rich/Red Bull Content Pool

The crux was so difficult that clipping the quickdraws in the roof would have taken too much energy, so he simply chose to skip them. Therefore it was a relief when it was over and he knew he wasn’t going to take a fall.

David Lama climbs the first ascent of Avaatara (5.14d) in the Baatara Gorge near Tannourine, Lebanon on June 18th, 2015.
David Lama climbs in Lebanon © Corey Rich/Red Bull Content Pool

He believes the route is truly beautiful, almost a kind of artwork. “I guess when it comes to climbs that are this hard or this close to your limit, climbing is almost more art than sport," he explains.

"It’s the transition from an idea you have in your mind to something everyone can see. Like now, everyone knows this line is climbable and that’s beautiful in my opinion."

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