Cerro Torre Controversy Rears Up Again


Photo by Andrew Tower

1/24/11 - Austrian climber David Lama is back in El Chalten, Argentina, intent on free-climbing the southeast ridge ("Compressor Route") of Cerro Torre. And once again, his proposed tactics are causing an uproar among Patagonian veterans and other climbers.

Last season, despite poor weather that prevented a serious attempt on the climb, Lama's Red Bull–sponsored team power-drilled numerous bolts along the route to anchor fixed ropes for a camera crew. In November, Rolando Garibotti and a partner climbed the route and chopped many of these bolts. This year, according to a long report at Colin Haley's blog, Lama and his crew have promised not to fix ropes along the route, but he does plan to carry a bolt kit. Because any free-climb of the headwall above the southeast ridge likely would deviate from the blank face bolted by Cesare Maestri in 1970 (using the gas-powered air compressor that still hangs from the face), Lama is likely to place new bolts to protect the climbing. And, as he told Haley and others, the game plan is to climb Cerro Torre by its normal route and then descend along the intended variation and place protection bolts on rappel.

According to Haley, American climber Zack Smith said to Lama, "You know that people will be very upset if you place your bolts on rappel, right?" and Lama responded, "I can take it."

Two separate teams of North American climbers—Haley and Smith, as well as Jason Kruk and Chris Geisler—have their own plans for Cerro Torre this season, both centered on climbing the peak from the southeast without using any of Maestri's bolts, a project first attempted by Smith and Josh Wharton several years ago.

On January 22, Colin Haley posted a superb, well-researched account of the climbing history of the southeast ridge, the controversial Lama attempt, and the most recent developments. Read it here.

Date of Report: January 24, 2011

Sources: Colinhaley.blogspot.com, blog.jasonkruk.net, Alpinist.com