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Austrian alpinist and La Sportiva ambassador David Lama has safely returned from a dramatic first ascent of Lunag Ri – and he did it alone.
In one of the most impressive first ascents of the modern alpine era, David Lama succeeded in becoming the first to conquer Lunag Ri (6907 m/22,660 ft.), one of the highest unclimbed peaks in Nepal. It was a challenging climb on a mountain never previously summited – a unique achievement in an era where few such challenges are left. Lama made his first attempt in 2015 with US climbing legend Conrad Anker. Only 300 meters below the summit the duo had to turn back after a tactical mistake. Conrad Anker later described the difficult ascent as “cutting-edge alpine climbing – it’s severe stuff up there!” The second attempt in 2016 was even more dramatic, when Anker suffered a heart attack at an altitude of 6000 metres (19,658 ft.). After descending together, Anker was airlifted to the hospital where he successfully underwent surgery. Some days later, Lama dared to try Lunag Ri again, solo, giving up 250 meters below the summit due to exhaustion. “One of my most extreme experiences ever”, he said of the solo attempt.
David kept a close eye on Lunag Ri while giving Conrad the time to recover and calmly make his decision regarding a return. At the beginning of 2018, Anker told Lama that his health would not let him to make another attempt. Lama then decided to tackle the mission alone.
The 28-year-old points out: “There are still plenty of unclimbed mountains, but in contrast to Lunag Ri, many of them are not very attractive from a mountaineering point of view”. Throughout spring and summer, he prepared himself intensively for the solo ascent by training in the Alps, then headed to Nepal in late fall.
At the end of October 2018, a good weather window appeared. He began his ascent in the middle of the night, then for three days fought his way up the mountain. He tackled the Northwest Ridge in icy temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius and winds of up to 80 km/h, spending two nights in the bivouac. In demanding mixed terrain, Lama worked his way up steep snowfields and rough ice as well as rock passages – all solo. In particularly exposed places he belayed himself – but most of the time he climbed ropeless.
“This ascent of Lunag Ri have been some of the most intense time I’ve ever spent on a mountain. Being alone certainly added to this experience, as did the journey that began my first encounter with the mountain with Conrad,” he reports. On October 25th, Lama finally arrived at the summit of Lunag Ri, and began the equally dangerous descent, reaching base camp in the middle of the night, exhausted but happy. More imagery to come in the next few weeks from David Lama’s incredible first ascent.
About David Lama
David Lama was born in Innsbruck in 1990 as the son of an Austrian mother and a mountain guide from Nepal. At the age of five, Peter Habeler discovered Lama’s extraordinary talent for climbing, which he then developed rapidly under his coach Reinhold Scherer. After a number of victories in international junior competitions, he became the youngest World Cup winner in history in 2006 and the first climber to win both a bouldering World Cup and a lead climbing World Cup in his debut season. After numerous successes in competitions, David Lama devoted himself completely to mountaineering in 2010. He made numerous challenging first ascents, including the first free ascent of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre or the route Bird of Prey on Moose’s Tooth, Alaska, USA.
Further information can be found here: www.david-lama.com
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