Super-Alpinist Free Climbs Cerro Torre Amidst Controversy

In this short clip spon­sored by Red Bull, Aus­tri­an climber David Lama makes a first free ascent of the Com­pres­sor Route on Cer­ro Torre, Patag­o­nia, a climb that is rife with controversy.

Cesare Maestri claimed to have made the first ascent in 1959 then returned in 1970 to lug a 300lb gas-pow­ered com­pres­sor up the route, con­tro­ver­sial­ly drilling close to 400 bolts into the South­east Ridge’s head­wall, cre­at­ing the infa­mous Com­pres­sor Route. The com­pres­sor is still anchored to the wall just shy of the actu­al summit. 

Not only tech­ni­cal­ly demand­ing but often un-climbable due to inclement weath­er, Cer­ro Torre is a cov­et­ed achieve­ment for climbers. Some sea­sons, the icon­ic moun­tain won’t see a sin­gle ascent because of unsta­ble weath­er con­di­tions. Lama’s suc­cess came at the end of a three-year bat­tle that saw his tac­tics and ethics evolve. 

The source of scruti­ny for his first attempt, the climber fell under heavy crit­i­cal fire after his par­ty added even more per­ma­nent pro­tec­tion to the rock in order to accom­plish the climb. Own­ing this mis­take, Lama returned in Jan­u­ary, 2012 to use only exist­ing pro­tec­tion and remov­able, clean pro­tec­tion pulling off one of the great­est feats in mod­ern climb­ing his­to­ry. Watch his accom­plish­ment in the clip above.