David Lama

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David Lama
Lama in 2014
Personal information
Born(1990-08-04)4 August 1990
Innsbruck, Austria
Died16 April 2019(2019-04-16) (aged 28)
Howse Peak, Alberta, Canada
Climbing career
Type of climberSport climbing, bouldering, Alpine
Highest grade
Medal record
IFSC World Championships
Bronze medal – third place 2009 Xining Lead
IFSC European Championships
Gold medal – first place 2006 Yekaterinburg Lead
Gold medal – first place 2007 Birmingham Bouldering
IFSC Climbing World Cup
Winner 2008 Overall
Updated on 13 May 2013.

David Lama (Nepali: डेभिड लामा; 4 August 1990 – 16 April 2019) was an Austrian sport climber and mountaineer. He won the European Championship in bouldering in 2007 and the European Championship in lead climbing in 2006. He is known for his first free ascent of the Compressor Route (South-East Ridge) on Cerro Torre.[1] In 2018, in a solo expedition, he was the first to reach the summit of Lunag Ri in the Himalayas.[2] In 2019, he was posthumously honoured with a Piolet d'Or for this first ascent.[3]


David Lama was born in 1990. His father is a mountain guide from Nepal and his mother is an Austrian from Innsbruck. He was five years old when Himalaya veteran Peter Habeler first watched Lama climb in a climbing camp organized by Habeler. Afterwards, Habeler immediately called Lama's parents to tell them that their boy had an unusual talent. Lama then became part of the competition climbing team coached by Reinhold Scherer.[4][5]

Competition climbing[edit]

In 2004, 14 years old, Lama won the European Youth Cup. In the same year he climbed his first 5.14b (8c) route.[6]

He repeated his win at the European Youth Cup in 2005 and moved on to Senior competitions in 2006. The International Federation for Sport Climbing (IFSC) changed their rules so that Lama, only 15 years old at the time, could compete in the Senior World Cup.[6][7] Lama became the youngest person to compete at the World Cup and the first to win both a lead and a bouldering World Cup final in his first season.[8]

Lama became European Champion, both in lead climbing (2006) and bouldering (2007). In 2008 he won the overall ranking in the World Cup. And in 2009 he placed 3rd at the World Championships in the category lead.[9]

In 2011 he retired from competition climbing so he could focus solely on mountaineering.[4]


Cerro Torre free ascent[edit]

In 2009 David Lama announced his intention to free climb Cerro Torre via the Compressor Route, which means only natural rock and ice formations are used for the ascent of the mountain. Bolts and rope only serve as protection in case of a fall. Nobody had done this before, all previous ascents had used climbing aids of one kind or another. Alpinist legend Reinhold Messner even called the undertaking “crazy and impossible”.[10]

For his first attempt in 2009 Lama brought along a film crew provided by his sponsor Red Bull.[11] This first attempt ended in failure. Lama and his climbing partner Daniel Steuerer had to turn around due to bad weather.[11][12] Back at base camp the conditions stayed bad and the team had to abandon the endeavor for the 2009/2010 season.[13]

The aftermath of this first attempt started a scandal in the mountaineering scene. Both Lama and the Red Bull film crew were heavily criticized. The film crew had left behind at least 30 drilled bolts next to a route already laden with bolts. 700 metres of fixed rope and five haul bags were also left behind along the route.[14][15] Argentinian guides were hired to remove the equipment, but they did not manage to remove all of it and none of the bolts were removed.[16]

Lama stated that he was not aware of the large number of bolts that were drilled by the film team, but he took full responsibility for the actions and promised not to repeat the mistake.[12] He promised to remove the remaining equipment in the following year.[16]

They returned for a second attempt in January 2011. Peter Ortner, a more experienced climber, replaced Steuerer as Lama's climbing partner from this point onward. This initial ascent had to be aborted as well because the head wall was full of ice. On February 12, during a small good weather window, the two climbers managed to reach the summit using aided techniques. This ascent raised the morale of the team after the long series of failures and was used for scouting out the free route.[12][13]

In January 2012, Lama and his team returned for a third expedition. A few days before the planned ascent they got the news that the climbers Jason Kruk and Hayden Kennedy had completed the compressor route, using as few bolts as they could manage. On their way back down they removed all the bolts they deemed unnecessary in order to restore the challenge of the mountain. They removed more than 120 bolts in total, most of them from the historical 1970 Cesare Maestri gas-powered compressor ascent. The headwall of the compressor route and one pitch below were completely freed of bolts.[17][11] This move caused a heated debate in the mountaineering community. Both climbers were briefly detained by Argentinian police and the removed bolts were confiscated.[18] Lama's first reaction was that he did not need the bolts for his climb anyway and he moved ahead with his free climbing attempt.[11] Since the old bolted route was not climbable anymore by regular means, the film crew had to ascend the summit via the west side of the mountain and rappel down with ropes in order to document the next attempt.[12][13]

On January 19, 2012, Lama and Ortner finished the first free ascent of Cerro Torre via the south-east ridge compressor route in 24 hours in total.[19] According to Lama they brought 5 bolts along, but they did not have to place any of them.[12] They ascended to the left of the crack climbed by Salvaterra and Mabboni, here Lama took one fall, but he managed to climb it on the second attempt. He later rated this crux 8a (5.13b) in terms of difficulty. The two climbers slept for the night in bivouac sacks below the Ice Towers. On the next day, after ascending most of the headwall, they went right of the compressor, following cracks and flakes in the rock, all the way to the summit. All previous routes went left of the compressor.[20][12][21][13]

In 2013, National Geographic made David Lama "Adventurer of the Year" for his free ascent of Cerro Torre.[22]

The documentary Cerro Torre: A Snowball's Chance in Hell documents the ascent.[21][14]

Lunag Ri first ascent (solo)[edit]

View of Nangpa La and the Lunag Ri-massif, seen from the Cho Oyu base camp. The top of Lunag Ri is on the far right of the picture, half right in the background is the Lunag Ri IV, behind on the far left is the Jobo Rinjang.

In 2015 David Lama teamed up with The North Face climbing team captain Conrad Anker in order to climb the 6,895 m (22,621 ft) Lunag Ri, one of the highest unclimbed peaks in the Himalayas.[23][24][25]

Their first attempt was on November 12, 2015. They picked a rock crevice that would allow them to climb up to the north-west pillar of the mountain. Up on the ridge they planned to follow it up to the peak using mixed climbing techniques.[26] It was already late when they reached the top of the ridge, so for the night they set up a bivouac underneath a boulder. They continued in the early morning of the next day. Lack of ice and bad snow conditions complicated protection.[23] They did not manage to reach the summit during the next day. They had to make the decision whether to dig in and wait out another night, at potential temperatures of -40 °C and strong wind, or turn around and descend the mountain.[27] They decided for the latter and aborted the attempt around 300 metres below the summit.[28][25]

They had to abandon the endeavor for that year, but returned for a second attempt in 2016.

On November 6, 2016, during the second attempt, Conrad Anker suffered a heart attack at a height of 6,000 metres (20,000 ft) while climbing up the rock crevice. The two climbers quickly decided to rappel down the mountain. Lama called for an emergency helicopter rescue at base camp. 12 hours after the heart attack Anker underwent surgery in Kathmandu.[27] A thrombotic occlusion was removed from his proximal left artery.[24] As a result of this injury Anker quit high altitude climbing, or the "hurt locker" as he calls it.[29]

Lama was left behind without climbing partner at the base camp. Since Anker had declared that he would not return, Lama decided to start another attempt alone.[28]

This third attempt was started on November 8, 2016. Lama ascended the north-west ridge via a longer, but easier rock crevice and set up camp. Since he had no climbing partner he had to use roped solo techniques in order to ascend the ridge, climbing one pitch as lead, setting up an anchor and then rappeling back down to remove protections.[30] Ascending the mountain this way together with a heavy backpack turned out to be too much of a challenge. Lama aborted this third attempt as well, not far from the location of the high point of the first expedition with Conrad Anker.[27]

On October 23, 2018, David Lama returned for a fourth and final attempt. Again solo, he ascended the mountain in three days over the north-west ridge. He followed the same line he had taken on his first solo attempt.[30] He had to set up bivouac two times for the nights at temperatures of -30 °C with 80 km/h storm gusts.[25] During the entire third day he was unable to feel his toes. He decided to push on despite this and reached the summit at 10:00 a.m. After a few minutes on the summit he immediately rappeled back down. At midnight he was back at base camp. He did not lose any of his toes.[28]


On 16 April 2019,[31] David Lama, along with climbers Jess Roskelley and Hansjörg Auer, was caught in an avalanche on Howse Peak in the Waputik Range of the Canadian Rockies.[32][33] The group had climbed a new route on the east face of Howse Peak, one of the most challenging Canadian rock-and-ice faces.[2][32][34]

Photos from Jess Roskelley’s phone indicate that the three climbers had reached the summit on Tuesday, April 16 at 12:44 PM.[35] Their bodies were found 21 April 2019.[33] It can be deduced from a photograph taken from Icefields Parkway by a climber from Canmore that a large cornice broke off above their route. He reported that the resulting avalanche swept the south-east face at 1:58, 31 minutes after they had reached a steep couloir above a basin to descend their route. Their bodies were recovered from an avalanche cone below the icefall route "Life by the Drop". The shallow layer of snow covering the climbers is a further indicator of a cornice break as the cause of the accident.[36]

Competition results[edit]

David Lama in 2014 at the 1. Free Master Solo Event in Lienz, Austria

[37] [38] [39]

IFSC World Championships[edit]

Discipline 2009
Lead 3

UIAA and IFSC European Championships[edit]

Discipline 2006 2007 2010
Lead 1 4
Bouldering 1

Number of medals in the UIAA and IFSC Climbing World Cups[edit]

Overall winner in IFSC World Cup 2008.[40]

Lead / Combined[edit]

Season Gold Silver Bronze Total
2006 3 1 4
2007 1 1
2008 1 1
2009 1 1
Total 5 1 1 7


Season Gold Silver Bronze Total
2006 1 1
2008 2 2 4
Total 3 2 5

IFSC Climbing World Youth Championships[edit]

Discipline 2004
Youth B
Youth B
Youth A
Lead 1 1 3

European Youth Cups[edit]

  • European Youth Cup Winner 2004[41] and 2005[42] (youth B, lead).

Outdoor sport climbing[edit]

  • 2000 Route Kindergarten at Osp (Slovenia). Difficulty 8a (5.13b). Being only 10 years old, Lama was the youngest person to climb a route of that grade at the time.[43]
  • 2004 Route Devers Satanique at the Gorges du Loup (France). On-Sight with difficulty 8a+ (5.13c)(10-).[44]
  • 2004 Route 7pm JP Chaud at the Gorges du Loup (France). 8c (5.14b)(10+/11-). His first ascend of that grade.[44]
  • 2006 Spain: On-Sight of several routes up to 8b+ (5.14a)(10+)[45]
  • 2007 Niederthai in the Ötztal (Austria): In a single day, he climbed the routes Gondor (8c), Mordor (8c+/9a) and In Memo Reini (8c).[45]
  • 2014 Route Atalho do Diabo (5.13) on Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), together with Felipe Camargo.[46]
  • 2015 Route Latent Core (5.11 A1) in Zion National Park (USA), together with Conrad Anker, who had attempted the route 25 years before.[47]
  • 2015 Route Avaatara in the Baatara Gorge (Lebanon). 9a (5.14d).[48]

Alpine climbing[edit]

  • 2009 Pamir Altai (Kyrgyzstan): First free ascent of Asan (4230m), Northwest Face (together with Nina Caprez, Giovanni Quirici and Stephan Siegrist, and with photographer Rainer Eder).[49]
  • 2010 Sarche (Italy): Lama and Jorg Verhoeven climbed the first free ascent of Brento Centro, which they then freed within a day.[50]
  • 2010 Dolomites (Italy): Lama repeated Bellavista (11-) on Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Cima Ovest, after one day of trying.[51]
  • 2011 Cerro Torre (Argentina): Lama and Peter Ortner climbed Cerro Torre via the Compressor Route.
  • 2011 Grindelwald (Switzerland): Lama climbed Paciencia (8a) in the North Face of the Eiger with Peter Ortner.[52]
  • 2011 Kashmir (India): Lama, Stephan Siegrist and Denis Burdet climbed a first ascent Yoniverse, on Cerro Kishtwar.[53]
  • 2011 Lofer (Austria): Lama repeated Feuertaufe (8b) by Alexander Huber as well as Stoamandl (8b), Donnervogel (8b) and Woher Kompass (8a+)
  • 2012 Patagonia (Argentina): In 24 hours, David Lama did the first free ascent of the Compressor Route (South-East Ridge) of Cerro Torre with Peter Ortner. The route was subject of much controversy after two other climbers, American Hayden Kennedy and Canadian Jason Kruk, removed many of Maestri's bolts some days before Lama's ascent.[1] Honoured with a special mention at the Piolets d'Or 2013.
  • 2012 Karakoram (Pakistan): Lama and Ortner repeated the route Eternal Flame on Trango Tower (also known as Nameless Tower; 6239m).[54]
  • 2012 Chogolisa (7668m) on the Baltoro glacier in the Karakoram (Pakistan):[55] Lama and Ortner summited Chogolisa I and skied down the mountain's North-West Face.
  • 2013 Sagwand (Austria): First winter ascent of Schiefer Riss on the Sagwand in Tyrol with Hansjörg Auer and Peter Ortner.[56]
  • 2013 Moose's Tooth Massiv (Alaska): From 12–14 April, Lama, together with Dani Arnold, made the first ascent of Bird of Prey (1500m, 6a, M7+, 90°, A2) up Moose's Tooth.[57]
  • 2014 Karakoram (Pakistan): First serious attempt (after a reconnaissance in 2013) at the unclimbed North-East Face of Masherbrum (K1). His partners were Peter Ortner and Hansjörg Auer. The team was forced to retreat before reaching the actual face because of persistent avalanche danger.[58]
  • 2017 Solu Khumbu (Nepal): Together with Hansjörg Auer and Alex Blümel, Lama summited Ama Dablam (6812 m) on October 15, in order to acclimatise for the trio's second expedition to the South-East Pillar of Annapurna III (7555 m) which Lama's partners bowed out of eventually.[59]
  • 2018 Solu Khumbu (Nepal): First ascent (solo) of Lunag Ri (6907m) via the West Pillar, after three attempts (in 2015 and 2016, with Conrad Anker and solo).[60] Honoured with a Piolet d'Or, posthumously, in July 2019.[3]
  • 2018 Together with three friends from Austria, Lama summited Cholatse (6501 m), also in the Solu Khumbu, Nepal.[61]
  • 2019 Alberta (Canada): Lama, Hansjörg Auer and Jess Roskelley climbed the mixed route Andromeda Strain (M5, 700 m) on Mount Andromeda (3450 m).[62]


  1. ^ a b
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    • Jack Geldard (January 2012). "David Lama and Cerro Torre; A Mountain Set Free". ukclimbing.com. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  2. ^ a b Peter Beaumont; Joanna Walters (19 April 2019). "Three mountaineers killed in avalanche in Canada". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
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  7. ^ Buhl, Marius. "Der Alpinist als Künstler (engl: The alpinist as an artist". Zeit.de. Mit 15 änderten Offizielle des Erwachsenenweltcups für ihn die Regeln, Lama durfte teilnehmen und gewann als jüngster Kletterer aller Zeiten Wettkämpfe in der Boulder- und in der Vorstiegstechnik.
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  13. ^ a b c d Dirnhofer, Thomas (Director) (Mar 13, 2014). Cerro Torre: A Snowball's Chance in Hell (Full length documentary). Red Bull Media House.
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  22. ^ Cahall, Fitz. "David Lama, 2013 Adventurers of the Year". National Geographic.
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  24. ^ a b "Exclusive: Celebrated Mountaineer Suffers Heart Attack at 20,000 Feet". National Geographic. Archived from the original on June 6, 2019.
  25. ^ a b c "David Lama schafft Solo-Erstbegehung des Lunag Ri". SOQ. Archived from the original on June 30, 2019. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  26. ^ "Lunag Ri - David Lama und Conrad Anker scheitern knapp vor dem 6907m hohen unbestiegenen Gipfel des Lunag Ri in Nepal". bergsteigen.com. Archived from the original on June 30, 2019.
  27. ^ a b c Lunag Ri – David Lama & Conrad Anker walk the line (Documentary). Red Bull Media House. Jul 29, 2018.
  28. ^ a b c "Interview: David Lama on His Lunag Ri Solo". Rock and Ice. Archived from the original on May 15, 2019.
  29. ^ "Conrad Anker: On Fatherhood and Looking Forward". climbing.com. Archived from the original on June 30, 2019.
  30. ^ a b "One climber's pursuit of an unclimbed peak". National Geographic. Archived from the original on April 18, 2019.
  31. ^ Francovich, Eli (April 18, 2019). "Spokane climber Jess Roskelley missing and presumed killed by avalanche in Canadian Rockies; David Lama, Hansjorg Auer also presumed dead". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  32. ^ a b Nicole Chavez and Rebekah Riess. "North Face climbers likely killed in Banff National Park avalanche". CNN. Retrieved 2019-04-20.
  33. ^ a b Bisharat, Andrew (18 April 2019). "Three top mountain climbers presumed dead in avalanche". National Geographic. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  34. ^ "Top climbers die in Canadian avalanche". BBC. 22 April 2019. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  35. ^ Family, The Roskelley. "A Statement From Jess Roskelley's Family". Climbing Magazine. Retrieved 2019-06-06.
  36. ^ Roskelley, John (23 December 2019). "The Last Climb of Hansjörg Auer, David Lama and Jess Roskelley". Epic TV.
  37. ^ "Old IFSC website: David Lama results (2010)". Archived from the original on December 7, 2010.
  38. ^ "Digitalrock: David Lama". Archived from the original on June 18, 2019. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  39. ^ "IFSC Profile: David Lama". Archived from the original on July 4, 2013. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  40. ^ "IFSC Climbing Worldcup 2008: MEN combined". Archived from the original on June 18, 2019. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  41. ^ "European Youth Cup 2004: male youth B lead". Archived from the original on June 18, 2019. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  42. ^ "European Youth Cup 2005: male youth B lead". Archived from the original on June 18, 2019. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  43. ^ "Senkrechte Karriere in senkrechter Wand". ISPO. Archived from the original on July 21, 2019.
  44. ^ a b "Die Wunderkinder des 10ten Grades". bergsteigen.com. Archived from the original on July 21, 2019.
  45. ^ a b "David Lama a Cornalba, Siurana e Ãtztal". planetmountain.com. Archived from the original on July 21, 2019.
  46. ^ Lama, David (27 February 2015). "Rusty Bolts and the Sugar Loaf". davidlama.com.
  47. ^ planetmountain (17 July 2015). "Conrad Anker and David Lama climb Latent Core". planetmountain.com.
  48. ^ "David Lama klettert "Avaatara" (9a) in der Baatara-Schlucht". klettern.de. Archived from the original on July 21, 2019.
  49. ^ Caprez, Nina (2010). "Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Climbs And Expeditions 2009". AAC Publications / AAJ.
  50. ^ Meghan Ward (14 July 2010). "Lama and Verhoeven Free 29-Pitch 5.13d". alpinist.com. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  51. ^ "David Lama, Bellavista and Voie Petit". planetmountain.com. 14 July 2010. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  52. ^ "David Lama climbs Paciencia on the Eiger North Face". mammut.ch. 9 September 2011. Archived from the original on 10 April 2013. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  53. ^ "Cerro Kishtwar important Himalayan first ascent for David Lama, Stephan Siegrist, Denis Burdet and Rob Frost". planetmountain.com. 30 October 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  54. ^ "DAVID LAMA KARAKORAM EXPEDITION 2012 - CLIMBING CHOGOLISA". redbull.com. 26 Sep 2012.
  55. ^ "DAVID LAMA KARAKORAM EXPEDITION 2012 - CLIMBING CHOGOLISA". redbull.com. 26 Sep 2012.
  56. ^ "Sagwand first winter ascent by Auer, Lama and Ortner". planetmountain.com. 20 March 2013. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  57. ^ "David Lama and Dani Arnold Fly Up Their Bird of Prey". Planet Mountain. April 2013.
  58. ^ Lama, David (29 May 2014). "Masherbrum – The Second Round". davidlama.com.
  59. ^ Wernhart, Thomas (20 December 2017). "Big goals and unexpected events for David Lama in the Himalayas". RedBull.com.
  60. ^ "David Lama climbs Lunag Ri". Planet Mountain. 29 October 2018.
  61. ^ Schauhuber, Martin (November 27, 2018). "Erstbesteigung: David Lama im vierten Versuch am Lunag Ri".
  62. ^ "David Lama in Rockies". Gripped.com. April 10, 2019.

External links[edit]