Mountaineer · Climber · FreeSpirit
Success, to me, doesn’t primarily mean reaching the summit, but rather living up to my own expectations.
That doesn’t only depend on which projects I do or do not realize, but rather whether I do so in a style in which I can express myself. Adhering to that idea is my priority, and I try to follow that in every day life as well.
Drawn to the rocks
David Lama was born in 1990. His mom is an Innsbruck native and his dad a mountain guide from Nepal. David was five-years-old when Himalaya-veteran Peter Habeler first watched him climb. Afterwards, Habeler immediately called his parents to tell them that their boy had an unusual talent …
Words by Christian Seiler
Little David had no interest in hiking courses or Alpine Club activities; he wanted to go vertical from the get-go. At the indoor climbing gym he met his coach-to-be, Reini Scherer. David and the East-Tyrolean climbing-enthusiast Scherer are still friends and partners today, almost 20 years later.
From the climbing gym ...
From the beginning, the climbing wall was the primary attraction for David, and the challenging competitions were just a part of the deal. David did indeed improve his technique unusually fast and with lots of talent at the indoor climbing gym. He quickly and safely mastered the slick walls and the colorful climbing holds.
... to the big rock faces
But he still didn’t want to pass on the challenges that the mountains have to offer. For a few years, he pursued both activities: The ever-tighter training and competition schedule at the climbing gym, and alpinism, until David decided to focus entirely on the mountains. David achieved pioneering achievements in the alpine climbing, for example free climbing the “Compressor-Route“ on Cerro Torre or the first ascent of Bird of Prey on the Moose’s Tooth in Alaska.
What makes David exceptional is his Buddhist calm and his flexible and confidant climbing style. The climbing scene has embraced him, and branch media and forums discuss and admire his skill and talent in climbing challenging routes in difficult terrain. This charismatic athlete is considered to be a pioneer of a new generation of climbers, who use technical perfection and exceptional physical strength to go to places no one went before.
The overall experience
David congenially resists the temptation to make a show of his skills: He has found an impressive inner peace at a young age. He appreciates his athletic achievements and the alpine adventures as a part of a whole, a part of the overall experience. “It’s not about collecting achievements, it’s all about the experience”, David says.
What matters to me is that I can stand behind my decisions and actions.
Obviously, a series of misfortunes can lead to a fatal end on any of my adventures. There is no point in denying that fact. It is my willingness to commit that demonstrates the total conviction of my actions, and that gives great personal value to my alpinism.
David plans only one expedition for the year. His entire focus lies on the first ascent of the southeast ridge of Annapurna III. In order to acclimatise, he travels to Ama Dablam with Hansjörg Auer and Alex Blümel in fall. They succeed in scaling the 6814 meters high summit and sleep there, but then something unexpected happens - his partners don’t feel ready to take on the challenge of Annapurna III again and the team decides to end the expedition.
The movie “Cerro Torre - A snowball’s chance in hell” that documents David’s free ascent of the “impossible” mountain in Patagonia goes online on Red Bull TV and is thus available worldwide, on demand and free of cost.
In April, David, Hansjörg Auer and Alex Blümel head to one of the greatest unclimbed lines in the Himalaya, the southeast ridge of Annapurna III. After several weeks of acclimatisation, the three make an attempt. They climb further than all the parties before them, but bad weather keeps them from reaching the summit.
In fall, David travels to Nepal again, but this time - as in fall 2015 - Conrad Anker joins him on Lunag Ri. They are forced to abort their attempt to make the first ascent of the mountain because Conrad suffers from a heart attack on the wall. After Conrad is evacuated and has undergone emergency surgery in Kathmandu, David decided to make a solo attempt on the mountain. He fails only a couple hundred meters short of the summit.
In spring, David and Conrad Anker do a first ascent in Zion (USA) and they plan an expedition that leads them to Lunag Ri (6.910 m) in autumn. They turn around shortly before the summit. In between, David is in Lebanon, where he does one of his hardest ever sport climbs: the first ascent of Avataara (9a).
David’s cinema film „Cerro Torre – a snowball’s chance in hell“ premiers. The movie documents his first free ascent of the Compressor Route on the famous patagonian granite spire. The project, on which he worked passionately, becomes an international success.
In summer, he returns to Masherbrum, where bad conditions force him and his partners, Hansjörg Auer and Peter Ortner, to retreat down low. At the end of the year, he travels to Brazil, where he repeats the Güllich classic „Southern Comfort“ and the „Athalo do Diablo“ on Corcovado.
The year begins cold. On the Sagwand in Tyrol, David and partners achieve the first winter ascent of the difficult „Schiefer Riss“. A few weeks later, he does „Spindrift“, another hard first ascent. And cold it continues. In Alaska, David and Dani Arnold climb the East Face of the Moose’s Tooth via Bird of Prey – their route is among the hardest alpine first ascents of the year.
In summer, he visits the 7.821 meters high Masherbrum for the first time. They are forced to return home after David’s climbing partner, Peter Ortner, gets injured while acclimatizing.
After three years, David finally realizes his dream: He becomes the first person to free climb the famous Compressor-Route on Cerro Torre. It is by far the hardest free climb on Cerro Torre.
In summer, David and Peter Ortner make the first ascent of the poorly protected Safety Discussion (8b) in East Tyrol. A few months later, the two reach the summits of Trango Tower (6.286 m) and Chogolisa (7.668 m) in the Karakoram (Pakistan), becoming the first team in almost 30 years to reach the summit of the latter.
After 13 years on the competition circus, David takes a break to focus on his alpine adventures. In late February he and his partner Peter Ortner aid climb to the summit of Cerro Torre. Together they make another two Patagonian summits. Later this year David puts up a new route in the Kashmir-Himalaya and climbs twelve multipitch routes at 8a or harder.
David and his partner Jorg Verhoeven make the first ascent at the 1100m long Brento Centro (8b). Two more multipich routes – Bellavista (8b+) and Voie Petit (8b) – follow.
David’s first book, “High - Genial unterwegs an Berg und Fels” is published this fall, and the first edition sells out within two months.
After placing third at the World Championships in Xining, China, David starts to focus more on his expeditions. First he and three Swiss mountaineers travel to Kirgizstan to make the first free ascent of the Timofeev Route on the 4230m high Asan. At the end of the year, David launches his free climbing project of the Cerro Torre.
1st place Overall World Cup (Lead & Boulder)
1st place World Cup Reunion (FRA)
1st place World Cup Fiera (ITA)
1st place World Cup Imst (AUT)
David’s Alpine accomplishments are starting to be noticed by the international climbing community, like for example the first ascent of Desperation of the Northface in Valsertal, Austria, and the Footsy Variations during his first expedition to the Cochamó Valley in Chile.
In Birmingham, David secured the European Championship title in bouldering. He is thereby the first climber to win the title in two different disciplines. Away from the climbing competitions, David spends more and more time in the mountains. He is getting to know and love the challenges of alpine adventures by making some impressive first ascents.
At 15, David is allowed to enter the adult World Cup with a special permit. He places second at the debut in Puurs, Belgium. At the second World Cup competition, David wins, and is thereby the youngest World Cup winner in history. He goes on to win the European Championship in Russia, and places second in the overall World Cup. He also wins the Boulder World Cup in Hall, and is thereby the first and only climber to score wins in both disciplines during his rookie year.
David keeps dominating his age group. He wins all contests but one, and wins the Junior World Champion title for the second time.
1st place Junior World Championships Peking (CHN)
1st place Jr. Euro Cup Imst (AUT)
1st place Jr. Euro Cup Genf (SUI)
1st place Jr. Euro Cup Penne (ITA)
1st place Jr. Euro Cup Kranj (SLO)
2nd place Jr. Euro Cup Brno (CZE)
1st place Ö-Cup Tivoli
1st place Ö-Cup Dornbirn
1st place Ö-Cup Rum
David is old enough to compete at the European Youth Cup and the Youth World Championship. He wins all competitions this year and stands as the overall winner with maximum points.
He is also further developing his rock climbing skills and with 7pm JP chaud, climbs his first 8c.
David collects eleven more titles. Furthermore, at the tender age of 12, he manages to climb Hale Bopp, his first 8b+.
1st place Rock Master Junior
1st place ÖAV Junior Cup
1st place Bouldercup L'Argentiere
1st place Hohe Munde Masters
1st place Tiroler Junior Cup
1st place Tivoli Wettkampf
1st place Dornbirn Wettkampf
1st place Rumer Bouldercup
David improves his rock climbing skills even further and secures the victory at the Rock Master Junior in Arco, Italy.
Aside from the ÖAV Junior Cup victory, David wins six more titles. But his greatest achievement this year is probably the redpoint of the Kindergarden in Slovenia. Never has someone so young climbed a route at this grade (8a).
David wins the kid’s title at the unofficial Austrian championship, the ÖAV Junior Cup. At age nine, he also climbs Beach Boys in Massone, Italy. It is his first 7b.
David is finally old enough to enter his first climbing competitions. He places second at his very first event, the Hohe Munde Cup in Telfs in Tyrol.
Every mountaineer wants to leave something behind, and at the same time, he has the responsibility to respect what he inherits.
First ascents are an eternal constant of alpinism. They are in my mind the heart and soul of mountaineering, and as long as there are climbers who carry on with this idea, alpinism will continue to evolve. However, the way that the remaining “blank canvasses” are treated is paramount. To me, the difficulty and exposure of the new lines, as well as the style in which they are tackled, is of importance.
Cerro Torre - a snowball's chance in hell
No one has ever free climbed this Needle of Granite. But this is exactly what David and his partner Peter aim to do. After being confronted with natural and logistical challenges, David comes to understand the true nature of his project and realises what it will take to reach the summit. A documentary about mountaineering, friendship and transformation. It’s a coming of age story that also takes a close look at the state of rock climbing and alpinism, as well as their many philosophies and ethical approaches ...
Free: Der Cerro Torre, das Unmögliche und ich
Cerro Torre made me dig deep. In the four years that I worked on this project, the mountain changed me as a climber, alpinist and ultimately, as a person. It became clear that this mythical peak does not allow for mistakes. That’s what I write about in this book.
More about the book:
High – genial unterwegs an Fels und Berg
My transition from competition climbing to alpinism as a young man, the climbing lifestyle, and how much it means to me: That is what you’ll find in my first book. Big adventures on and off the wall.