David Lama Controversy Continuesby Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC Jan/2011
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The magnificent Cerro Torre. The Compressor Route roughly takes the spine along the upper half of the spire.
UKC Articles, Jun 2010
© Kelly Cordes
David Lama making shapes on the super-technical Messiah (E6 6c) Burbage South
UKC Articles, Dec 2010
© Visual Impact | Rainer Eder David Lama, the young and talented Austrian climber, was the subject of a large amount of criticism last year after his bungled attempt at free climbing the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre, Patagonia.
Now Lama is back in Patagonia and has once again attracted negative attention; he has told some local climbers he is attempting the route again, and he is taking a bolt kit and may rap-bolt some sections of the route.
Last season's attempt at the Compressor route was 'bungled' because Lama didn't free climb the route as he had hoped, but he and his film crew did place around 60 bolts, right next to natural gear placements, on relatively easy sections of the climb.
They also left a lot of ropes and gear on the mountain, which were later cleaned up by local mountain guides who were employed by the expedition sponsor Red Bull to tidy up the mess.
Lama and his team (and his sponsors) were heavily criticised, and rightly so (See this UKC Article from last summer).
But what about this season's attempt?
Obviously this year David Lama should be climbing in a whiter than white style, as he made quite an error of judgement last season.
His intentions for this year are undeniably better, and if it wasn't for the baggage of last year's debacle, I suspect wouldn't raise much of an eyebrow from the world climbing community.
Colin Haley has summed up the style in which they are attempting the route on his Blog (his blog post is fantastic and is well worth a read - it covers the whole story from start to finish):
THE GOOD NEWS:
As David Lama is currently in Patagonia and could be attempting the route at any time now, we don't know how many, if any, bolts he has or will place on the headwall of Cerro Torre. I suspect (hope) they will be kept to a minimum, as drilling granite by hand is a hard and time-consuming affair.
But if he uses the original Compressor Route bolts to reach the summit, and then inspects and equips his route on abseil, David Lama's ascent will be considered by many not as a step forward, but as a giant leap backwards.
The question of whether bolting on abseil is less acceptable than bolting on lead is an interesting one, and will no doubt be the subject of many a pub debate. In real terms either style can create a fantastic, well thought-out route or conversely a badly bolted or illogical line. It isn't down to the style of the first ascent, but down to the skill of the first ascensionist. It is also worth noting that Lama's suggested style for this season, whilst flying in the face of 'pure alpinism', and perhaps being out of place on Cerro Torre, isn't really anything new. Ground-up bolted routes have been climbed on relatively small faces and rap-bolted routes have been climbed on very large faces.
If at least one positive thing is to come out of this sorry state of affairs, let's hope it is a high standard, top class free route on one of the world's most famous mountains. And it can then be attempted in the best style, by the best climbers.
Much of the criticism of this expedition's ethical faux pas have been levelled at David Lama's sponsors, especially Red Bull. Some people have stated that UKC should no longer report on any Red Bull sponsored athletes. We don't agree.
Many of the world's top climbers have had useful support from many large companies, including Red Bull, Audi, Nokia and others. These climbers have achieved great things, in brilliant style and we support their climbing.
EXAMPLE: We have been proud to run the fantastic videos and images from the Pou brothers last year. Their ascents are inspirational to many, at the very cutting edge of the sport and they are great ambassadors for climbing. They are sponsored by several companies including Red Bull. They are a perfect example of how it is possible to work with large companies, produce stunning images and videos and climb some of the best routes in the world.
Good luck to them.
HOWEVER: We will run critical or questioning reports on ascents where we think it appropriate, regardless of who is sponsoring the climbers in question.