David Lama Patagonia Controversy Renewed For Another Season

David Lama Patagonia Controversy Renewed For Another Season

I am upset, and I don’t know what to do about it.

This is how Jason Kruk closed his blog entry last week describing the renewed efforts of Austrian David Lama to free climb the already controversial Compressor Route on Patagonia’s Cerro Torre.  You’ll remember that Lama created quite the controversy in the wake of his attempt last season which saw new bolts and some level of garbage left behind on the mountain.  Here is a good summary of last year’s events from Will Gadd as well as comments from Lama himself which attempt to justify his actions.

Well, the season is back on in Patagonia and as Kruk mentions in his blog post referenced above Lama and his Red Bull film crew are back in Patagonia to have another go at their project.  Instead of forging their route from the ground up in the same heavy-handed style as last year the new plan, apparently, is to rap bolt a free variation after reaching the summit via the existing Compressor Route.

Colin Haley picks up the story at this point with an excellent post which can be summarized with this quote:

When I first heard that Lama’s expedition had abandoned plans to fix ropes up the Compressor Route I was very pleased, and indeed even excited for their project. Sadly, these feelings disintegrated when I learned of Lama’s plans to bring Cerro Torre down to his level by rap-bolting the headwall. I personally have nothing against rap-bolting at a sport-climbing crag, but I would’ve hoped that every climber in the world could see the difference between Cerro Torre and a sport crag.

I encourage you to read the rest of Haley’s post where he outlines the history of the Compressor Route, gives his thoughts on Lama’s new intentions, and shares several photos disproving the claims of Lama’s team about where they placed bolts during last year’s attempt.

As for Lama, when asked about the controversy he surely knew would arise from his actions he reportedly said, “I can take it”.  We shall see…

Posted In: News
Climbers:
Areas:

Subscribe

Subscribe to the RSS feed to receive updates, and follow us on Twitter & Facebook

38 Responses to David Lama Patagonia Controversy Renewed For Another Season

  1. Mark January 24, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    This is really disappointing. I thought that they would have learned by the storm they created last year that more bolts definitely isn’t the answer.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  2. Sid January 24, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    People need to stop being so silly. It’s just rock… you’re not going to hurt it’s feelings if you start bolting.

    And what makes even less sense is chopping bolts after the fact. So RedBull made a “mistake”. Chopping bolts just makes the potentially useful but unnecessary addition useless and ugly.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
    • Narc January 24, 2011 at 9:13 am #

      In a global sense I would agree with you, what happens to small areas of rock on a remote formation are not that significant.

      However, from a style standpoint don’t you think this is all bit off? Doesn’t yarding up the bolts from one route to reach the top so you can rap bolt another line go against the prevailing alpine ethic of Patagonia climbing?? Especially when that route Lama is using to reach the summit is already widely considered to be an affront to that same ethic??

      GD Star Rating
      loading...
    • SP January 24, 2011 at 9:36 am #

      Couldn’t the same be said about chipping or adding holds to rock? Would you be opposed to someone creating holds on the Grandpa Peabody boulder next to Lucid Dreaming, so that everyone can climb up the steep face?

      The issue exists because of the intrinsic value placed on climbing ethics and style. In this case, it is man not rising to the challenge presented by one of the worlds greatest mountains, and instead lowering that challenge to mans ability. It is the value in knowing that challenge exists.

      GD Star Rating
      loading...
      • Sid January 24, 2011 at 9:55 am #

        @Narc: I may be criticized for my opinion, but so long as the route is still climbable in its original form by someone who wishes then I don’t see a problem. Of course, what was done is in poor taste there’s no doubt about it. People routinely retro-trad bolted routes without issue, why can’t people do they opposite? Of course it isn’t black an white as some crags do suffer from over-bolting.

        @SP: For the sake of not wandering off topic I don’t wish to start the “is bolting like chipping” debate so I won’t voice my opinion on the subject.

        Perhaps my opinion varies so much from the masses because I haven’t been climbing as long as most. I don’t share the sentimentality of the traditional ethics. I simply believe that people should continue to do what they love so long as they do not impact others in a harmful manner.

        GD Star Rating
        loading...
        • SP January 24, 2011 at 10:16 am #

          Sid said: ” I don’t share the sentimentality of the traditional ethics. I simply believe that people should continue to do what they love so long as they do not impact others in a harmful manner.”

          This is the type of sentiment that I suspect David Lama has as well. However, the chipping comparison holds water quite well, since both are modifications of the existing rock. If I chip 50 new holds on Realization, without altering any of the existing holds, I am also not impacting others in a harmful matter. In fact, those that wish to do the original line still can, and even more now have access to the classic route.

          However, that would be considered bad style, given the climbing ethics of Ceuse and in sport climbing in general. The local ethics in this case dictate ground-up ascents with traditional climbing morals. While I am not debating that there are many gray areas, nor wanting to turn this into a bolt/no bolt discussion, the fact remains that local ethics and beliefs should always be taken into account, particularly for visiting climbers, and in this case they are not.

          GD Star Rating
          loading...
          • Sid January 24, 2011 at 10:34 am #

            SP,

            I believe that how a route is protected and the route itself are two different things in a similar manner to how climbing a route using aid is distinguished from free climbing. A route that has been chipped is no longer natural – detracting from the beauty of movement that was made by nature.
            So in my eyes the chipping comparison is not quite the proper example. I really do wish that this not turn into a chipping-bolting debate as it is unlikely that either of us will chance opinions and it’s been discussed to death elsewhere.

            That being said, you make a good point about taking into account local ethics which is why I had previously stated above that I do believe what happened was in poor taste.

            GD Star Rating
            loading...
          • polaropposite January 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

            “However, the chipping comparison holds water quite well, since both are modifications of the existing rock.”

            Except that bolts can be pulled and the holds filled in, leaving no trace, but chiseled holds are pretty much permanent. So no, your comparison doesn’t hold up.

            GD Star Rating
            loading...
        • Justin January 24, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

          Sid, the problem with bolting a traditional route in one of the most inhospitable places on earth is that it does harm others. Sure not in a physical way, but it hurts just like the time when you found out your dream girl, that one you’ve been building up the courage to ask out, has a tattoo that reads “tom was here” right across her lower back.

          No, but seriously, those bolts rob future ascentionists and would-be ascentionists of the adventure they’ve dreamed of for years.

          Imagine waiting out weeks of epic weather in Patagoina, after traveling for thousands of miles, and training for years to finally have your shot at the glorious Torre spire. There you are in full adventure/survival mode wondering if you can complete the next pitch…when all of a sudden some snot-nosed teen whips off of his sport route to your right and throws a tantrum a la Adam Ondra. After accepting defeat he casually rappels his fixed lines (which he jummared up to get to his sport route in the first place) and leaves with his personal belayer belayer in tow.

          Now that the teen is gone you feel better, a lot better, comfortable in fact. Shit, now you are not worried about being benighted because if the worst does happen you can just rap the fixed lines! And that’s when you start to feel dirty, depressed, and hurt because you didn’t come up here for comfort, you came up for the ultimate challenge and now with even just the knowledge of an easier escape much of that challenge is gone.

          The thing is Sid, there are a million places where one can have a challenging sport route or even bolted safe multi-pitch climbs, but there are only a few places in the world where you can have these ultimate challenges. So why not leave them alone?

          GD Star Rating
          loading...
    • new school ethic January 24, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

      I think you have demonstrated the new view of ethics that will only begin to get more accepted as time passes. That being said I could not possibly disagree more. I know that the sport will grow and people will profit more off it, but it’s just a shame.
      We’re all entitled to our own opinions but at least have some respect for nature, because it gave us the “sport.”

      What is scary is that their are 8 people who voted for Sid’s comment.

      GD Star Rating
      loading...
      • newschoolethic January 24, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

        I was replying to Sid’s comment and somehow got under this one. My fault

        GD Star Rating
        loading...
  3. SP January 24, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    This is sad. I remember being introduced to David Lama in First Ascent, and thought he seemed like a young, humble kid. Apparently the small fame brought about by sport climbing has either altered his ego, or I was just off from the beginning. Either way, it’s really disappointing, and I hope that most of the online climbing community condemns their decision.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  4. André January 24, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    It’s funny, I just read an article in a German magazine about Lama’s plans for Cerro Torre and they specifically highlight how his approach is totally different in style, much purer and more “ethical” than Maestris. Now I don’t see how using Maestris bolt ladder to reach the top and rap-bolt a line is any better. Also I’d really like to know what Reinhold Messner has to say about that, considering that he has heavily supported Lama in the past. Having said that, I wonder where to draw the line for rap-bolting. I guess everybody agrees that it’s ok in a sport crag and I would assume most people agree that it’s a no-go on Cerro Torre. But what about the middle ground? I mean Caldwell and Jorgenson did place bolts while rapping down the line on Dawn Wall right? I don’t recall anybody complaining about that. So where exactly should the line be drawn then?

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  5. Scott January 24, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Calling Haley’s post “excellent” may be a misnomer for those with short attention spans

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  6. JM January 24, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    Red Bull should be assaulted with complaints: http://www.redbull.com/cs/Satellite/en_INT/ContactUs/Imprint-021242752886059?CategoryName=RedBull.com&p=1242745950125 Who the hell does David Lama think he is???

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  7. Mark January 24, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    In fact, I have actually emailed a complaint already to Red Bull, and though boycotts are proven to have no effect on the small scale, I don’t forsee myself buying any more Red Bull in the short term, or long for that matter.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
    • Ryan June 3, 2011 at 4:44 am #

      Red Bull is not for people that climb.  It is for people that like the idea of Xtreme sports.  If it were for people that climbed it would not sell very much product.  In other words you don’t matter.

      GD Star Rating
      loading...
  8. Chris January 24, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    @ Sid, regarding your earlier comments: Claiming that bolting a line that can be protected with trad gear allows one to “still climb it in it’s original form” is completely off-base in my opinion. Yes, you can still climb it using trad gear, but the “purity” of the line or however you want to define it is definitely changed after the bolting. It’s also an affront to the first ascensionist. Rap bolting in an incredible, remote alpine environment where (in most cases) ethics have been predominantly ground-up is very poor style.

    While, yes, Cerro Torre is just another rock, it also has meaning far beyond that to many people.

    I’ll give an analogy that I think fits pretty well:

    I do a good amount of fly fishing for trout in remote mountain streams. Sure, I could still catch trout using the same techniques in the same streams if someone threw a bunch of litter in there, but it would be a far different experience.

    Furthermore, rap bolting established trad lines DOES cause a controversy, in almost every case where it occurs. Suggesting otherwise is absurd.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
    • Sid January 24, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

      Chris,

      I think you may have misunderstood what I said. I’m saying that every day, people climb established sport routes that have adequate gear placement on trad (retro-trad) without consequence. However, if someone bolts a trad route (whether it be unsafe or otherwise) then there is serious controversy.

      How come the difference? The person trad climbing the sport climb is not climbing it in the same vision as that of the first ascentionist. I’m merely pointing out the discrepancy.

      GD Star Rating
      loading...
      • justin January 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

        Since most people “retro-trad”ing a sport climb typically climb it using the bolts (or toprope it first) it’s a moot point. They aren’t trad climbing, they are headpointing which is an extension of toproping.

        Trad climbing means you start from the ground and go up. No preinspection. No preplaced gear.

        GD Star Rating
        loading...
        • Narc January 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

          Does that even exist anymore???

          GD Star Rating
          loading...
          • justin January 24, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

            more than the magazines and videos would make us think.

            it really is a shame that “trad” climbing had to be spun into this bizarre ultradangerous prerehersed crap. impressionable climbers will only start to believe that it is the way everyone climbs trad, and that’s simply not the case. if you need to top rope the route first it is just a party trick when you lead it.

            regardless, lama should go groundup placing bolts on lead instead of bringing the mountain to his level. or leave it alone until someone else who is bold and strong enough to get it done properly can do so. he may not even have to wait long with the two other strong teams looking at the same objective without the metal.

            GD Star Rating
            loading...
  9. Dylan January 24, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    That stuff is nasty, anyway. I don’t even need to worry about a boycott because I already avoid the stuff. As far as their marketing goes, I tend to have a problem with the “extreme” spin they try to put on everything. Even if it is accurate, it is so one-sided that tends to give the impression that the only reason climbing is cool is because it is potentially dangerous, which is really sad as this is the view most of the general public already gets of our sport.

    As for ground-up trad ethics, I have great respect for them and admire anyone who commits to that style, but Andre makes a good point about Caldwell and Jorgeson on El Cap, and I met a bunch of routes done in that style on a recent trip to Joshua Tree that would have been much more fun/safer if someone’s original poor lead-bolting hadn’t made a death route.

    So while I am not thrilled by Lama’s current actions, if the bolts prove necessary to make the line go free, and he uses the absolute minimum needed (Leo Holding’s The Prophet comes to mind as a good style to aspire to) I think I’d be okay with it if an amazing line is the result.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  10. Tyler January 24, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    I think that there are two main reasons the climbing community didn’t give any flak to Tommy and Kevin for placing bolts while they rappelled on the Dawn Wall.

    One of the reasons, simply put, is that it’s Tommy Caldwell, not David Lama. It is an unavoidable fact that people are simply more likely to label younger people with terms like “disrespectful,” “immature,” “self-centered” and “egotistic.” I don’t think anyone would describe Tommy Caldwell like that. Part of this is obviously because the climbing community knows him better than David Lama, and knows his ethics, but part of it, again, is simply because he is 30, not 20. Tommy Caldwell is highly respected in the climbing community and has been for many years. Not only that, but he has also probably spent more time than anyone else in the world on El Cap. I don’t think anyone respects that piece of rock more than Tommy.

    The other simple reason no flak was given is that El Cap is in the middle of the United States, not Patagonia. Whether for good or bad, large pieces of rock tend to lose a lot of their mystique when they are located in a highly populated area. I mean, seriously. Google Image search “Cerro Torre” right now. Look at it. It is ridiculous. It’s so goddamn beautiful and awe-inspiring that you can’t help but feel personally offended when someone defaces it. That same feeling does not apply to El Cap. Adjectives like “awe-inspiring” and “beautiful” might still apply, but I would argue that El Cap is looked at mainly as a rock to be climbed, even if it is a really big rock. Cerro Torre, on the other hand, seems to hold so much more power, and to inherently stand for so much more than just something to be conquered by man.

    Bottom line: I am fairly certain that if Tommy Caldwell were climbing Cerro Torre with a film crew, he would make sure that his crew did not put any more bolts into the wall. And he sure as hell would not have done it himself.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
    • SP January 25, 2011 at 11:18 am #

      I agree completely, and would just like to add one more point why Tommy Caldwell did not get very much heat at all for installing some bolts on rappel. Tommy Caldwell is basically a Yosemite local, and has pushed traditional climbing standards for years, including many first-free ascents on El Cap. The Mescalito project is not a sport climb – it involves plenty of removable protection, and it’s bolted so that falls onto bolts can still exceed 40+ feet.

      In comparison, David Lama is known exclusively for competition and sport climbing (anyone see the Mammut video on Gritstone where he sport climbs on pre-placed gear?). I think most everyone expects that his bolting on Cerro Torre will not involve using removable protection at all, and will be bolted like a sport climb.

      I love sport climbing. But a sport climb on one of the world’s most outstanding peaks? What a disgusting and sad regression for the sport.

      GD Star Rating
      loading...
  11. Dylan January 24, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    So an evolution on my above thoughts after reading more people’s comments on this and other forums (I’ve kind of changed my mind a bit from the above):

    There is a place for rap-bolted free climbs that are safe and fun, but Patagonia just isn’t it. I have no problem with the practice in principal, and have enjoyed many a clip-up myself, but the truth is that if we are to preserve the adventurous and bold aspect of rock climbing that generations before ours had as their only style and option for future generations to experience, then certain areas should be left as monuments to the ground-up and bold styles that gave mountaineering its aura of risk and adventure that it still has, despite the conga lines going up fixed lines on Everest every year.

    The truth is that although the amount of climbable rock out there is mind-boggling and much greater than what has been climbed, features like Cerro Torre and other mountains of its caliber are few in number. It would be a shame if some of them were not left in a state so that climbers who are around after we are dead and are up to the task are able to experience them as the dangerous test pieces they are now. So long live sport climbing (God it can be fun), but not everywhere.

    Also, aw screw it Justin already said it better than I could have.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  12. ktmt January 25, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    David Lama has just shown himself not to be an impetuous youth we owe the benefit of the doubt, but a real fool who is out to harm our sport. Thanks JM for that Red Bull comment link. If they receive enough complaints it will make a difference and cut the funding of this pointless stunt off at the source. I’m sending my objection right now. I hope many others do as well.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  13. flook January 26, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    It is interesting and heart warming to see such a vigorous defense for maintaining standards of minimum impact in such a remote and precious mountain range.

    Interesting because it seems so counterintuitive according to the dominant trends within the sport. The proliferation of sport climbing and bouldering throughout the 90s impacted the existing climbing landscape profoundly. Campsites and trails spread like wild fire. Piles of turd, climbing tape and garbage began to appear and the campsites and crags that once seemed so pleasantly remote and off the beaten path became increasingly popular and unsustainable until they finally had to be regulated. Hueco Tanks, Red Rocks, Smith Rocks, Yosemite, the Gunks…None of these places will ever be the same. I wonder Sid, if perhaps you had a little more experience you would so easily dismiss our protectionism as mere sentimentality? I don’t think so. Had climbing sustained a spiritual basis in adventure and exploration as opposed to the impulsive and immediate-satisfaction provided by relatively safe yet physically sensational 40-50ft steep sport routes – perhaps we wouldn’t be paying $20 a night for formal campsites where there was once a mere dirt road that wandered off into the canyons surrounding Mt Wilson for example. It is one of my greatest regrets that I didn’t spend more time back in the BVC as opposed to thrashing about on routes that were a letter grade or two beyond my grasp at the Trophy Wall or the Gallery. I can’t believe how much time I wasted. My fondest memories derive from gut checks in precarious positions on highly committed routes, the bonds established through great climbing partnerships and camaraderie and, of course, those routes that devolved into utter epics.

    Not from clipping the chains on some sport climb that I had slaved away on for days. I’m not saying there was nothing to such accomplishments. They brought me great pleasure as well. But they tended to fade rather quickly, as the need to answer the climbing fix replaced them with yet another struggle for self-affirmation and climbing angst.

    Heart-warming, because your responses reveal that the climbing community is not as narcissistic and impetuous as I had supposed. After 4-5 weeks in Hueco Tanks during my last serious climbing trip in ’99, I was left with the impression that one of my favorite places on earth had been reduced to an urban skate park, throbbing with bass and attitude from various young posses seeking recognition and respect. Someone needs to sit this Lama kid down and explain the inherent value in realizing our limits. Besides marring the natural beauty of Cerro Torre and the threat of impact from increased traffic; bolting such spaces chips away at the frontiers of our imagination and potential. It fundamentally changes the landscape and undermines any potential for enlightenment through adventure.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  14. polaropposite January 27, 2011 at 12:21 am #

    “Besides marring the natural beauty of Cerro Torre and the threat of impact from increased traffic; bolting such spaces chips away at the frontiers of our imagination and potential. It fundamentally changes the landscape and undermines any potential for enlightenment through adventure.”

    Bolts mar the beauty of Cerro Torre, and fundamentally change the landscape? Really? Are you trying to be serious here?

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
    • flook January 27, 2011 at 9:36 am #

      polaropposite, dude, the “impact” to which i point refers to more than just a 3/8″ inch hole. If you want to split hairs between the relative impact of chipping holds and drilling bolts, that’s fine (bolts aren’t going to bring about the ultimate destruction of a cliff face, obviously). But that is taking a pretty narrow view of the wider impact that such acts have in terms of accessibility, popularity, and the erosive effects of high traffic usage. Even if you want to discount my argument about the spirit of adventure and the once intrinsic dimension of exploration (physically AND mentally) – accessibility increases traffic and the consequences have real effects. Not just upon the shear rock faces we climb, but throughout the surrounding landscapes and environments. If you can’t see this, then i would surmise you haven’t been around long enough to witness such changes, nor climbed outside of the bubble that often exists around many of the predominant sport climbing venues in N. America. Iconic destinations like Rifle and the RRG are phenomenal and I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone from enjoying them. But make no mistake, accessibility has been negotiated, established and maintained through a collective effort to address these very concerns. And many, if not most, of the crags at these destinations are within a stones throw of the road, making my point about impact in such a hallowed destination as Cerro Torre all the more obvious.

      GD Star Rating
      loading...
      • somebody buy flook a beer January 27, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

        just wanted to say it’s good to see someone who has this outlook. Try to share this with everyone you meet, because it is up to us to show people this train of thought.

        It seems that so often climbing ethics (not trad vs sport) but the way one carries themselves, treats others, and their surroundings.

        If would be great if sites like this, lowdown, dead point, and so many other would spend some time with these issues. I realize they don’t want to take a stand, but so many of the new folks come to these sites, and climb in gyms and then go out and treat these sacred areas like garbage, talk about their grade seeking. I’ve seen a “young gun” disrespect a man who was responsible for finding, cleaning, bolting the route that he had just climbed. So important and yet never discussed.

        How bout it Narc. Maybe an interview with some high profile folks on these issues would be good, even if the message just gets to a few of the folks.

        GD Star Rating
        loading...
        • Narc January 28, 2011 at 7:22 am #

          This is definitely something that is important to me and something that I’m interested in exploring more. Part of the partnership with PCI will be driving toward this goal as well, trying to get these “young guns” to set better examples for everyone.

          GD Star Rating
          loading...
          • someone buy narc a beer January 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

            This is really great to hear! This is what I was hoping that pci would be a part of. Do some interviews from the new crew that crushes on this issue so that the next group are better off and are our boulders, crags, trails won’t suffer like they have.

            Good luck with your comp.

            GD Star Rating
            loading...
  15. Mark February 4, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    As a follow-up, I got an email back from Red Bull after it was released that David was planning on changing his ethic of this climb. Their response had little to no substance and had some factual inaccuracies (if I read it correctly) stating that the bolts added last year were necessary for safety (as if no natural gear placements were possible in the area, stating also that bolts are necessary because of falling ice) and claimed that they had only left one haul bag. If I remember correctly, thats the only thing that was left after others cleaned up after them.

    Did I miss some magic power of bolts to protect people with a forcefield from ice fall?

    Funniest of all, as if some backhanded shot at me, the note was signed “Respectfully,” and then the name of the contact. I was VERY respectful in my email, but maybe I should have put that somewhere in the email…

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  16. Ryan June 3, 2011 at 4:59 am #

    You’re all out to lunch.  The guy that puts up FAs does it for himself.  That means that lama can do whatever the hell he wants.  You talk about what climbing is all about and you don’t realize its about you, not some bullshit royal robins said a thousand years ago. 

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
    • Solidd33 June 3, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

      Am I to infer that you do not think climbing ethics should exist? Standards which everyone should strive for even if they aren’t exactly agreed upon.

      GD Star Rating
      loading...
    • Afere October 25, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

      You obviously think it’s all about you. Some of us can see beyond our bubble and realize that our actions impact the planet and people around us.

      GD Star Rating
      loading...

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Chicks Climbing » Blog Archive » This week’s gossip? Clinics, OR Show, and Clinics oh my! - January 24, 2011

    […] in Patagonia & David Lama’s controversy on Cerro Torre is back on. Get up to speed: http://ht.ly/3J5QV – Nice piece by AAI (@AlpineInstitute) on the ethics of leaving fixed ropes, caches, and draws […]

Leave a Reply