David Lama and Cerro Torre – Good news

A couple days ago, on January 28th, David Lama posted on his blog that he will not rappel-bolt on Cerro Torre. It is written in German, but Doerte Pietron made a quick translation for me. The third paragraph, where he refers about his planned tactics, roughly reads:

“Unfortunately I couldn’t take a look at the headwall yet, and therefore couldn’t get any info about the rock, crack systems, possibilities to free climb… I hope we will get good conditions to get to the summit soon. Only then I will see if free climbing the headwall is even thinkable. I want to stay on the Compressor Route as much as possible, but I will refrain from equipping rappelling. If variations should be necessary I will have to equip them climbing up from the bottom; a time consuming task for the short Patagonian good weather windows.”

Also, the guides from Lama’s expedition have said that while they were climbing a few days ago on the lower portion of the Compressor Route, they did successfully remove the 7 remaining bolts that they had placed last year (for a total of 36).

So, Lama has now stated that his team will not fix any ropes, that they will not place any bolts on the Compressor Route, and that if they place any bolts on new variations the bolts will be hand-drilled on lead. For most of us it is a great relief to hear this.

Without a doubt, Lama’s reconsideration of his tactics was influenced by the many people who voiced their opinions against rappel-bolting. Thank you to everyone for speaking out, and thank you to David for listening.

With David’s adjusted intentions, I wish him the best of luck on his project! May this hopefully be the last time I write about David’s project on my blog, except perhaps to congratulate him for a successful free climb.

Lama’s project, nonetheless, is daunting and difficult. Since Alex Huber spent time contemplating a free ascent of the Compressor Route, I asked him for his thoughts on the subject:

“I climbed the Compressor route in January 2002 in order to see how it could be climbed free. The mountain is fantastic, the line is stunning… so it seemed to be waiting for free climbing. After the ascent the enthusiasm was not the same anymore as there had been various reasons which didnĀ“t make this project very attractive.

First there are the conditions… you have to wait to get the right conditions. You need much more than just fine weather, you need dry conditions as well. Then you need the motivated partner which is really a big problem on such a long-lasting project. And in the end, the quality of the granite is really poor on the headwall. Loose and rotten flakes not just as nice as you would expect. And there could be a big question mark on the end of the headwall. It looks like that the free climbable path on the
headwall leaves the bolt ladder some 30 meters below the compressor, leading up and left following a series of thin ramps. Then it looks like that these features run out, some ten meters of slightly overhanging, compact granite. Then easier terrain and soon the ice of the summit plateau. These ten meters of slightly overhanging, compact granite are crucial because, from the distance, the surface looks very brittle and I am not so sure that the thin features would be solid enough for a free climb.

In the end I could see that, for a great free climb, the mountain as well as the line would be perfect, but the climb itself not at all. Free climbing there would be much more for name and fame than for fun.”

And one last reminder of why we care:

Cerro Torre